It’s A Mad, Mad World

“Mad-houses are large and only too numerous; yet surely it is strange they are not larger, when we think of how many helpless wretches must beat their brains against this hopeless persistency of the orderly world, as compared with the storm and tempest, the riot and confusion within; – when we remember how many minds must tremble upon the narrow boundary between reason and unreason, mad to-day and sane to-morrow, mad yesterday and sane to-day” (Braddon, 206).

It’s a mad, mad world, plain and simple.

The above passage shows us some of Robert Audley’s innermost thoughts. He’s just come from speaking with George’s estranged father and sister, and as a result of the exchanges he shares with them, we are exposed to a far deeper understanding of the grief that he feels regarding the disappearance and presumed death of his dear friend. This passage stood out to me because Robert calls into question the way in which the world operates.

In class, we discussed a variety of values and beliefs that people of the Victorian Era held near and dear to their hearts. At the top of this list was the desire for propriety and decorum. It was frowned upon for people to display any outward signs of inner turmoil. Respectable members of society believed that it was far more important for one to maintain their composure in the presence of others than it was for them to express their feelings, no matter the toll that burden was taking on their heart and mind.

This passage is significant because it sheds light on the notion that not everything is as wonderful as it seems. While individuals might be able to hide their true selves from the prying eyes of society, it doesn’t change the fact that the world still has many flaws and not everyone is satisfied with this truth. Robert expands on this idea, saying, “We are apt to be angry with this cruel hardness in our life” (Braddon, 206). However, it is because of this desire for perfection that people are encouraged to suppress the emotions that torment them.

Based on this assessment, it is no wonder why many people in the Victorian Age despised sensation novels. They showed that even the most decent members of Victorian society could have potentially dark and dangerous sides. I’m sure they made many people uncomfortable, as they walked a fine line between fiction and reality.

In the case of our novel, we can see that Lady Audley is displaying rather peculiar and suspicious behavior in the way that she is reacting to the disappearance of George Talboys. Might this mean that she had something to do with it? Perhaps it isn’t strange for one to wonder if she isn’t half crazy herself.

After all, the world isn’t perfect; it is actually quite mad.

 

 

Blissful Misery

“I scarcely think there is a greater sin, Lucy,” he said solemnly, than that of the woman who marries a man she does not love. You are so precious to me, my beloved, that deeply as my heart is set on this, and bitter as the mere thought of disappointment is to me, I would not have you commit such a sin for any happiness of mine. If my happiness could be achieved by such an act, which it could not – which it never could,” he repeated earnestly, “nothing but misery can result from a marriage dictated by any motive but truth and love” (Braddon 15).

Upon first glance, Sir Michael Audley’s proposal to Miss Lucy Graham seemed rather romantic and full of a sort of innocence and vulnerability that I hadn’t expected. Being a man and a member of the aristocracy, it surprised me that Sir Michael would give any sort of thought to Lucy’s feelings. I couldn’t believe that he would value the desires of her heart over what would be best for him. However, as I took a closer look at the aforementioned passage and those that surrounded it, I found myself questioning my initial conclusions.

Perhaps the proposal wasn’t as straightforward and romantic as I first thought. While many women would have been overjoyed by the notion of Sir Michael’s proposal, this was not the case for Lucy. On the contrary, she was extremely upset and begged Sir Michael not to ask too much of her. She claimed that she could not “be blind to the advantages of such an alliance” (Braddon 16). It was with this statement that I began to wonder about Lucy’s motivations. Was her demure nature and sugary sweetness simply a façade put in place to distract those she met from knowing about her past and the dark shadows that lurked within it?

We are told that, “Beyond her agitation and her passionate vehemence, there was an undefined something in her manner which filled the baronet with a vague alarm” (Braddon 16). I think this is important to make note of because it alludes to the fact that Lucy might not be as mentally sound as some people believe. I also find it intriguing that Sir Michael didn’t heed his own warning about love and marriage. I think he’ll come to regret this decision later, as he realizes that one moment of bliss can’t justify years of misery.