Evil is Like Onions (and Ogres): It Has Layers

“A sudden change came over Lady Audley’s face; the pretty roseate flush faded out from her cheeks, and left them waxen white, and angry flashes lightened in her blue eyes” (Braddon 123).

Here, there is slight repetition that draws attention to the drastic change that causes Lady Audley to go from lovely to shocked and angry. Our attention is meant to be drawn to this change because it demonstrates that Lady Audley has become the opposite of her usual self. She goes from having a “pretty roseate flush” to being “waxen white” with “angry flashes” in her eyes. This can signal that Lady Audley is either behaving unlike herself, or that she has indeed revealed her true colors that she has been hiding all along behind a demure countenance. 

Lady Audley’s sudden change from beautiful to somewhat insidious inverts our traditional or stereotypical understanding of what it means to be “monstrous.” Essentially, Lady Audley is becoming (or, more likely, has been all along) something of a monster because her wickedness resides within her core as opposed to being right on the surface. This inversion of our typical ideas surrounding “monstrosity” adds to the sensational aspects of this novel because it shows that evil can live in even the most beautiful and charming aspects of our daily or domestic lives. The fact that this evil is not revealed all at once, but rather by slowly peeling away layers of Lady Audley’s lovely facade creates added suspense and serves to make the novel all the more titillating. 

5 thoughts on “Evil is Like Onions (and Ogres): It Has Layers”

  1. Damaris, your thoughts on how the text shows Lady Audley going from this beautiful, childlike woman to this monstrous, dark, demon-like entity. This quote shows that her true colors are slowly emerging (after all, she buried her entire past and created a new identity). Even though at this time it is not fully revealed to everyone that she is Helen Talboys, she is beginning to feel the walls closing in on her and, in her realizations, subconsciously allowing her “Lady Audley” facade to slip away briefly. This quote is her starting point to realizing that she is in trouble and everything is falling apart.

  2. This analysis really stuck with me and I agree with you that over the course of the book, Lady Audley’s facade of a beautiful, charming, thoughtless young woman is peeled back in increments. The Lady Audley in the beginning of the book would never go to Sir Michael and speak of Robert as a madman, describing his mental state with what seems like her own personal experience. She has had her face worn down and cracked by stress and dread over her secrets being figured out, and her truer face is that of an angry, bitter woman that doesn’t know how to survive without her beauty to save her.

  3. Absolutely, Lady Audley is a really complicated character. She is initially portrayed as a lovely, charming, and sociable woman, in line with Victorian notions of femininity. However, a network of secrets and deceit lurks beneath this façade. Her layers explore themes of identity, manipulation, and societal expectations while representing the hidden depths of the human psyche. Readers are captivated by her change from a seemingly innocent woman to a cunning schemer because it shows how people can conceal their actual selves. Due to these complexities, Lady Audley becomes a fascinating and perplexing figure who propels the dramatic plot of the book.

  4. I like the way you addressed the theme of Lady Audley’s fragile facade. This is a constant theme throughout the book. The quote is interesting because it is one of the first times we see her mask slip. The contrast between her emotions and opposite descriptors like “roseate” and “waxen White” gives us a small insight into her monstrous side. The readers are walking the tightrope with Lady Auddly and stumbling between insanity and trying to keep the monster at bay. Through these small windows, the author has us concentrating on the soon-to-be emerging monster.

  5. I really love your take on this excerpt! I think it is interesting that you compare her facade to an onion. There is truth in what you are saying as Lady Audley’s secret is slowly revealed throughout this novel. I think that in terms of Lady Audley’s monstrousness it truly does reside within. She is this beautiful character in a time where a woman’s beauty is everything, and by having such beauty she is able to mask the darkness that truly lies within. This kind of plays into the cliche saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. When anyone looks at Lady Audley they just see a pretty face, and this pretty face seems to be a pretty enough distraction from what really lies within.

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