Lady Audley’s Secret

Lady Audley’s Secret

by

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Lady Audley’s Secret: Volume 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Shocked and horrified, George passes out in the coffee-house. He wakes up in Robert’s apartment, Fig-tree Court, with Robert sitting by his bedside, smoking a pipe. The room is filled with canaries in cages and flowers. Robert says that George should stay with him while he’s in town. George remembers that his wife is dead and is distraught again. Robert tries to convince him it might be someone else with the same name.
Robert’s apartment is as decadent as he is. George’s passing out puts Robert in the unlikely role of caretaker. This formerly carefree character now must take responsibility for another. Robert’s logical conclusion that the announcement could be somebody else contributes to a recurring motif of false assumptions.
Themes
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Poverty and Wealth Theme Icon
George wants to go immediately to Ventnor, where the newspaper said Helen was buried, but Robert convinces him to wait till the next day. They take the train together, discussing how they will find information about his wife. George is pitiful and helpless, placing the usually lazy Robert in an unfamiliar position of leadership.
George’s character has transformed from joyful and excited to depressed and despondent. Robert’s character is beginning to transform as well, into someone who actively cares for and lead another.
Themes
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George and Robert find the cabin of Captain Maldon (Helen’s father), where they learn Maldon is out with his grandson. In the cabin, they see a portrait of George, but the matching portrait of Helen is missing. George breaks down crying. Maldon’s landlady describes Helen’s last hours, saying she came to Ventnor only a week before she died.
Several elements of this scene are suspicious. Helen’s portrait is gone in case anyone would recognize her as someone else. Helen came to this place only a week before she died so no one would know her in Ventor except her family.
Themes
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
George asks the landlady if Helen spoke of him in her last days. The landlady said that Helen only cried out for her mother. George remarks that Helen’s mother died when Helen was a child, so it’s shocking that Helen would ask for her and not for him. The landlady gives George a lock of hair she cut off of Helen’s dead body. George notes that his wife’s hair was always wavy, but this hair is straight.
More details about Helen’s death do not add up to how George knew her in life. The lock of hair is especially significant, since Helen’s golden curls are her defining physical feature. George is too distraught to draw conclusions from these anomalies, but their details will become relevant later.
Themes
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George and Robert go to see Helen’s grave. George stands by the grave unmoving for a longtime, and then purchases a headstone with an inscription ending in “Deeply regretted by her sorrowing Husband.”
Braddon depicts the crushing impact of Helen’s death upon George. This grief will become the driving motivation of his character.
Themes
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