Nightwood/Historical Timeline

“Its rots her sleep- Jenny is one of those who nip like a bird and void like an ox- the poor and lightly damned! That can be a torture also. None of us suffers as much as we should, or loves as much as we say. Love is the first lie; wisdom the last. Don’t I know that the only way to know evil is through truth?” (147)

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961.

Looking back, I realized that for the most part, my quotes that I have selected in each novel represent some kind of conflict or decision made by a character. The quotes that contained inner thought or stream of consciousness, correlated with this idea of internal conflict or discovery within the character. All the way back to Heart of Darkness and leading up to Nightwood, the characters are complex and hard to figure out. They struggle with their ability to say what’s on their mind, and come to a decision within the novel’s context. There is always some sort of conflict going on in each of these novels, and the thoughts and multiple emotions that the characters give us only add to the conflict.

One specific connection that I made is with this passage I have selected from Nightwood to parts of As I Lay Dying. During a zombie monologue, Addie Bundren talks about the concept of love, and how its meaning has tricked her. In this passage from Nightwood, something very similar is being said. The idea that “Love is a lie..” is portrayed within both of these novels, by characters who demonstrate a strange way of loving others.

 

Nightwood // historical timeline

“She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time – because she could not let her time alone, and yet could never be a part of it. She wanted to be the reason for everything and so was the cause of nothing.”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 74

Over the course of my past commonplaces, many characters reflect on themselves through techniques like stream of consciousness and free indirect discourse. “A Beast in the Jungle” depicts how two characters meet again after a few years, “It affected him as the sequel of something of which he had lost the beginning.” Readers can relate to Marcher’s introspective feeling of missing out on something, and understand also the feeling of knowing someone but being unable to remember how he knows her. In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” a similar moment of self-reflection occurs with Stephen when “a new wild life was singing in his veins.” This sentence describes Stephen’s introspection and self-revelation. From this, we learn about Stephen’s character of being a self-thinker and being self-conscious of his own growth and progress. In “Mrs. Dalloway,” a similar moment of self- reflection is seen, though it is a realization of Mrs. Dalloway’s rather destructive thoughts: “It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster.”Clarissa Dalloway catches herself thinking badly of Miss Kilman and feels guilty about it, as expressed in “it rasped her.”Tracking growth also means tracking one’s own unpleasant thoughts and she does marks her own personal growth by acknowledging her own unpleasant thoughts. This same theme introspective thoughts is shown in “Nightwood” when it is said that “She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time.” This quote shows an acceptance of one’s flaws, the “monster” or “wild life” of personal development. Through these four novels, we can see this concept of internal thoughts and opinions which track personal growth move from merely observing one’s thoughts to the acknowledgment of flaws.