Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Lady Audley’s Secret

  • 68-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 42 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English and a Master's degree in Philosophy
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Lady Audley’s Secret Major Character Analysis

Lady Audley/Lucy Graham/Helen Talboys

Born Helen Maldon, the novel’s title character grew up in poverty. Her father was away much of the time and her mother was permanently absent. Learning that her mother was in a madhouse had a great impact on her, and she became convinced that she had inherited her mother’s madness.

After moving to Wildernsea with her father, Helen met George and was happy to learn that he was from a wealthy family. However, when George’s family cut him off and he left for Australia, Helen had felt angry and abandoned. She subsequently changed her name to Lucy Graham and went to work at a school in London before becoming a governess in Audley.

It was as a schoolgirl that Helen first heard that she was pretty, and this became one of her main sources of power, using her beauty to seduce and manipulate. She knew that her best chance in life was to marry a man with money and status, and she also knew that her beauty and feminine charm were key to her making a good marriage.

Lady Audley’s vanity is evident throughout the novel: she admires herself in mirrors and gloats that, whatever else happens, she has her beauty. She also places a great deal of importance on the possessions and luxuries provided by Sir Michel, seeming to care more for them than for her husband.

Lady Audley appears charming and innocent, but this façade is challenged as the novel progresses. As she fears her current life will be taken away from her and her identity revealed, she becomes cunning and ruthless to the point of attempting murder. Her exchanges with Robert become increasingly vicious and even Phoebe is shocked by her behavior.

Prior to George’sreturn, Helen had done a good job of concealing her identity and appearing amiable and sweet-natured. As a result, even Alicia could not row with her. However, after she learns that George is back in England, she becomes prone to emotional outbursts. In addition, she does not appear apologetic for her behavior and sees herself as a victim who has acted out of necessity.


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