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A Fantasy of Femininity and Masquerade in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2016, (62), pp.165-208
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : July 5, 2016
  • Accepted : August 1, 2016

Kim, Jungyoun 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Femininity in Lady Audley’s Secret is a construction of fantasy that is enabled by masquerade. In the Victorian Era, the definition of femininity was morally strict, and women who transgressed the boundary of proper womanhood were considered unnatural and ungenuine. The 19th century’s ever-popular sensation novel foregrounds and problematizes this conventional sexual role and its ideology that supports patriarchal society. Lucy in Lady Auldey’s Secret constructs the Victorian fantasy of “angel in the house” through her masquerade, thereby discloses the structural inconsistency and fallacy of the patriarchal society. Psychoanalyst Joan Riviere, in her article "Womanliness as Masquerade", argues that a feminine mask is worn by women who wish to pursue her ambition, yet circumvent the anxiety and reproach from men. In a similar vein, Jacques Lacan stresses that femininity itself is a masquerade. His statement, "there is no such thing as sexual relationship," renders the impossibility of establishing any sexual relationship that is based on a fantasy of the other. This impossible relationship is thoroughly appropriated by Lucy whose social survival is granted by her masquerade, which is carried by a fantasy of herself. Her masquerade of the ideal femininity conceals her strong inner self, passion, and aspiration, but the falsehood of her idealized imagery was soon discovered by Robert. As a rising new order of patriarchy and law, Robert becomes the authoritative figure who can define what the proper femininity is. He banishes her and ‘buries her alive’ to cleanse the peaceful Victorian upper-class home from the evil adventuress. The seeming happy ending of the patriarchal domesticity, however, is never completely achieved as Lucy’s remaining portrait in the Audley court, which expresses her frustration and rage, disturbs the peace. The nature of femininity in Lady Audley’s Secret can be recognized as a representation that is grounded on the socially coerced fantasy and masquerade.

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