Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

You Can’t Ask Too Much of Me

On page 16 Lucy responds to Sir Audley’s proposal. Her speech caught my attention because the raw emotion she exhibited.  Which, allowed me to better undertsand and relate to her character.  Braddon chose to start off this paragraph with emotional words that also revealed the importance of the passage, such as passion, agitated, shrill, piercing, and distinct. These words allowed me to better undertsand what Lucy is going through and how imperative her statements are to her beliefs and actions in the novel. After, Braddon adds statements of doubt that show Lucy’s lack of confidence and foreshadow her having a dark past. Lucy’s states that “There are women a hundred times my superiors in beauty and in goodness.” This surprised me because the pages leading up to her speech talked so much about her beautiful outward appearance. Lucy then repeats the 3 times that “you ask too much of me” (Braddon 16.) At first, I was confused by Lucy’s doubt, but then I realized that her Lucy’s appearance was not the only thing she was worried about. Braddon foreshadows that Lucy’s previous actions are also are also stopping her from being a worthy wife. Lucy then reveals the struggles of impoverished past, she explains that “Her father was a gentleman; clever, accomplished, generous, handsome – but poor.” (Braddon 16). This juxtaposition shows that Lucy understands the importance of wealth, Lucy says all these redeeming qualities about her father but finishes off with “but poor” potentially indicating that in her wealth trumps everything else. Lucy finishes of her speech by saying “I cannot be blind to the advantages of such as alliance” (Braddon 16.) This again shows her understanding of what wealth can do, but may also explain her thoughts on the marriage. Lucy calls her marriage an alliance, hinting that she is not in it for love but rather the benefits it will give her.

3 Comments

  1. When I read this part of the novel I also found it quite interesting. Today it seems like such a strange way to begin a marriage, but I initially thought it may be normal for that time period. At this point in the novel I have realized it is not normal, and that nothing about Lucy is normal. I agree that this passage and scene foreshadows the end of the marriage since it was not for love and has been a strange arrangement from the start!

  2. In addition, I also think that this passage was representative of the Victorian time period because women knew that they were to “marry up” or marry people that were more wealthy than they were. This is the first sign that Braddon may be questioning these ideals, as Lucy was not sure that she was going to accept the proposal. In the end, the marriage proposal was accepted, showing that women’s roles are beginning to be questioned, but are not yet at a point where the women can stand up for themselves.

  3. I think this passage is particularly interesting because of the foreshadowing that Braddon sets up here. When I think about the part of the novel where she mentions her father, I found myself thinking, “Well that was about as honest of portrayal of her life thus far”. It was the truth, those things about her father, but I feel as though the lack of sharing so much of her life should have been a red flag to her hiding something. She shares parts of her most recent life within the novel, working for Mrs. Vincent, but I felt as though she hadn’t mentioned much more. Her father being portrayed as this poor man foreshadows to who she really was: Helen Talboys, who wanted to escape her poor family and lack of income from her husband, George, by running away under a false name to work for Mrs. Vincent.

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