Tofurther continue this, it is important to note the consequences and the way inwhich Lucy’s madness and subsequent spiral is perceived as a threat to the menin the novel, we will also come to see this idea of feminine instability beinga threat also in the Woman in White. Toillustrate this it is prudent to cite Robert Audley and his incessant quest to’out’ Lucy, Jonathan Loesber argues that “The object of Robert Audley’s search,…is Lucy’s double identity. Unlike other crimes and incidents, identity shiftsare not localizable: they occur in the past, but they define the present in away that ties them to the suspense arising from suggestions of inevitablesequence” (1986: 130).
Robert’s feeling that Lucy challenges the most importantdictates of feminine social being leads back inevitably to the vicious cycle ofmasculine self-interest which forces female identity into a framework in whichwomen are categorized as “angels in the house” that is, beings with absolutemoral identities. Lucy’s four identities (Helen Maldon, Helen Talboys, LucyGraham, Lady Audley) and their connected behavioural patterns suggest thatvarious motivations and many factors have modified Lucy’s morality. In itselfthe number of identities Lucy has speaks to the unlikelihood that she wouldnavigate different situations with the same moral outlook or the same desire toact morally. To speak of just oneinstance, affluence makes Lucy pleasant and obliging. She declares “I had beenpoor myself, and I was now rich, and could afford to pity and relieve thepoverty of my neighbors. I took pleasure in acts of kindness and benevolence”(354). She became scheming and dangerous when her husband left her, and whenher father shirked his responsibility toward her. The uncompromising Victorianideology which impels women to hold on to an invisible presence, and to onemoral typology is at the origin of Robert’s attitude, and also surely of Lucy’sdestabilized identity.
When he discovers her secret, Robert calls on a medicalexpert, Dr. Mosgrave to confirm that she is mad. Dr. Mosgrave initially rejectsRobert’s own diagnosis”Thereis no evidence of madness in anything that she has done. She ran away from herhome because her home was not a pleasant one, and she left it in the hope offinding a better.
There is no madness in that. She committed the crime ofbigamy, because by that crime, she obtained fortune and position. There is nomadness there. When she found herself in a desperate position, she did not growdesperate.
She employed intelligent means, and she carried out a conspiracywhich required coolness and deliberation in its execution. There is no madnessin that.” (377) Dr Mosgrave’s comment suggests that RobertAudley has ascribed the label of madness to Lucy because she has deviated fromthe average norms of institutionalized female behaviour. He reveals thatRobert’s judgment of Lucy endorses a confusion between madness and mentalillness.
However, Dr Mosgrove soon undermines this as he validates Robert’sviews: “as a physiologist and as an honest man,” he declares that “Lucy isdangerous … she has the cunning of madness and the prudence of intelligence”(379). He thinks that Robert “could do no better service to society than byshutting her away; for physiology is a lie if the woman he saw ten minutesagain is a woman to be trusted at large” (381). The mental health professionalstigmatizes her as “dangerous” because through her mental dexterity – what hecalls “the prudence of intelligence” – she has failed to complement hegemonicmasculinity in a relationship of subordination. He sends her to an asylumbecause she has overridden morality and has violated moral prohibitions fornon-moral reasons. What Victorian morality is taken to refer to is crucial tounderstand the physician’s reaction. At its core Victorian morality expectswomen to display obedience and to accept men’s authority, even if the latter iscoercive and interferes with their freedom. George Talboys and Lucy’s fatherwho have shirked their responsibility toward Lucy are not asked to account fortheir actions whereas Lucy’s abandonment of her child is counted on the list ofher psychopathic actions.
Robert’s comments on George’s actions are shrouded inobscure rhetoric. He just mentions that George went to Australia to seekfortune in order to provide for his family upon his return. Because Victorianmorality involves discrimination on the basis of gender, the doctor does notcare to find a further reason than Lucy’s immorality to justify her socialostracism. It is no surprise then that Lucy’s ‘madness’ is perceived as athreat and appropriately neutralized, but rather centers the ‘woman question’within the framework of what men deem to be threatening to their morality andunderstanding of the world.