Lady Audley’s Secret

Lady Audley’s Secret

by

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Lady Audley’s Secret: Volume 1, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Phoebe shows Robert through the Castle Inn, which has cheaply made, thin plaster walls. It is a dramatic change from the riches of Audley Court, but Robert does not care since he has his German pipe, his French novels, and his dogs to keep him company. Robert asks Phoebe to take a letter to Lady Audley for him.
Though Robert enjoys the privileges of an upper-class life, he is not materialistic like Lady Audley (but this is also because he has never had to worry about financial security). The detail of Castle Inn’s thin walls being made of cheap material will become crucial to the plot in Volume 3.
Themes
Poverty and Wealth Theme Icon
Phoebe still dresses modestly, unlike what one would expect from a wealthy innkeeper’s wife. Robert thinks that she looks like someone who could keep a secret, and asks her several questions about Lady Audley’s past, such as how long she worked for the Dawsons, where she came from, if she was an orphan, and whether she always as cheerful as she is now. Phoebe gives short affirmative answers to each question.
Robert’s questions show that he is beginning to grow suspicious of Lady Audley. Phoebe is a unique character because she is not easily influenced by class or wealth, thus making her effective at keeping a secret (unlike Luke).
Themes
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Poverty and Wealth Theme Icon
Robert hears Luke through the thin walls and decides that the inn-keeper sounds like a fool and that he should go talk to him. Robert asks Luke how he likes living in Mount Stanning. Luke says that he would live in a more exciting place if someone hadn’t been so stingy. Phoebe tries to distract her husband with chores. Luke continues to complain about someone being stingy, while Phoebe anxiously calls out his name.
Luke represents the fears upper-class people had of ambitious lower-class individuals, because he always wants more money and will keep using dishonest means, in the form of blackmail, to get it. Phoebe tries to use her influence over her husband to keep him from revealing their scheme, as she is smarter than he is.
Themes
Women and Power in Victorian England Theme Icon
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Poverty and Wealth Theme Icon
Robert remarks on how Luke seems to have powerful secrets on someone, or more likely, Luke’s wife holds the secrets. Robert observes Phoebe’s already pale face grow paler. With that, Robert says goodnight and goes to bed.
Robert’s suspicions about Lady Audley are growing. He is beginning to use the skills of a detective, testing the reactions of other characters to what he says.
Themes
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
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