The Scandalous Nature of Lucy’s Black Ribbon

Passage: “It was neither a locket, a miniature, nor a cross: it was a ring wrapped in an oblong piece of paper – the paper partly printed, partly written, yellow with age, and crumpled with much folding” (Braddon 17).

The first thing I notice is the cluster of words used in the middle of the passage by Braddon to elicit the importance of the paper previously enveloped in the ring. The repetition of the letter “p” was likely not an accident either (i.e., “piece of paper – the paper partly printed, partly…”) as it draws the reader’s attention to the piece of paper more so than the ring (Braddon 17). The age of the piece of paper is quickly made apparent to readers, but Braddon does something interesting here by contrasting words like “oblong” (the rectangular nature of which I interpret as showing elements of care) with words like “crumpled” or “folded” (Braddon 17). Perhaps this is indicative of how Lucy’s feelings towards the contents of this piece of paper and the ring have not changed (or become stronger) with the advancement of time, in that this once neatly kept paper has become worn with age. Another interesting element is the way in which the passage opens: “It was neither a locket, a miniature, nor a cross” (Braddon 17). I interpreted these as being commonplace items worn by women in the Victorian era, which when juxtaposed against Lucy’s paper and the ring may subtly imply that there is a sense of scandal, secrecy, or longing in Lucy’s actions.

Contextually, this passage is introduced in the novel directly after Michael Audley’s proposal to Lucy (which she is obviously not elated during). Braddon also makes readers aware of the fact that Lucy is “clutching” a “black ribbon about her throat” during the proposal (Braddon 16). This passage reveals what Lucy keeps at the end of her black ribbon. Collectively, these may foreshadow a scandalous event in Lucy’s future, which may result in her death or some sort of equivalent social ousting.

2 thoughts on “The Scandalous Nature of Lucy’s Black Ribbon”

  1. This post is a great example of the importance of the letter p and paper as it relates to Lady Audley’s secret, which I had not even considered before. After reading your post, I was reminded of the moment when Phoebe and Luke discovered the secret drawer belonging to Lady Audley on page 34. They found a strand of baby hair as well as a baby shoe wrapped in paper in a similar fashion to the ring. Upon rereading the passage, I discovered repetitions of the letter p. The hair was pale, in a piece of paper, also called a packet, and it ends with Phoebe “putting the little parcel into her pocket”. I agree that there is something very important about the paper, and it may play a role in a future downfall of Lady Audley’s.

  2. “It was neither a locket, a miniature, nor a cross: it was a ring wrapped in an oblong piece of paper – the paper partly printed, partly written, yellow with age, and crumpled with much folding” (Braddon 17).
    In your analysis you mention the cluster of words but I feel it is even more as the narrator as the words are objects that it is not, in the process of building up to the object that was actually within the paper.
    Do you believe there was an importance to the ring being within a piece of paper rather than a box or another type of container?

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