Robert Audley is a Nepo Baby and His Incompetence is a Scathing Indictment of the Patriarchy Which Allows Such People to Exist

Dear Reader,

I have chosen the first passage of chapter four to focus on. “Robert Audley was supposed…himself a barrister” (Chapter 4). What really boils my blood about this statement is how it is still an excellent summation of the patriarchy almost one hundred years later. The word that does so much heavy lifting here is the word “unblushingly.” The fact that Robert can look someone dead in the eye and say, with a straight face that he deserves to be a barrister when he only landed there because he’s a straight white cis-man who has so many connections that it was easier for him to take this high profile job with pretty good pay than to not take it. “His father had…the latter course” (Chapter 4). If this doesn’t scream nepo baby then I do not know what does. Additionally, if Robert was a competent detective he would’ve been able to connect the dots that he mapped out at the end of chapter thirteen and detained Lady Audley. What this passage is really saying is the fact that men aren’t always deserving of their position and money. The idea that men use their, usually unearned, wealth and power to take things that shouldn’t belong to them is central to this story. Even Lady Audley herself is taken in, not by any virtue of Micheal Audley, but by his wealth. “He walked straight…and his position.” (Chapter 1) Elizabeth Braddon has done a great job of telling us from the first chapter what this book is about. It’s about incompetent and stupid men who haven’t earned what they have. Is that a bold take? I don’t think so. The sensation novel allowed the author to say what she thought under the guise of fiction.

Yours Truly and Dearly,

Carmine “Red” Zuigiber


3 thoughts on “Robert Audley is a Nepo Baby and His Incompetence is a Scathing Indictment of the Patriarchy Which Allows Such People to Exist”

  1. I completely agree with this. The fact that he could walk into random places throughout the book, like the house Lady Audley stayed at before marrying Micheal, or into Mr. Talboy’s house, and have the privilege of being treated with the utmost respect and being told important information is because of the privlage he was born with. If a woman walked into Mr. Talboys house, they would not be taken serious at all, especially not in the way that Mr. Audley was.

  2. I don’t disagree with this analysis but I do, however, believe it to be rather anachronistic to attribute such modern attributes and terminology to this novel. Of course, Robert and many of the wealthy men in this novel are prime examples of patriarchal privilege, but it seems rash to oversimplify them as such. I think we need to expand our views to look more deeply into both the fictional characters and the author’s personal experiences and motivations to better understand why Mary Elizabeth Braddon would portray characters such as these.

  3. These are very interesting points that you make. This post reminds me of our discussion in class regarding whether Lady Audley’s Secret is a feminist, or (advances the causes of feminism), story? I think that considering the historical factors of the time that Braddon wrote in, that the concept of underserving power wielded by men largely confirms this view. The repercussions and the backlash from pointing out situations of underserving men obtaining power and status just because of who they are would have been a fairly intense, yet warranted observation for that time. Furthermore, I think that even though this concept might not seem entirely foreign to us, it was radical for its time, which is no better displayed than in this quote.

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