Show me the saint for I cannot spot her

“Lucy Audley, with her disordered hair in a pale haze of yellow gold about her thoughtful face, the following lines of her soft muslin dressing-gown falling in straight folds to her feet, and clasped at the waist by a narrow circlet of agate links, might have served as a model for a mediaeval saint,…;and what saintly martyr of the Middles Ages could have borne a holier aspect than the man whose grey beard lay upon the dark silk coverlet of the stately bed?” (Brandon 216)

The eyes are so easily deceived. Lady Audley, as a shining jewel in society, continues to be externally depicted as the perfect lady in the Victorian Age. But it is with this emphasis on her outer “light” (pale golden hair, dazzling blue eyes, and white skin) that I believe makes it all the more disturbing when we catch a glimpse of her inner “darkness“. Thus making her not a saint but more so of a fallen angel.

There is a play at imagery throughout this passage and book that seems to be most effective when it comes to describing Lady Audley. We have this one instance with this passage in particular where she is portrayed as “a model for a mediaeval saint” (216) and her husband is the “saintly martyr”. The comparison is supported by the repetitions of light, color, and texture; Adjectives such as “pale”, “gold”, and “soft” (216) solidifies the depiction of purity and innocence. Actually, I take that back. ^ Let’s use illusion instead of depiction because the Lady Audley we see is no where close to the Lady Audley we know.

Literally a page after this passage, Lady Audley bears a facial expression and stance much less saint-like than before: “She defied him with her blue eyes, their brightness intensified by the triumph in their glance. She defied him with her quiet smile-a smile of fatal beauty, full of lurking significance and mysterious meaning-the smile which the artist had exaggerated in his portrait of Sir Michael’s wife.” (Brandon 217) This is just one example of many where Lady Audley revealing a glimpse of her true colors. But I have to wonder: Isn’t this a power play? What’s with the repetition of “She defied him”, right? Victorian Society dictates that women must be good wives, they have no rights unless granted by their husbands, and cannot be more educated than men. Yet, here is Lady Audley bearing almost the exact appearance of that portait we first saw in Volume 1, a picture of wicked triumph and cold heartedness. Her husband is no “saintly martyr” because he sacrificed himself FOR her, Lady Audley sacrificed HIM. She’s used the disadvantage of being a married woman to her advantage without anyone realizing, by using her husband as a shield for everything. Hence her prior dialogue: ‘ “Those who strike me must strike through him.” ‘ (217)

Sickly society

” ‘Do you know, Phoebe, I have heard some people say you and I are alike?’ ‘I have heard them say so too, my lady…but they must be very stupid to say it, for your ladyship is a beauty, and I’m a poor plain creature.’ ‘Not at all, Phoebe…you are like me…it is only colour that you want. My hair is pale yellow shot with gold, yours is drab…Why, with a bottle of hair dye, such as we see advertised in the papers, and a pot of rouge, you’d be as good-looking as I any day, Phoebe.’ “(Braddon 60)

While both the surrounding environment of the outdoors/ house and other characters vividly described with multiple colors, Phoebe Marks is introduced as a stark contrast. Most notably is the pattern of drained colors: the lack of physical vibrance and life significantly dampen her features that would otherwise make her beautiful. However, you would never guess Phoebe was intelligent and hungry enough to try and blackmail Lady Audley simply because she has the image of an unhealthy lower class person. But Lady Audley herself mentions that Phoebe is similar in appearance to herself. So what if this passage is about Phoebe being an exception to Victorian social class?

It becomes more evident through the continuing chapters that Phoebe is capable of placing herself at the same level as an aristocrat. By this I mean that she defies the emphasis on desirable physical appearances (we see repeated throughout the book) that differentiate upper class from lower class. Gold hair, bright blue eyes, a dazzling smile, the most prized women are all upper class and have bright, glowing, and angelic-like faces.