Page 200, “‘Then I will do it myself…my brother’s murderer?'”
This passage portrays Clara Talboys as very stubborn, independent, and strong-willed. It is an excellent example of her characterization, in which readers realize how much she loved her brother and how resolute she is about finding him, to the point of telling Robert “shall you or I find my brother’s murderer?” (Braddon 200). In the Victorian era, such brash behavior by a woman would normally be seen as unacceptable, but to Robert, it’s actually appealing, as it is for a just cause. He thinks that her passion makes her even more beautiful, and that she is unlike all of the other women in his life because of it. This leads me to believe that the author is attempting to push the idea that strong, self-sufficient women should be the norm over typical Victorian women who are complacent with their role as a man’s accessory. Mary Elizabeth Braddon is unsatisfied with the treatment of women for that time period, and portraying Clara as the most atypical yet attractive female character is her way of speaking on this. However, this passage also reveals that Clara can only act this way because of her wealth. She tells Robert “I have money left me by one of my aunts,” so she can hire people to help her search for George. It is made clear that in this era, a woman can only have power, or act without a man, when she is rich. This point goes back to what the author is trying to prove, adding that it is unfortunate that in the Victorian era, women can only flourish and be their most attractive when money frees them from dependency.
The passage I selected is on page 72, “Yes…in the portrait.”
The passage describes a portrait of Lady Audley painted by a pre-Raphaelite. The narrator emphasizes this type of painter’s ability to render even the smallest of details, and it shows in “every glimmer of gold” and “every shadow” (Braddon, 72). With this talent, the painter gives a “lurid lightness” to her “blonde complexion”, a “sinister light” to her “deep blue eyes”, and a “wicked look” to her “pretty pouting mouth”. The juxtaposition of the darker attributes against the otherwise pleasing features of Lady Audley leads me to believe that she intentionally hides an ominous side underneath her beauty and fair appearance. In addition, the repetition of mentioning that “no one but a pre-Raphaelite” could bring this side of her to light means that only someone with an immense aptitude for spotting the subtleties of a subject would be able to detect these aspects of Lady Audley (72). This declaration in turn proves that there actually is a dark side and suggests that Lady Audley works hard to hide it successfully. Until this point, Lady Audley’s hidden side had only suggested a big secret. For example, when Phoebe and Luke find a baby’s shoe and lock of hair in a secret drawer belonging to the Lady on page 34. However, I think this painting is an indication of her secretive side actually being an evil one, giving Lady Audley potential to be the unexpected antagonist of the story. Her big secret will reveal a dark past, and her attempts to keep it hidden will combat the protagonist or plot’s efforts to divulge the truth behind her picturesque facade.