Call Me Ghost Ishmael

Passage: “I should be preaching… opposed to opulence.” (Braddon 292)

Lady Audley’s Secret is filled to the brim with mysteries and, well, secrets. What strikes me, though is that we know nothing about our narrator. Most 3rd-person-perspective novels have a nameless, unidentified narrator who exists solely as the eye through which we see characters & events. n Lady Audley’s Secret, however, our narrator has personality that usually leads to readers discovering they had some connection to the events unfolding before our eyes. They comment on different characters’ actions and thoughts; they directly address the readers so much in the first two paragraphs of the book that I genuinely thought the whole novel would be told in second person; they know and see things that an individual watching this unfold shouldn’t know. They also show favor or disdain towards certain characters, particularly Lady Audley and Robert. As in this passage, though, I would like to focus on Lady Audley.

The narrator has never minced words with Lady Audley. They certainly did not when describing her portrait in chapter eight, going so far as to call her “a beautiful fiend”.  Unlike that passage, though, our narrator dives straight into her “wretchedness” (Braddon 292). There is none of the narrative objectivity seen in the age-old “all seeing eye” narrator here. This familiarity and frankness implies that our narrator knew Lady Audley very personally, including her secrets. Sir Michael knows close to nothing about his wife. Alicia would certainly be heard calling Lady Audley “wretched” that many times in so few sentences. George might also call her such horrid things. Phoebe and Luke, however, are the only ones that know a large enough secret for Lady Audley to continue paying their bills; Luke is as likely as Alicia to bad-mouth “my lady” like this. Frankly, I doubt he would even think to compare her to “a half-starved sempstress” (Braddon 292). So, my theory? Our narrator is either George’s ghost or Phoebe. If we were being told this story by George’s ghost, it would explain how they know Lucy, Robert, and Harcourt Talboys so personally and how so many private scenes are described. Ghosts have also become a repeated visual in the novel. Sure, according to normal ghost rules they aren’t omniscient, but how are we, the living, supposed to know that for sure

A Strange Decision

Passage: Page 34, “‘What’s this… the public-house, Luke.'”

This passage is short, only a few lines of description and dialogue as Phoebe and her cousin Luke go through Lady Audley’s jewelry. Luke finds a secret drawer, the contents of which Phoebe steals. The biggest point of repetition here is “rubbish”. The little shoe and lock of hair Phoebe takes are only of sentimental worth, nothing else. So why take it? Perhaps the secretiveness is what inspired her. She seems mischievous and cryptic with her “curious smile” and her comment to Luke about “[his] public-house”. Additionally, the narrator takes the time to describe Phoebe’s eyes dilating as she sees the contents of the drawer. The parcel was, after all, kept in a secret, locked drawer that presumably only Lady Audley had access to. But say the secretiveness is not why she took it–maybe it was the implications of the objects. A local widowed baronet marries a young, impoverished governess… only for it to be revealed she might have, or once had, a child. The situation, especially combined with Lucy’s refusal to share anything of her past with anyone, could quickly become a blazing scandal. Yes, Phoebe is well taken care of by the Audleys, but what else could she get if she held that threat over Lady Audley’s head, both for herself and for her fiancé? The passage is a lovely piece of could-be foreshadowing that sinks its hooks into the reader with how infuriatingly vague it is about Phoebe’s motives compared to the other characters.