“I have no doubt you have been anxious, Lady Audley,” Robert said, after a pause, fixing my lady’s eyes as they wandered furtively to his face. “There is no one to whom my uncle’s life can be of more value than to you. Your happiness, your prosperity, your safety depends alike upon his existence” (217).
This passage takes place as Robert, Alicia and Lady Audley are all sitting around Sir Michael as he is sick with his cold. What Robert says here seems nice and genuine, however at second glance it appears like Robert is trying to hint to Lady Audley that he knows something she doesn’t want to be found out. The last of the passage that states, “Your happiness, your prosperity, your safety depends alike upon his existence” (217) seems to be hinting towards the power Michael has to protect Lady Audley from all her hidden secrets. The use of the word “safety” in this passage, as well as the fact that it is italicized jumps out at me right away because it’s not really a word that is usually associated with happiness and prosperity, especially when it’s tied to a husband’s life. This idea of her safety resting in the hands of Michael has an interesting connotation when you think of the book as a whole. After this passage, in later chapters there is what appears to be an underlying fear stemming from Lady Audley regarding her position at Audley Court. More specifically when Lady Audley is talking to Michael about Robert in Chapter 9 and additionally when Robert wants to talk to Michael about Lady Audley at the end of Chapter 8, it is apparent that everything goes through Michael and he won’t believe much without evidence that backs it up. To me, the book is constantly circulating around her and her dodginess to talk about her past. This passage has a greater meaning to the rest of book because to me it implies that Robert knows something about Lady Audley that could put her in some sort of harm as a result if Michael was not in the way. As Robert has discovered more about what he thinks is Lady Audley’s past, it seems as though this safety that allows her to hide herself behind a title stems from Michael and that, like this passage says, if he were to die, her safety would be gone along with her happiness. This idea comes to fruition when Lady Audley is trying to convince Michael that Robert is mad so that she will be protected and defended by Michael from whatever Robert says about her.
One thought on “What does someone’s safety have to do with a small cold?”
While initially Robert came across as an incompetent detective, it is moments like these that reveal the extent of Robert’s knowledge about Lady Audley and George’s disappearance. There were many moments throughout the book where it seemed like Robert was completely clueless to the actions and words of those who might know what happened to George. However, in this moment, Robert shows that he knows something about Lady Audley that we are perhaps not aware of. Robert knows that Lady Audley is hiding a secret and that secret could put his uncle in danger. I don’t think that Robert was referring to his uncle’s physical safety, I agree with you that it’s more about the safety of Audley Court.
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