Men vs Women?

Within the second volume of Lady Audley’s Secret, there seems to be an underlying theme or possible binary between the two sexes. At one point, Robert Audley goes on a rant about how women are, “pitiless to each other” and are essentially, the lesser sex (236). Later on in the volume, he even continues to talk about the “horrible things that have been done by women, since that day upon which Eve was created to be Adam’s companion” (271). On the other side, Lady Audley also takes the time to explain to Alicia that “madness is more often transmitted from father to son than from father to daughter” (276). While this quote is less obviously defaming of men, it can be inferred that she is illuding to the madness of all men, since madness is more likely to be transmitted from father to son.

While looking at these three quotes and passages, one might find themselves questioning why there is this theme and binary. While it cannot be said for sure, unless you are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, there may be assumptions. My assumption is that it is not really about the sexes, but more so the actual people these characters were talking about. Robert and Lady Audley have an obvious dislike for each other. Robert believes that Lady Audley murdered his best friend, while Lady Audley is either worried, he’s going to find out her secrets, or is pissed that he thinks that in the first place. While they go on tangents about the opposite sex, I believe these tangents are just overall thoughts about each other. Robert thinks that Lady Audley is the devil, that she is lesser than and realizes the (so-called) horrible things she has done. Lady Audley believes that Robert is mad, even if he is right about his assumptions. While these comments were spoken in the second volume, the entire book shows the dislike these two characters have for each other. I would bet money that continues in the third volume.

2 thoughts on “Men vs Women?”

  1. I agree that there does seem to be a divide of the binary in the book. However, although this is many times expressed through the hateful relationship of Lady Audley and Robert, it can be generalized for men and women overall in the book and at that point of history. There is a disconnect between perceived and actual power in social aspects, men having the perceived and women having the actual. I also agree that Robert sees Lucy as lesser in his feelings of disdain towards her, but he also realizes the superior emotional power she has over other people.

  2. I also agree that there is a gender binary throughout the novel that Robert often reinforces through his diatribes against women. Building on our class discussion about Victorian literature romantic triangles and their implications for hidden same-sex attractions, I wonder if Robert’s reinforcement of the gender binary also serves to assert his masculinity, and by association his heterosexuality. Thus, I think the binary could both relate to the characters themselves and the larger Victorian attitudes concerning same-sex relationships and what & who constitutes love and marriage. I also think that given the largely female audience for these novels, Braddon’s adherence to the gender binary may have been a tool to build community with her readers — a sort of “I see you, ladies — look how horrible men are!” situation, if you will.

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