“Why do I go on with this,” he said, “when I know that it is leading me, step by step, day by day, hour by hour, nearer to that conclusion which, of all others, I should avoid? … Should I be justified in letting the chain which I have slowly put together, link by link, drop at this point, or must I go on adding fresh links to that fatal chain until the last rivet drops into its place and the circle is complete? I think, and I believe, that I shall never see my friend’s face again; and that no exertion of mine can ever be of any benefit to him. In plainer, crueler words I believe him to be dead. Am I bound to discover how and where he died? or being, as I think, on the road to that discovery, shall I do a wrong to the memory of George Talboys by turning back or stopping still? What am I to do?—what am I to do” (Braddon Chapter 19).
I decided to closely read an excerpt from Chapter 19 of this novel. The first thing that stood out to me was the periodic repetition in Robert’s words. He uses phrases such as “day by day” and “hour by hour”. This amplifies how tired and disheartened he feels throughout the tedious journey of searching for George. Yet, throughout the novel as a whole, Robert continues to look for George Talboys! I feel like at this moment, Mary Braddon’s dramatic use of repetition complemented by Robert’s commitment to find his friend displays how genuine of a character he is.
Also, I noticed Mary Braddon’s phrasing technique in this passage was quite interesting. Technically, Robert is talking to Mrs. Maloney, but is he really? He asks contradictory questions like, “Am I bound to discover how and where he died? or being, as I think, on the road to that discovery, shall I do a wrong to the memory of George Talboys by turning back or stopping still” (Braddon Chapter 19). He uses the word “bound” which has a connotation of being placed under legal or moral restraint or obligation. This phrasing makes it evident Robert is unsure of what he should do. Should he stop searching or keep going?
Looking at other specific words, Robert uses the words fatal, crueler, and never. All of these words depict his dark and pessimistic tone. On a broader note, this behavior/tone somewhat foreshadows, or simply portrays, his inability to trust people for the remainder of the novel (e.g. he becomes sketchy about Lady Audley after seeing her handwriting on one of the three inscriptions from George’s trunk of belongings).