Lady Audley’s Secret

Lady Audley’s Secret

by

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

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Lady Audley’s Secret: Volume 2, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Robert looks out on the harsh grounds of the Talboys’ mansion and wonders how someone as kind as George could grow up in such a cruel environment. He determines that “Some One higher” than one’s parents must influence one’s personality. Robert feels relieved now that he can give up on his investigation into such horrific matters.
Robert’s statement that one’s upbringing doesn’t necessarily determine their personality contradicts Lady Audley’s statements that her impoverished childhood forever influenced her perspective.
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Robert then sees Clara running toward him. He notices that Clara is “very handsome,” with eyes like George’s. Up close, her face shows every emotion she is feeling. Clara begs him to listen to her because she must do something to avenge George’s death.
Clara proves that her previous indifference was an illusion. Robert’s note of her attractiveness in her similarity to George might suggest some latent attraction to his friend as well.
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Clara explains that she loved her brother but knew she would not be successful in trying to sway her father’s mind. She thought if she waited, her father would eventually forgive George for marrying Helen.
Clara’s motivations as a character are revealed—she cares deeply for her brother’s wellbeing.
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Clara begs Robert to tell her the name of the woman he alluded to being involved in George’s disappearance. Robert says he cannot do that until he is sure this woman is guilty. Clara urges Robert to continue with his investigation and “see vengeance done upon those who have destroyed [George].” Robert remembers what he said at Southampton about a hand stronger than his own beckoning him on.
Clara’s character is also motivated by revenge, showing that she is more passionate and more determined than Robert. Her intensity inspires Robert, as seen in his remembrance of the phrase about the beckoning hand. Clara now seems to be that hand.
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Robert says Clara surely cannot be asking him to continue on in this miserable business of a murder investigation. Clara tells him that he must avenge George’s death. If he doesn’t, she will do it herself. Robert recognizes that Clara’s natural beauty is enhanced by her determination, and realizes that nothing but death will stop Clara in her mission.
Clara diverges from the traditional Victorian ideal of the submissive, always pleasant woman because she is not afraid of the grim subjects of death and revenge. Robert’s admiration that argues a woman’s true beauty lies in her mind and heart as well as her appearance.
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Clara explains that George was her only companion growing up, and that is why she wants vengeance. She begs God to lead her to his murderer so that she may avenge her brother’s death.
Victorian society assumed that women were incapable of or should be separated from violence. Clara’s statements here contradict that assumption.
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Robert notes that unlike his pretty cousin or his lovely aunt, Clara is truly beautiful because her appearance is enhanced by her intense passion. Even her plain dress is made beautiful by her natural beauty. Robert agrees to continue his investigation, especially since he sees that Clara came to the same conclusion—that George had been murdered—that he did when she heard the evidence.
Robert compares Clara to Alicia and Lady Audley to show that she is not like his perception of other woman with their superficial appearances. Clara uses her agency to influence Robert to keep seeking justice for her brother.
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Robert asks if Clara has any old letters from George. Clara says that she will send them to him before she leaves to visit friends in Essex. Robert is shocked. Clara deduces that George disappeared in Essex.
Clara proves herself to be equal (if not greater) in her deductions than her male counterpart.
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Robert tells Clara she should go inside because of the cold. She says cold is nothing to her when her only companion is dead. Robert remarks again how similar she is to George. Clara leaves, and Robert is filled with a new determination to solve George’s case.
Robert assumes Clara will be fragile like the stereotypical Victorian woman, and tries to confine her to the house. She defies these expectations.
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