Vol II Chapter V
“A gloomy shadow spread itself like a dark veil over Robert Audley’s handsome face. He remembered what he had said the day before at Southampton – ‘A hand that is stronger than my own is beckoning me onward upon the dark road.’ A quarter of an hour before, he had believed that all was over, and that he was released from the dreadful duty of discovering the secret of George’s death. Now this girl, this apparently passionless girl, had found a voice, and was urging him on towards his fate.” (200).
This passage caught my attention because it is interesting how Robert explicitly realizes that there may be greater forces at work that are urging him toward finding out what happened to George. Throughout Volume two especially, the notion of God being a figure in everybody’s life becomes ever more prominent as Robert continues to piece together what exactly happened to his friend. In this passage, specifically, the phrases “A hand that is stronger than my own…” and “fate” stand out to me because they suggest that Robert believes that God is real, and that Robert has no control whether he discovers what happened to his poor friend or not. However, with a source of good in any novel there must be a contrasting evil. Braddon’s description of, “A gloomy shadow spread itself like a dark veil…” seems like a strange way to begin a passage that then shifts to Robert talking about the hand stronger than his own leading him on towards his fate. Often, fate is associated more directly with God and the heavens whereas darkness, such as the veil over Robert or the road that he is being led down, is associated with evil spirits and Hell. Whether or not these forces are real is up to the discretion of the reader, however I think what this passage and text is truly about is the internal conflict between good and evil within humans. Robert is ready to give up his search for the circumstances behind George’s disappearance, but something keeps leading him in the direction of the truth. Technically, Robert could stop searching for the answer to his friend’s disappearance at any point in time, but he would likely never be satisfied settling for anything but the truth. The “stronger hand at work” and “fate” seem more like mental excuses to continue his search rather than face his internal conflicts and come to the realization that it would be acceptable to never know what happened to his poor friend.