Lady Audley’s Secret Symbols and Motifs

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Lady Audley’s Secret

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Lady Audley’s Secret Symbols and Motifs

Letters/telegraphic messages/handwriting

During his investigations, Robert collects a variety of objects that he believes constitute circumstantial evidence. The most numerous are pieces of writing, be they letters, labels, or telegraphic messages. Some of these messages are between those involved in the conspiracy, directing one another how to act. Others reveal the secrets that these individuals have tried to keep hidden. For instance, Robert uncovers a label revealing “Laura Graham’s” real name.

Handwriting is another means of identifying some of the letters. Notably, when Robert sees a letter written by Helen Talboys, he turnspale,recognizing the “fairy-like” (59) hand as that of Lady Audley. That is not to say that handwriting is always identifiable: the notes that George wrote before leaving for America (kept hidden by Luke Marks) are in a hand that is unfamiliar to Robert. However, Luke explains that this is because George broke one of his arms in the altercation with Lady Audley and had to write using his other hand.

Lime-tree walk

The first chapter sets the scene by describing the grounds at Audley Court. This does not merely serve a functional purpose, though, nor is it just descriptive. Instead, it uses foreshadowing: the narrator remarks that one can imagine secret meetings taking place in the avenue of the garden (known as lime-tree walk). Likewise, the old well is established as a notable feature. Lime-tree walk may be depicted as a tranquil place but, from the beginning, the reader senses that this tranquility is deceptive.

The ring 

An important moment occurs after Sir Michael’s proposal to Lady Audley. Having accepted the proposal, she withdraws and ponders the former life that she is all but leaving behind. She then takes out a ring that she usually keeps hidden and that has some relationship with her past. As the narrative progresses, we realize that this is her wedding ring. 

Locks of hair

When Luke accidentally opens the secret drawer of Lady Audley’s jewelry box, Phoebe finds that it contains baby shoes and a lock of hair taken from a baby’s head. When she smiles and tells Luke that he will have his public house, the…

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