My Lady’s Madness

Passage: “People are insane for years and years before their insanity is found out. They know that they are mad, but they know how to keep their secret… They commit a crime, perhaps. The horrible temptation of opportunity assails them, the knife is in their hand, and the unconscious victim by their side” (Braddon 283).

During this passage, Lady Audley is desperately trying to make Sir Michael believe that Robert has gone insane. She hopes to convince Michael that Robert suffers from madness before he has the chance to expose her secret to him. Through this passage, Lady Audley is trying to frame Robert, however, I believe this passage to be a reflection of her own mental state, and even a confession. As Lady Audley states, “people are insane for years and years before this insanity is found out”, and “they know how to keep their secret” (Braddon 283). This description fits Lady Audley because she has probably been mad for many years, due to George’s absence, and she definitely knows how to keep her secret. There have been many instances where Lady Audley has tried to manipulate Michael so he does not find out her true identity. Also, before the passage, Lady Audley says “I believe [Robert] has lived too long alone in those solitary Temple chambers. Perhaps he reads too much, or smokes too much” (Braddon 283). Again, this is more self-reflection on Lady Audley’s part as she was essentially alone for many years while George was in Australia. She even once admitted to Phoebe that she loves reading sensation novels.

The second part of the passage is where I believe Lady Audley is making a confession. She says “They commit a crime, perhaps. The horrible temptation of opportunity assails them, the knife is in their hand, and the unconscious victim by their side” (Braddon 283). Lady Audley was tempted by the opportunity to fake her death and start a new life, then, when George discovers her truth, she takes that opportunity to kill him. Though Lady Audley is trying to convince Michael of Robert’s madness, she was really reflecting on herself and the crimes she has committed.

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George Eliot

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4 thoughts on “My Lady’s Madness”

  1. I hadn’t thought about the idea that Lady Audley might be confessing to her crimes, but I definitely agree with what you were saying. I think she could also be realizing herself that she has pretty much ended up going mad like her mother even though that was the one thing she tried to avoid. Part of me wonders if she’s explaining this to set Michael up so he cannot be as angry with her, knowing that Robert will inevitably tell the truth. I appreciate how you really questioned the “so what” in this passage because it gives an interesting perspective on what happens later in the book.

  2. I think this is a really interesting concept. Thinking about this idea, it could be said that Lady Audley is deflecting and is projecting her own issues onto Robert, to try and get others off her case. This can be seen often in real life and other pieces of literature. Lady Audley obviously has some issues, even if the readers are not sure what they are specifically. She seems to be backed in a corner, where people will either believe her or Robert and she can’t handle them not believing her, so she is attempting to get others think Robert is the crazy one.

  3. I saw this passage as a confession, and Lady Audley trying to convince Sir Michael that Robert is crazy, so he doesn’t believe Robert when he tells Sir Michael that she is mad. I also saw this as Lady Audley, again, trying to uphold her appearance to those it mattered to so that when it’s revealed, she has already done the work to have it debunked. We’ve seen this pattern of Lady Audley overcompensating, whether that be her alibi at the Castle Inn with Phoebe or in this scene convincing Sir Michael that Robert is mad and not her.

  4. I completely agree with your point that Lady Audley has likely been mad for many years. After finishing the novel, it’s interesting to look back at Lady Audley’s mental state throughout the novel. Although she was ultimately admitted to a hospital, I think the point in the novel where she “became mad” was in Volume II when she lit the Castle Inn on fire. Before this point she may have had wicked thoughts, but only ever acted out of impulse. Setting the inn ablaze was a premeditated attack and seems, to me, to be her mental breaking point in the novel.

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