Age Before Beauty

Paragraph beginning “That one quiet evening had sealed Sir Michael’s fate…” and ending “Sir Michael Audley had fallen ill of the terrible fever called love” (Braddon 12-13). 

This paragraph begins with the description of Lucy Graham, a charming governess beloved by all for her quiet beauty.  Sir Michael Audley, upon meeting Miss Graham, wrestles with the complexity of his emotions.  He sees her largely in a gentle light and recognizes her femininity, yet this is almost immediately and violently juxtaposed with the tumultuous conflict over love which occupies his mind.  Michael cries (inaudibly), “Destiny!  Why, she was his destiny!  He had never loved before” (Braddon 12).  This phrase indicates that Michaels sees love not as a relationship between people, but as a means of ownership and submission between those who partake in the marriage vow.  He also places the value of his happiness on her by saying that she alone is what his future holds.  This view of ownership and power dynamics is further substantiated by the description of his wrestling thoughts.  He describes his definition of love as a, “fever, this longing, this restless, uncertain, miserable hesitation; these cruel fears that his age was an insurmountable barrier to happiness” (Braddon 12).  The emotions of a man are seen in this passage as a plague or something to be pitied.  Both the presentation of Lucy Graham and Michael Audley’s view of love and emotion seem to fall within typical expectations between sexes: the female being sweet and silent; a beacon of light in a dark world, while the male is vocal and dominant.  This passage appears to be about a man’s ability to express emotion, as Michael Audley repeatedly struggles with his emotional desires, his age, and his past marriage.  Because of the strength of the words being expressed, but only within the confines of Sir Audley’s mind, this passage implies an apparently typical emotional alienation and the invocation of a public mask to protect private life. 

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