The Silent Protest

“The division between Lady Audley and her step-daughter had not become any narrower in the two months which had elapsed since the pleasant Christmas holiday time had been kept at Audley Court. There was no open warfare between the two women; there was only an armed neutrality, broken every now and then by brief feminine skirmishes and transient wordy tempests. I am sorry to say that Alicia would very much have preferred a hearty pitched battle to this silent and undemonstrative disunion; but it was not very easy to quarrel with my lady. She had soft answers for the turning away of wrath. She could smile bewitchingly at her step-daughter’s open petulance, and laugh merrily at the young lady’s ill-temper. Perhaps had she been less amiable, had she been indeed more like Alicia in disposition, the two ladies might have expended their enmity in one tremendous quarrel, and might ever afterwards have been affectionate and friendly. But Lucy Audley would not make war. She carried forward the sum of her dislike, and put it out at a steady rate of interest, until the breach between her step-daughter and herself, widening a little every day, became a great gulf utterly impassable by olive-branch-bearing doves, from either side of the abyss. There can be no reconciliation where there is no open warfare. There must be a battle, a brave boisterous battle, with pennants waving and cannon roaring, before there can be peaceful treaties and enthusiastic shaking of hands.”

The emphasis on the lack of war is a pattern worth noticing in this paragraph. At the beginning of the paragraph, the repetition “There was no…” and “there was only…” is used to emphasize the absence of effort at reconciliation from both sides. The comparison of their relationship with a widening gulf that could not be crossed by the olive-branch-bearing dove is an excellent comparison that gives the audience a clear depiction of the tension among two people, so great that could never be healed. Additionally, the dove is a religious symbolic image representing peace, calm, serenity – a new start, a new creation, new expectations, and new hope. In this case, the image is employed to indicate that it is impossible to restore and reconcile the relationship between Lady Audley and Alicia. The subtlety in each of their attitude towards one another does not imply a peaceful system that they have set up. In other words, the lack of confrontation could not be inferred as a sign of yielding or serenity, rather it indicates the state of a cold war that is occurring within Audley Court. This attitude is further elaborated with poignant phrases including “ feminine skirmishes”, “transient wordy tempest” to express Lady Audley’s childish satisfaction at Alicia’s petulance. In addition, the use of strong adjectives and vivid descriptions of their emotions and gestures, especially Lady Audley’s, emphasizes the subtle, yet dramatic strain in their relationship.

This paragraph contributes greatly to the storyline by depicting the heightened tension in the relationship between two women and a complete shift of their relationship dynamics as they are now no longer withholding their resentful feelings toward one another. This novel dynamic confirms their individual’s attitude towards Robert as they have now taken sides, one being his ally and one being his so-called “enemy”. Moreover, this detail further explains the confrontation Lady Audley later has with Sir Michael and Alicia regarding Robert’s accusation of her crime while hinting at Robert’s suspicion of her identity. Although it is not directly related to the plot, yet this is an important and interesting paragraph that gives the audience the dynamic of relationships among the three characters Lady Audley, Alicia, and Robert.

Robert Audley

Robert Audley’s appearance grabbed my attention as he was not shown to have any direct relation with Lucy, our protagonist. Nevertheless, the brief description of the character and his career seem to have significant meaning to the story plot as we move along. Robert’s career as a barrister is mentioned four times within a few lines. The pattern stands out as we read through the passage with the phrase “as a barrister” that speaks of Robert’s job when working at Figtree Court. Along with the line “If these things can make a man a barrister, Robert Audley decidedly was one” (Braddon 37), the passage sarcastically described Robert’s bare minimum responsibilities at work. By listing out the only two tasks including having a chamber and dining with powerful and famous figures, Robert was depicted to have a job that requires minimum effort and qualification. Additionally, by stressing the benefits and treatments Robert got as a barrister, the passage implies his intention and motivation when taking on the job, all the while providing insights on his characteristics of a lazy and unmotivated man. The passage went on telling how Robert works at his job with the same spirit. The word “brief” was repeated three times consecutively, pointing at how Robert had no interest as well as responsibility at his job. With the strands “never either had”, “tried to”, and “even wished to”, it could be inferred that Robert is indeed a lazy guy with an easy life depending on his father’s money. These traits of Robert provided a brief characterization of the power and money forces during the mid to late Victorian period society. These characteristics also had me wonder how Robert would contribute to the story’s plot and how he would be involved with Lucy and the Audley’s family.