Lady Audley’s Secret

Lady Audley’s Secret

by

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Themes and Colors
Women and Power in Victorian England Theme Icon
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Poverty and Wealth Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Lady Audley’s Secret, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Women and Power in Victorian England

The Victorian ideal of the perfect woman was one who was pretty but modest, who made a socially advantageous marriage but was not ambitious, and who submitted to her husband in all matters. At the beginning of Lady Audley’s Secret, Elizabeth Braddon’s 19th century novel of romance, bigamy, and murder, Lady Audley appears to fit into this model perfectly. As her many secrets are revealed, however, it becomes clear that Lady Audley subverts and…

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Appearances and Deception

The fact that Lady Audley uses her distinctly feminine appearance to fool the community surrounding Audley Court is one of many elements of deception in Lady Audley’s Secret. Braddon uses such rampant deception to emphasize the foolishness of trusting in appearances alone. In highlighting how drastically most characters misjudge Lady Audley, the novel suggests the specific danger of underestimating one’s capacity for treachery based on beauty.

The most obvious deception in the novel is…

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Poverty and Wealth

Lady Audley’s brazen social climbing and pursuit of wealth reflect a common anxiety among the upper class during the Victorian era. As the economy grew and the English middle class arose, members of the upper class feared the encroachment of ambitious lower class individuals on their way of life. Braddon argues that economic stratification harms everyone, however, as characters like Lady Audley go to desperate lengths to escape poverty while the wealth of men…

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Madness

Because those living during the Victorian era did not fully understand mental illness, its symptoms were often classified as incurable, unmanageable madness stemming from moral deviancy and an inability to conform to society. With no stringent criteria for diagnosing “madness,” baseless accusations could lead to institutionalization with relative ease. Such mis-categorizations cause lasting negative effects for the characters of Lady Audley’s Secret, even as accusations of madness, made by both Robert and Lady Audley

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