Lady Dedlock has strong emotions but does not show them to other people; she has lived a life of secret agonies (the death of her illegitimate child, the loss of the man she loved, a marriage to a man she does not care for, etc) largely within her own mind, but when the past starts to creep up on her, she makes more and more emotional decisions. She tends to judge things quickly and relate them to herself, showing scorn for what holds no interest to her, and fear of being found out. She can be so wrapped up in her own feelings, she is rude to other people – such as when she in public dismisses and humiliates her maid, after hiring another maid despite the woman’s anguish about it, or when she pretends to show no interest in whatever Mr. Tulkinghorn has to say. Believing her husband has found out the truth, she flees into the night—with no thought for how he will feel about it, or what harm she may do him (“it would kill him to know the truth,” she asserts… well, what will her disappearance do?). Her thinking is not always fully rational, but always achieves a purpose—she burns the letters Tulkinghorn might use against her and leaves behind anything that might identify her when she runs away, and thinks of how to protect herself during the murder investigation, as well as making a rational choice to marry an older man and keep the truth from him, after she lost her child. She is opportunistic but also somewhat reckless—whatever she sees that she wants, Lady Dedlock pursues. She sees a beautiful girl that reminds her of the girl she lost and takes her on as a maid, then impulsively dismisses her other maid, without thinking what harm it might do her in the long term. Lady Dedlock reacts to seeing her lover’s handwriting, then pretends she doesn’t care—then when she finds out he is dead, risks exposure by paying a boy to show her to his grave. She often likes to walk to clear her thoughts, and doesn’t often look beneath the surface of things—she just “reacts.” When Tulkinghorn tells her not to dismiss her new maid, she does so, to get Rosa away from him. She runs away when her husband discovers the truth, because she believes his “surface bluster” about the importance of family—she has not perceived his deeper love for her, and its unchanging and forgiving nature. Lady Dedlock becomes obsessed with her own unraveling, a future in which she is “exposed.” This paranoid apprehension drives all her decisions.

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Lady Dedlock’s first lines are: “I am bored to death with this; bored to death with this place, bored to death with my life, bored to death with myself.” Despite her riches and a loving husband, she has rejected it all in favor of wallowing in her past hurts and miseries. She is haughty and disdainful—it’s likely this trait of treating Mr. Tulkinghorn with contempt and dislike that causes him to take such malicious glee in turning against her. Given the chance to meet her daughter and confess, Lady Dedlock denies herself any happiness—she informs her that they cannot see each other again, that no one must ever know. She has given up on future joy. She can be moody and self-absorbed, deeply emotional and easily hurt, so wrapped up in herself that she has no thought for her husband’s pain except from an outside perspective of rejection—so she rejects him first, by fleeing the house and denying herself love. She is secretive, distant, and often cold, reclusive and torn between her hidden nature and desire to avoid others.