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There can be many reasons as to why women behave in such a deviant manner; it maybe something within the woman or it could be their conditions of existence. Whether it is conditions that make a woman monstrous or the woman’s nature, there are many ways to interpret female monstrosity. In the novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Branddon, the monstrosities of women are portrayed by the actions of Helen Maldon, who, through deviant measures is able to rise from poverty, and secure the aristocratic title of Lady Audley of Audley Court. Helen Maldon is the daughter of an alcoholic ‘half-pay naval officer’ who constantly squanders all their money on booze, and leaves them struggling to manage until the next paycheck. As a result, Helen knows what it means to live a life of hardship, and because she despises that kind of life, she takes whatever actions are necessary in order to change her future for the better. At a young age, Helen realizes that she is what most people would call beautiful, and she soon understands that her beauty and angelic charm would be her ticket to a better life. She uses her attractiveness, sense of innocence, femininity, and charisma to enchant people. Helen’s ability to control the men in her life makes her a devilish figure. The monstrosity is in her control over her feminine sexuality, which she uses on men’s weakness for women’s magnetism and allure. She represents the Victorian fear of an evil woman whose devious sexuality allows her to pursue hopes for wealth, social status, and power.


As the story continues, Helen meets a rich man named, George Talboys and entices him into marrying her. Unfortunately, George’s father is against his son marrying a ‘pennyless’ girl and disowns George, which leaves Helen back to where she started, poor. As a consequence, George leaves his wife and son, and goes to Australia in hopes that he will be able to make a fortune in gold mining. He does not tell Helen that he is leaving, but only writes her a note promising that he would not return until he was a rich man. Throughout his entire voyage in Australia, he does not write once, so she assumes that he has passes away or has no intentions of returning. Heart broken and abandoned, Helen decides to change her name, move away, and start a new life.


Helen takes on the name of Lucy Graham, and becomes a governess at the home of a surgeon in Audley. Within a short period of time, Lucy has caught the attention of a wealthy aristocratic by the name of Sir Michael of Audley Court. Sir Michael is charmed by Lucy’s innocent look, sweet demure, and gentle disposition. He has the urge to protect her, like he would protect his own daughter, and as a result he falls deeply in love with her. Lucy agrees to marry Sir Michael, even though she is still married to George and does not really love Sir Michael, but because she desires the life of the upper class, she cannot pass up this opportunity. When Sir Michael tells Lucy that there is no greater sin than a woman who marries a man that she does not love, in response she tells him, “Do not ask too much of me…I cannot be disinterested; I cannot be blind to the advantages of such an alliance. I cannot. I cannot!” (Pg. 11) Sir Michael is so blinded by his love for Lucy that, “It pained him too much to believe for a moment that any one so lovely and innocent could value herself against a splendid house or a good title.” (Pg 7) The monstrosity is that she knowingly commits bigamy, marries for money instead of love, and lies about her past. She uses Sir Michael’s infatuation with her as a source of power to control and manipulate him, and during the Victorian Era, a woman with power is dangerous. So in the end, Lucy acquires what she wanted all along; security, to be taken care of, social title, and wealth.


When George Talboys returns from Australia, his return threatens to take away Lady Audley’s security, which causes her to cunningly devise a plan to hide her new life, and end all her connections with her past. When Lady Audley’s initial plans fail, and she is threaten with ruin when George discovers her, she pushes George down a well in a fit of madness. The way that Lady Audley acted was monstrous in itself, but the fact that what she does there after seems extremely calculated and planned, makes her actions seem even more hideous. The characters of her crimes reveal a fear of personal and hidden violence, and suggest a growing angst about being exposed. When she is threatened with being exposed again, she sets fire to an Inn where she presumed her intended attacker is residing. Instead of fleeing from the situation, Lady Audley chooses to stay and fight her accusers because she does not want to give up all the luxuries that she has finally acquired.


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The true monstrosity of Lady Audley’s actions are in the fact that she was assertive and took her life into her own hands, making her unfeminine, as well as evil. The Victorian Era valued female submissiveness and respect, and an assertive woman would contradict the ideas of femininity. She represents the threatening woman figure trying to make changes in a patriarchal world. The conclusion of this text is the misrepresentation of assertive women. Even though women should have the right to be assertive with it comes to her own life, the way that Lady Audley was portrayed was evil and deviant. The way that this text was written gives assertive women a bad reputation, and makes others look down on women who choose to take control of their lives. Lady Audley’s Secret also represents women’s independence and sexuality, which are the ideological constraints that are placed on women. Women are supposed to be virtuous and honorable, and by asserting their sexuality as a way to gain control and power, they are viewed as wicked and immoral. But the possibilities for rebellion are very high, because women in these situations have control over the men and the power to manipulate them into doing what they want.





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