Lady Audley’s Sexuality

“In those troublesome dreams he saw Audley Court, rooted up from amidst the green pastures and the shady hedgerows of Essex, standing bare and unprotected upon that desolate northern shore, threatened by the rapid rising of a boisterous sea, whose waves seemed gathering upward to descend and crush the house he loved. As the hurrying waves rolled nearer and nearer to the stately mansion, the sleeper saw a pale, starry face looking out of the silvery foam, and knew that it was my lady, transformed into a mermaid, beckoning his uncle to destruction.” Volume 2, Chapter 9.

This passage continues a theme in the novel of depicting women as otherworldly and mystical. Lady Audley being a siren is significant because sirens tend to represent ideas of temptation and deception. Robert sees Lady Audley as an evil entity, luring the good men in his life (George and Sir Michael) to their demise. This ties into the idea that gothic literature often references, that women who express their sexuality are inherently evil and manipulative. Language such as “bare” and “unprotected” indicate that the men of Audley court were vulnerable to the destruction Lady Audley would bring. In this dream, the waves symbolize the danger that the Audley family is in. Lady Audley being a siren implies that she is controlling the waves, as sirens often have power over water in literature.

Robert being so absorbed with Lady Audley’s gender and sexuality could be indicative that he is jealous of her. It is hinted that Robert has feelings for George mainly through his relationship with Clara, but his feelings towards Lady Audley convey a similar message. Lady Audley is able to have a hold over George that Robert never will, and that may be the cause of his resentment for her. In this passage specifically, Robert expresses a feeling of helplessness and not being able to steer his uncle away from Lady Audley’s influence. Robert likely feels a similar way about Lady Audley’s former influence on George. This could clarify why he refers to her as evil and why he goes on tangents about women in general.

2 thoughts on “Lady Audley’s Sexuality”

  1. The way you connected Robert calling Lady Audley not only a dangerous mythical creature but a siren to her sexuality is spot on for describing the power she wields during the novel. Lady Audley has no money which is truly hers, no possessions which are not given to her by her husband. But she has such a beautiful face, and sweet, disarming childish behavior, that she is able to get whatever she wants. From an outsider’s view of someone not caught in her web– first Alicia, then Robert– Lady Audley seems uncanny and fake in just how perfect she is, a “wax doll” or a siren. Even her ‘flaws,’ her naivete and her vanity, are carefully within bounds of what is expected of a ideal woman of her (current) class. As for Robert’s jealously of Lady Audley, I think that Robert homosocial desires for George is the explanation for how Robert snaps out her ‘siren song.’ He thinks he is in love with his aunt when he first meets her, but George’s disappearance, possibly at her hand, shows that Robert loves George more, a love which drives him out of his own laziness and comfort at the beginning of the book.

  2. Hmm, the comment you made about Robert being jealous of Lady Audley’s gender and sexuality is so interesting! I definitely agree. We know that Robert was especially fond of George, who was LA’s “ex” husband, but the power she had controlling men with her looks is also what he envies. This probably explains why he was such a drama queen throughout the whole novel. He hated women who used sexism and the negative stigma of femininity to their advantage, which is ironic.

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