Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: elizabethp

The Mysteries of Lady Audley’s Secret and The Hound of the Baskervilles

Lady Audley’s Secret and The Hound of the Baskervilles are both classic mystery tales that captivate readers by setting up central questions and problems for them to solve.  They share the same themes of death, murder, missing persons, and crime.

A huge difference between the two novels is the involvement of the supernatural in The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Lady Audley’s Secret focuses more on the complexity of humans, what they are capable of,  and what they could be hiding.   When trying to figure out what happened to George or what exactly Lady Audley’s secret was, we turned to and looked at the characters themselves as suspects and to break them down to see if they really are who they say they are.  In The Hound of the Baskervilles, there is also the element of human deception however the book also introduces the idea of the evil hound and the supernatural.  When Watson asks Holmes about the his belief in the possible supernatural explanation of Sir Charles’s death he says “The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not? … Of course, if Dr Mortimer’s surmise should be correct, and we are dealing with forces outside the ordinary laws of Nature, there is an end of our investigation” (29). The introduction of the demonic hound gives a whole new level to the mystery and calls into question the veracity of everything that happens in the story and whether or not we can believe it to be real.

The utilization of the concept of the supernatural is what separates Lady Audley’s Secret and The Hound of the Baskervilles into two different genres.  The idea of the supernatural vs real is a main trope in Gothic literature  whereas family and domestic issues are a part of sensation literature.

Stand Out Stand Strong

“Lucy Audley was radiant on this cold and snowy January morning. Other people’s noses are rudely assailed by the sharp fingers of the grim ice-king, but not my lady’s; other people’s lips turn pale and blue with the chilling influence of the bitter weather, but my lady’s pretty little rosebud of a mouth retained its brightest coloring and cheeriest freshness”(pg 141).

First, this passage is a clear example of two opposing sets of binaries.   Words and phrases like “radiant”, “pretty” and “brightest coloring and cheeriest freshness” are in extreme contrast with “rudely assailed”, “sharp fingers of the grim ice-king” and “bitter weather”.  This can be put into the light vs dark category.  On one hand we see this reoccurring idea of Lady Audley’s beauty and her bright defiant smile.  However, on the other lurks the overarching motif of darkness and of course secrets.

Off of this, the passage also showcases two other general themes that are prevalent throughout the book.  The first being the concept of Lady Audley’s strength.  Through the cold and harsh conditions Lady Audley still finds a way to prevail and radiate through.  She once again is breaking societal norms for women in the sense that she preserved through difficult circumstances rather than following what is expected of her (a bad reaction to the weather).  I believe that this shows how tough was Lady Audley really is.

Moreover, her ability to withstand the abrasive weather is also just one more thing that makes Lady Audley different and stand out from those around her.  For whatever reason, she can survive through situations that others can’t, which further separates her from all the other characters and continues to raise suspicion about her true identity.

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