Call Me Ghost Ishmael

Passage: “I should be preaching… opposed to opulence.” (Braddon 292)

Lady Audley’s Secret is filled to the brim with mysteries and, well, secrets. What strikes me, though is that we know nothing about our narrator. Most 3rd-person-perspective novels have a nameless, unidentified narrator who exists solely as the eye through which we see characters & events. n Lady Audley’s Secret, however, our narrator has personality that usually leads to readers discovering they had some connection to the events unfolding before our eyes. They comment on different characters’ actions and thoughts; they directly address the readers so much in the first two paragraphs of the book that I genuinely thought the whole novel would be told in second person; they know and see things that an individual watching this unfold shouldn’t know. They also show favor or disdain towards certain characters, particularly Lady Audley and Robert. As in this passage, though, I would like to focus on Lady Audley.

The narrator has never minced words with Lady Audley. They certainly did not when describing her portrait in chapter eight, going so far as to call her “a beautiful fiend”.  Unlike that passage, though, our narrator dives straight into her “wretchedness” (Braddon 292). There is none of the narrative objectivity seen in the age-old “all seeing eye” narrator here. This familiarity and frankness implies that our narrator knew Lady Audley very personally, including her secrets. Sir Michael knows close to nothing about his wife. Alicia would certainly be heard calling Lady Audley “wretched” that many times in so few sentences. George might also call her such horrid things. Phoebe and Luke, however, are the only ones that know a large enough secret for Lady Audley to continue paying their bills; Luke is as likely as Alicia to bad-mouth “my lady” like this. Frankly, I doubt he would even think to compare her to “a half-starved sempstress” (Braddon 292). So, my theory? Our narrator is either George’s ghost or Phoebe. If we were being told this story by George’s ghost, it would explain how they know Lucy, Robert, and Harcourt Talboys so personally and how so many private scenes are described. Ghosts have also become a repeated visual in the novel. Sure, according to normal ghost rules they aren’t omniscient, but how are we, the living, supposed to know that for sure