To identity. When he discovers her secret, Robert calls

further continue this, it is important to note the consequences and the way in
which Lucy’s madness and subsequent spiral is perceived as a threat to the men
in the novel, we will also come to see this idea of feminine instability being
a threat also in the Woman in White. To
illustrate 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 shifts
are not localizable: they occur in the past, but they define the present in a
way that ties them to the suspense arising from suggestions of inevitable
sequence” (1986: 130). Robert’s feeling that Lucy challenges the most important
dictates of feminine social being leads back inevitably to the vicious cycle of
masculine self-interest which forces female identity into a framework in which
women are categorized as “angels in the house” that is, beings with absolute
moral identities. Lucy’s four identities (Helen Maldon, Helen Talboys, Lucy
Graham, Lady Audley) and their connected behavioural patterns suggest that
various motivations and many factors have modified Lucy’s morality. In itself
the number of identities Lucy has speaks to the unlikelihood that she would
navigate different situations with the same moral outlook or the same desire to
act morally.  To speak of just one
instance, affluence makes Lucy pleasant and obliging. She declares “I had been
poor myself, and I was now rich, and could afford to pity and relieve the
poverty of my neighbors. I took pleasure in acts of kindness and benevolence”
(354). She became scheming and dangerous when her husband left her, and when
her father shirked his responsibility toward her. The uncompromising Victorian
ideology which impels women to hold on to an invisible presence, and to one
moral typology is at the origin of Robert’s attitude, and also surely of Lucy’s
destabilized identity. When he discovers her secret, Robert calls on a medical
expert, Dr. Mosgrave to confirm that she is mad. Dr. Mosgrave initially rejects
Robert’s own diagnosis

is no evidence of madness in anything that she has done. She ran away from her
home because her home was not a pleasant one, and she left it in the hope of
finding a better. There is no madness in that. She committed the crime of
bigamy, because by that crime, she obtained fortune and position. There is no
madness there. When she found herself in a desperate position, she did not grow
desperate. She employed intelligent means, and she carried out a conspiracy
which required coolness and deliberation in its execution. There is no madness
in that.” (377)

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 Dr Mosgrave’s comment suggests that Robert
Audley has ascribed the label of madness to Lucy because she has deviated from
the average norms of institutionalized female behaviour. He reveals that
Robert’s judgment of Lucy endorses a confusion between madness and mental
illness. However, Dr Mosgrove soon undermines this as he validates Robert’s
views: “as a physiologist and as an honest man,” he declares that “Lucy is
dangerous … she has the cunning of madness and the prudence of intelligence”
(379). He thinks that Robert “could do no better service to society than by
shutting her away; for physiology is a lie if the woman he saw ten minutes
again is a woman to be trusted at large” (381). The mental health professional
stigmatizes her as “dangerous” because through her mental dexterity – what he
calls “the prudence of intelligence” – she has failed to complement hegemonic
masculinity in a relationship of subordination. He sends her to an asylum
because she has overridden morality and has violated moral prohibitions for
non-moral reasons. What Victorian morality is taken to refer to is crucial to
understand the physician’s reaction. At its core Victorian morality expects
women to display obedience and to accept men’s authority, even if the latter is
coercive and interferes with their freedom. George Talboys and Lucy’s father
who have shirked their responsibility toward Lucy are not asked to account for
their actions whereas Lucy’s abandonment of her child is counted on the list of
her psychopathic actions. Robert’s comments on George’s actions are shrouded in
obscure rhetoric. He just mentions that George went to Australia to seek
fortune in order to provide for his family upon his return. Because Victorian
morality involves discrimination on the basis of gender, the doctor does not
care to find a further reason than Lucy’s immorality to justify her social
ostracism. It is no surprise then that Lucy’s ‘madness’ is perceived as a
threat and appropriately neutralized, but rather centers the ‘woman question’
within the framework of what men deem to be threatening to their morality and
understanding of the world.


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