Lady Audley’s Act

“She is altogether a different being to the wretched, helpless creature who dropped her mask for a moment, and looked at me with her own pitiful face, in the little room at Mount Stanning, four hours ago. What has happened to cause the change?” Volume 1, Chapter 19

This passage reveals Robert’s thoughts on Lady Audley’s change in demeanor. While she was usually composed and elegant, she was now disheveled. She is always trying to keep up an act while in the presence of others, and this may be one of the few times we see her being herself. This connects to the idea that women at this time were expected to only act a certain way, or they would be deemed hysterical or mad. Lady Audley desperately tries to be perceived in a certain way because if she was not, she could lose everything. This is partly because if she is perceived as a perfect, upstanding lady in society, no one would suspect her of committing evil acts. However, she would have to behave this way whether she was a murderer or not. Robert does not realize that women have to put up a show in the first place, making her “dropping her mask” (Braddon, Chapter 19) not as significant as he might think. These lines show Robert’s inability to realize that Lady Audley was not much different from other women at the time, she simply had more going on behind the scenes. Taking a closer look at the language in this passage, we can see Robert’s bias towards women. Language like “wretched,” (Braddon, Chapter 19) “creature,” (Braddon, Chapter 19) and “pitiful face,” (Braddon, Chapter 19) shows that he is only looking on the surface. He is not investigating her actions, he is criticizing her appearance. When investigating George’s initial disappearance, Robert reflects on his possible motivations for leaving, giving him leads. However, he doesn’t do that for Lady Audley, even though it may have given him a better chance of finding his friend.