Running out of time: Lady Audley’s losing control of herself.


“But by-and-by she started from that rigid attitude almost as abruptly as she had fallen into it. She roused herself from that semi-lethargy. She walked rapidly to her dressing-table, and, seating herself before it, pushed away the litter of golden-stoppered bottles and delicate china essence-boxes, and looked at her reflection in the large, oval glass. She was very pale; but there was no other trace of agitation visible in her girlish face. The lines of her exquisitely molded lips were so beautiful, that it was only a very close observer who could have perceived a certain rigidity that was unusual to them. She saw this herself, and tried to smile away that statue-like immobility: but tonight the rosy lips refused to obey her; they were firmly locked, and were no longer the slaves of her will and pleasure. All the latent forces of her character concentrated themselves in this one feature. She might command her eyes, but she could not control the muscles of her mouth. She rose from before her dressing-table, and took a dark velvet cloak and bonnet from the recesses of her wardrobe, and dressed herself for walking. The little ormolu clock on the chimneypiece struck the quarter after eleven while Lady Audley was employed in this manner; five minutes afterward she re-entered the room in which she had left Phoebe Marks. “(Braddon, ch.32)


It is interesting to me how the author use repeating of actions involving the mirror serves as a significant pattern in this passage. Lady Audley’s movement from the rigid attitude to the dressing-table mirror signifies a pivotal moment of self-reflection. This reflection is even more highlighted by her movement “ pushed away the litter of golden-stoppered bottles and delicate china essence-boxes, and looked at her reflection in the large, oval glass”( The actions can be interpreted as a sense of urgency within Lady Audley to readjust her visage and control her emotions. Also, The mirror becomes a symbol of self-examination and a tool for Lady Audley to confront her true emotions. By pushing away the bottles and boxes, she clears the clutter, both literally and metaphorically, to focus solely on her reflection. Word choices such as “rigidity,” “immobility,” and “firmly locked” highlight the tension within Lady Audley. These words emphasize her struggle to maintain control over her emotions, particularly through her lips, which refuse to obey her will. “obey” ,”slaves”, “commands” are words related to control and constraint underscores her internal conflict, suggesting that her carefully constructed facade is starting to crack. The imagery of the dark velvet cloak and bonnet, coupled with the mention of the time on the clock, creates a sense of secrecy and urgency. Lady Audley’s decision to dress herself for walking at such a late hour hints at hidden motives and a desire to conceal her actions from prying eyes. And what I am trying to convey within this passage is how the reader can sense the urgency and turmoil within Lady Audley which may signifies a heightened action or ending within the next chapters. It could also be said that Lady Audley’s sense of controls over her body parts and may be her own morals are at stake here.

One thought on “Running out of time: Lady Audley’s losing control of herself.”

  1. Jellyfish, you bring up an excellent point that I did not previously examine historically: a mirror in a sensation novel is meant to serve as a physical representation of a character’s self-reflection. In Lady Audley’s secret, the use of the mirror and her fixation on her appearance throughout the story signals that it’s one of the only things she feels she has control over. As the quote continues, it is apparent that she is losing control of the one thing she figured was under her command. This also internally frightens her as she becomes more tense in her movements.

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