Tension and Insanity

The passage I chose is on pages 275-273 of chapter 11, volume II. In this passage, Lucy tries to convince Alicia that Robert is “mad” after accusing Lucy of killing George. This passage is especially important because it develops the theme of appearances and deception and sensation literature. Lucy begins by repeatedly labeling Robert as “eccentric.” As she further develops that idea to Alicia, she changes the label to “mad.” Lucy convinces Alicia that Robert is crazy and suggests that Sir Audley would believe anything that she tells him. Not only does Lucy remove the spotlight off her secrets, but she tricks Alicia and intends to use her pull on her husband to ruin the reputation and credibility of Robert. This suggests that appearances are integral in the Victorian era. It also shows how easy it is to utilize misunderstandings of mental health to create an untruthful perception of others in the Victorian era. All of this is important because it is revealing of Lucy’s lack of morals. She is willing to use her charm over Sir Audley to portray a sane family member as mentally unwell to protect herself. Furthermore, Lucy’s intense response to the accusations suggests that there is some truth to them. This means it is likely that Lucy indeed has a history with George Talboys. We can reasonably speculate that Lucy was likely married to him, however, there is yet to be enough information regarding the accusations that she killed him. Moreover, outward appearances in comparison to limited knowledge of the inner thoughts and pasts of characters have proven to be an integral part of sensation novels as it allows for tension and reader speculation.

6 thoughts on “Tension and Insanity”

  1. I wrote about a very similar quote where Lady Audley is convincing Sir Micheal of Roberts madness and she smiles behind the shadow (on page 279). I looked at it through the lens of gender roles, and the power women have in society, I did not consider what it showed about mental illnesses. From The Longmans Anthology we know that there is a rise of phycology and the want to find out more about the self. So it makes sense that the idea of madness is brought up throughout the novel. You bring up the idea of deception and untruthful perceptions being present with the rise of interest about mental illnesses, which also speaks to the importance of status — Lady Audley knows that a man of Sir Micheals status can diminish Roberts reputation, and since being mad is incredibly taboo, she knows convincing him of Roberts madness would successfully ruin him, and save herself .

  2. I agree that Lady Audley is established as fundamentally manipulative, and it speaks to the role of women at home, and the emotional intelligence mentioned in the comment entitled, “Pretty Privilege.” The adjectives do suggest a rise in tension, but also pose leading questions which control Alicia’s responses by graduating the severity of accusation. She displays high levels of emotional intelligence in manipulating her step-daughter’s emotions, but we can also think about it as a question of periodic feminine power. Women are domestically and socially powerful, this is the same skill which makes Lady Audley dangerous: manipulation of social convention.

  3. Yes, the theme of Madness is very active in the last chapters and we can clearly see that from the dialogue of Robert Audley and Lady Audley. While Robert makes strong accusations about Lady Audley, she starts using his accusations against him, calling him “mad” which is ironic because she turns out to be the one “mad” or not mentally stable. Also, I agree with you that Lucy’s aggressive response to Robert does show that the truth is slowly starting to reveal itself and that she is trying to escape as much as she can from the reality that she has joined.

  4. One thing that I find particularly interesting in regard to this is the seeming inversion of reality that Lucy manages to create in the minds of those around. While it is arguable that Lucy is the one with mental health issues, being so willing to murder and such, she is able to convince the others it is Robert, despite him later having to deal with her mental health. If mental health and public face are integral to the sensation novel, then it is interesting to follow the progression of mental health as a motif and may give insight into deeper ingrained views at the time.

  5. It is interesting to see how mental illness is used in the story, both in Lady Audley’s accusation of Robert, as well as in her excuse for not being sentenced for her crime. On one hand, mental issues were used to dismiss people’s opinions. In specific, by framing Robert to be crazy, Lady Audley manipulated others to dismiss his testimonial. On another hand, mental issues were also employed for Lucy to escape the guilts she committed to retreat to an asylum. These details made me wonder how mental illness was comprehended in the past and whether there was certain prejudice towards it. In other words, while Lucy was put into an asylum instead of being sentenced for her crime, showing proof of study on psychological illnesses, yet her accusation of Robert suggested that mental illness was still viewed under the “crazy” or “mad” scope to belittle a person. Thus, these details make me eager to understand how mental issues were viewed at the time.

  6. I very much agree with how important the theme of “Madness” is in Lady Audley’s Secret” as well as sensation novels in general. I find it very ironic that Lucy’s last resort is to claim that Robert is insane when in reality she is. I also agree that the use of “madness” as an umbrella term for mental conditions shows how the Victorians had some idea of it, but not how to differentiate between the various illnesses. Any deviation from the standard mental state in victorian times is feared because they do not know enough about it.

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