Harsh Harcourt

“My son did me an unpardonable wrong by marrying the daughter of a drunken pauper, and from that hour I had no longer a son. I wish him no ill. He is simply dead to me. I am sorry for him, as I am sorry for his mother who died nineteen years ago. If you talk to me of him as you would talk of the dead, I shall be ready to hear you. If you speak of him as you would speak of the living, I must decline to listen” (185)

This passage is from Robert’s trip to Harcourt Talboy’s mansion in search of assistance with his investigation into what happened to George. Before this quote from Harcourt, the narrator gives the reader some guidance on who Mr. Talboys is. Harcourt is described at the top of the page by the narrator saying, “his mind ran in straight lines … With him right was right and wrong was wrong”. The description we get of Harcourt before he speaks about his son is very accurate of what the reader experiences when he begins. Harcourt has absolutely no remorse or sympathy of how his relationship with his son ended, and has no intention of changing. He cast off his only son simply because he disobeyed him. 

Later in this passage the narrator says, “George never in his own person made any effort to soften his father’s verdict. He knew his father well enough to know the case was hopeless”. This moment in the book is very important and meaningful to George’s life. While, on the one hand, George knew what he was getting into by marrying Helen – it changed his life trajectory immensely. He knew it would be hard to live in poverty, though he thought that it would be worth it because of his love. This proved to be untrue as this moment in his life started the depression that we as the reader can see in George. Another reason why I believe that this passage is so significant, is it opens us to the regret and disappointment his wife felt after she believed she was marrying into a rich family. George would rather struggle for the rest of his life than to be an example of what not to do for his father’s sake. But his wife did not feel the same way, saying “I thought dragoons were always rich,” she used to say peevishly. 

It might sound crazy, but this passage becomes very significant as we get further into volume 2. We as a reader start to see where George’s depression came from and why. As we discover that Helen Maldon is slowly starting to be discovered as Lady Audley by Robert and Clara, we see her intentions shine through quite brightly. Helen was interested in her marriage with George for his status and money, so she could gain power. This also explains her motive for murdering George. He knew who Lady Audley really is and what she is about. The letter we see on page 248 from Helen, directly exposes Lady Audley as she creates a new life and a new fortune for herself as Lucy Graham. Lady Audley takes on many names, but no matter which name she gives herself, she is devious and dangerous.

One thought on “Harsh Harcourt”

  1. I have had similar thoughts about the relationship between George and his father. It was stilted, practically nonexistent. However, despite their lack of outward affection, I do believe that they cared for one another, albeit in their own extremely misguided ways. We can especially see this when Harcourt refuses to believe that George could be dead and says that he will forgive him of any past misdeeds, if only he stops “deceiving” him and returns home. Unfortunately, Harcourt waited too long to convey these ideas, and now the man who needed to hear them most is lost from this world.

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