Lady Audley's Secret By Braddon

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WORDS  2310

Lady Audley's Secret By Braddon

Lady Audleys Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, is a novel of many elements.
It has been placed in many different style or genre categories since its
publication. I feel that it best fits under the melodrama or sensational genre,
and under the subgenre of mystery. It contains significant elements of both
types of writing, so I feel it is best to recognize both, keeping in mind that
melodrama is its main device and mystery is a type of Victorian melodrama. In
order to understand how the story fits into these categories, it is necessary to
explore the Victorian characteristics of each, and apply them to the text. In
addition to establishing the genres, it is important to explain why and how
these genres fit into Victorian culture. The term melodrama has come to be
applied to any play with romantic plot in which an author manipulates events to
act on the emotions of the audience without regard for character development or
logic (Microsoft Encarta). In order to classify as a Victorian melodrama,
several key techniques must be used, including proximity and familiarity to the
audience, deceit rather than vindictive malice, lack of character development
and especially the role of social status. The sensational novel is usually a
tale of our own times. Proximity is indeed one great element of sensation. A
tale which aims to electrify the nerves of the reader is never thoroughly
effective unless the scene be laid out in our own days and among the people we
are in the habit of meeting. In keeping with mid-Victorian themes, Lady
Audleys Secret is closely connected to the street literature and newspaper
accounts of real crimes. The crimes in Braddons novel are concealed and
secret. Like the crimes committed by respected doctors and trusted ladies, the
crimes in Lady Audleys Secret shock because of their unexpectedness. Crime in
the melodrama of the fifties and sixties is chilling, because of the implication
that dishonesty and violence surround innocent people. A veneer of virtue coats
ambitious conniving at respectability. Lady Audleys Secret concludes with a
triumph of good over evil, but at the same time suggests unsettlingly that this
victory occurs so satisfyingly only in melodramas (Kalikoff, 96). Everything
that Lady Audley does seems calculated. Unlike violent stories of the past in
which a criminal kills for the sake of killing, Lady Audley is brilliant in her
bigamy, her arson, and her murder. The nature of her crimes reflect...