Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Time at Audley Court

“At the end of this avenue there was an old arch and a clock-tower, with a stupid, bewildering clock, which had only one hand; and which jumped straight from one hour to the next, and was therefore always in extremes. Through this arch you walked straight into the gardens of Audley Court” (7).


The description of the broken clock is interesting because it seems to indicate that Audley Court is a world where time is broken, and does not exist in a linear manner, as indicated by the clock always being in “extremes.” Out of all the Audleys, Lucy best demonstrates the notion of “broken time.” Her past is largely unknown to the reader, and even the narrator notes that no one knows her age exactly. She is constantly referred to as “childish,” and exhibits childlike qualities. Braddon hints that Lucy may be Helen in her description of “extreme” time at Audley Court. In Audley Court, Lucy is youthful and childlike, but to the world, where time is not in extremes, perhaps she is “dead,” as Helen is.  

The time also distances the residents of Audley Court from the outside world. Time is a humanly concept that governs life. However Audley Court does not possess time in its usual manner. Perhaps this is why Lady Audley comes here to distance herself from her past.

The clock introduces the reader to Audley Court, in that it is directly above the entrance. It is broken and strange much like the Court itself. At first glance Audley Court seems normal, but because of the clock the reader knows that there is something off and that there is something more “extreme” than what is visible to the eye. Since Lucy is the Lady of the Court, the oddity and depth of it is a reflection of her too, and the reader realizes that there is more to her character than the innocent one being portrayed and in light of “extremes” maybe Lucy is more sinister than she appears.


  1. I really liked your analysis of the clock, and explaining how it shows the off putting nature of Audley Court. How is Lucy “dead as Helen” though? I don’t see her acting differently to the outside world than she does at her home. I agree that the clock adds more depth to the book, and hints at a time broken world. The time does seemed scattered and the history of characters is explained to some depth except for Lady Audley’s as you say. I’m interested to see where the time motif will appear next, and possibly lead to explaining Lady Audley herself.

  2. I strongly agree with your post.

    When I initially read that section of the text for the first time, the broken clock jumped out at me. “What an oddly specific way for a clock to be broken,” I thought. Here’s the kicker as I interpreted it–it’s slightly different from your own interpretation but shares some similarities. The fact that the clock is broken in that specific way indicates, to me, not only “broken” time, but time jumping, and large chunks of the story being told here that would explain things being otherwise left out, so as to preserve the mystery. Therefore we only look in on certain times, and the most telling actions are obscured.

  3. I found your view of time in the novel really interesting and I had not thought of it before. Your analysis also made me think about the parallels of time skips in the narrative and the literal times skips of the broken clock. On page 80 of the novel, the narrative skips a whole hour and a half. What happened during this time is a mystery and the reader can only guess what happens through Lady Audley’s bruises and the fact take George is missing. I see the broken clock as a symbol of the overall mystery. Like the minutes of the clock, we don’t know the exactly what happens in between the time gaps, but we can begin to guess from the clues given.

  4. I love the way you interpreted the significance of the broken clock. In a way, the clock reminds me of the clock tower from “Once Upon a Time,” where the time has ceased to pass, thus emphasizing how they live in seclusion, in a realm separate from reality. Lucy’s “notion of ‘broken time,'” as you put it, reminds me of that of a person with dementia or alzheimers. In a way, it almost seems as if she has forgotten a significant portion of her life, or has blocked out negative memories and is forced to respond immaturely.

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