The Conflict Between Men and Women in Lady Audley’s Secret

“‘I hate women,’ he thought, savagely. ‘They’re bold, brazen, abominable creatures, invented for the annoyance and destruction of their superiors. Look at this business of poor George’s! It’s all woman’s work from one end to the other. He marries a woman, and his father casts him off penniless and professionless. He hears of the woman’s death and he breaks his heart—his good honest, manly heart, worth a million of the treacherous lumps of self-interest and mercenary calculation which beats in women’s breasts. He goes to a woman’s house and he is never seen alive again. And now I find myself driven into a corner by another woman, of whose existence I had never thought until this day’”(Braddon Chapter 24).

Chapter 24 features a description of Robert Audley’s thought process towards the character of women. The text reads, “‘They’re bold, brazen…”(Braddon Chapter 24), these words portray women at first as being leaders who have no shame in what they do, but shortly following, Robert Audley’s thought process wanders off into adjectives like “abominable creatures”(Braddon Chapter 24) and “annoyance”(Braddon Chapter 24). This shift in diction indicates a conflicting description of the positive and negative attributes that women, according to Robert Audley, possess. Further into the passage is a description of the struggle that women inflict upon men. The text reads, “He hears of the woman’s death and he breaks his heart…”(Braddon Chapter 24). Not only does this describe a struggle between men and women but it targets women as the figures in a man’s life who inflict the most pain. Robert goes on to describe his own conflict with George’s sister. He portrays her as not a human, but instead a trap or obstacle to his everyday life. He feels as though this woman has appeared in his life and he has been stopped in his pursuit of his investigation.
This thought process not only can be used as a comment on Robert Audley’s character, but it is also a potential comment on the time period in which this book was written. The repetitive examples of women impeding on the endeavors of a man illustrates the inevitable gaze of a male. It supposes that the male gaze is the fault of a woman, and when this gaze is caught a man cannot help being caught up in the women which in turn distracts him from his very own life. This has a direct connection to the lustful tendency of men at the time period when it came to women. Helen Talboys’ death affecting George Talboys the way it did is made to seem as if it is her fault for having a grip on him with her love. This example alone sums up the view on women in this book, specifically from Robert Audley’s point-of-view, that women are viewed as mysterious and bold obstacles to the endeavors of men.

Sources Cited:

Braddon, Mary Elizabeth. “Lady Audley’s Secret.”, Jonathan Ingram, 13 Feb. 2012, Accessed 15 Sept. 2023.

3 thoughts on “The Conflict Between Men and Women in Lady Audley’s Secret”

  1. This is an interesting point. Robert at multiple points throughout the novel displays serious frustration with women. Most obvious is Lady Audley, though his contempt for Clara throughout the novel for rejecting his advances speaks volumes toward his view on women. Perhaps Braddon does this to suggest Robert’s homosexual tendencies toward George. Maybe he feels this way toward women because he internalizes his inability to be romantic with his best friend, George Talboys.

  2. It is really interesting to see how women is potrayed within this era but I would to think about the women who refused the male gaze. For example, Alicia Audley, Robert’s cousin, rebels against societal expectations and challenges traditional gender roles. She defies the submissive and passive image of women by asserting her independence and speaking her mind. Alicia’s actions and outspokenness are met with criticism and disdain, highlighting the resistance faced by women who deviate from societal norms. This could be a fantasy or a want for women of the time to rebel against their roles within society and to become independent. It could also be said for Lady Audley who did change her identity to achieve such things.

  3. I really agree with you, and this was such a smart passage to analysis! I’d never thought about the idea of women simply being seen as figures in mens lives to cause suffering. I also love what you said about the male gaze being viewed as the fault of the woman! I think it’s so true here, and can definitely be seen in modern times as well. I also never considered that George’s grief is considered Helen’s fault, but I absolutely agree, especially now that we know Helen wasn’t really dead. I really love this post, because you made me think of things in a completely new way.

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