Lady Audley's Secret

Lady Audley's Secret Literary Elements


Sensation Fiction

Setting and Context

The novel is set in various locations around England. The setting is important because it suggests that shocking and scandalous events could take place close to home.

Narrator and Point of View

The novel is recounted by a third-person omniscient narrator, who sometimes withholds information from readers in order to heighten suspense. The point of view shifts from character to character so as to be able to include different perspectives. This is important in order to make characters complex and create sympathy for characters who can otherwise be unlikeable. Without the inclusion of her point of view, Lady Audley would seem despicable, but the opportunity to see that she often feels vulnerable, powerless, and frustrated makes her more ambiguous.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the novel is often tense and suspenseful. Clues are gradually uncovered so that, as more information comes to light, the mystery around who Lady Audley is and what happened to George slowly becomes clearer.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Robert Audley is the protagonist of the novel; Lady Audley is the antagonist.

Major Conflict

The major conflict takes place between Robert Audley and Lady Audley. Robert is determined to uncover the secret of what happened when George disappeared, and he becomes convinced that Lady Audley played a role. Lady Audley, on the other hand, is determined to make sure that Robert never finds out who she is, and is willing to kill him if necessary.


The climax of the novel occurs when Lady Audley realizes that Robert is about to reveal the truth of who she is to Sir Michael, and finally admits that she was involved in George's death, claiming that she is mad.


Most of the examples of foreshadowing take place early in the novel to signal to the reader that even in the seemingly idyllic setting of Audley, danger is lurking. For example, the quiet hush of a summer twilight is described thusly: "the very repose of the place grew painful in its intensity, and you felt as if a corpse must be lying somewhere within that grey and ivy-covered pile of building–so deathlike was the tranquility of all around" (64). The suggestion of a hidden corpse foreshadows the fate that it is assumed George has met for most of the novel. The details of Lady Audley wearing a secret ring around her neck and hiding a lock of hair and a baby shoe in her jewel box also foreshadow that secrets about her past will eventually come to light.




The novel alludes at certain points to other examples of women in history and literature who were considered wicked and scheming. These figures include Cleopatra, Eve (in the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden as well as Milton's Paradise Lost), Semiramides (an ancient Babylonian queen), and Lucrezia Borgia (a Renaissance-era aristocrat involved in violent plots). These allusions suggest that Lady Audley is part of a longer tradition of women using intelligence and deception to achieve power and wealth.


See section on Imagery.


The paradox of the novel is that the secret Lady Audley is so committed to keeping concealed (that she killed George Talboys) is not actually true, since George actually survived his fall into the well. Although she thinks she has spent the whole novel deceiving everyone (and has been successful with many of her lies), she has actually been deceived by Luke Marks.



Metonymy and Synecdoche