Nightwood-Historical Timeline

“She closed her eyes, and at that moment she knew an awful happiness. Robin, like something dormant, was protected, moved out of death’s way by the successive arms of women; but as she closed her eyes, Nora said “Ah!” with the intolerable automatism of the last “Ah!” in a body struck at the moment of it’s final breath.”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 70

This is a moment in which Nora witnesses a woman dying after falling from a statue, at first thinking it was Robin, but after seeing her up close “Nora said “Ah!”‘ out of relief that this wasn’t Robin.

This quote also leads me to linking the subject of death into Nightwood, Whose Body, Mrs. Dalloway, and As I Lay Dying. I specifically chose this order because I believe in terms of how death correlates within these stories have the most commonalties in this order. In Nightwood Robin is seeking death from those who wronged her, hence murdering them. This concedes with Whose Body because Peter Whimsey is trying to solve a murder, so in one, one murders, in the other, one solves the murder. The way Mrs. Dalloway links with Whose Body is the way the war effects death in the the characters relationship to death. Peter and Septimus both being war veterans have a unique relationship to death, having been literally surrounded by it for the length of time they were deployed, and both taking up residence in Great Britain, and both having PTSD or shell shock from their experience in the war. However the difference in how they cope ends up drastically different, Septimus taking his own life and Peter goes around solving murders, still having a close relationship to death. Mrs. Dalloway and As I Lay Dying share the likeness of having both characters who die being central to the story’s outcome. Septimus of course being a central POV character, and vital to Clarissa changing her way of thinking. If not for Addie Bundren the story wouldn’t even exist, they would never go to bury her and Darl wouldn’t have been institutionalized. You can also connect these two by connecting Darl and Septimus, I believe it says somewhere that Darl participated in the war, one might make his insanity connection to the war combined with his mother’s death. Outside of the story the two share similar methods of telling the story, albeit one written in 3rd person and the other in 1st they both feature multiple perspectives on the outcome of the story.

Mrs. Dalloway

“For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcraft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven-over.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print.

This was interesting to me, more or less because of its relevance today, and how post traumatic stress is very recognized by todays society, but back in WWI it most certainly was not widely recognized.  Within the context of the story, I think this passage sets the tone for the rest of the book, not just for Septimus, but for Mrs. Dalloway as well.  How the passage states that even though the war is over for most, the ones who lost loved ones it hasn’t, just like Mrs. Dalloway, her inner turmoil keeps going because of her desire to be with Peter.

War in Mrs. Dalloway.

“For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for someone like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin, or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed – but it was over; thank Heaven – over.” (Page 4). 

Woolf comments on the phrase, “The War was over.” While people are told that the War has ended, that is a false-suggestion, based upon a legal cessation and not a material one. That is, officials feel safe, but citizens are still dying. The constant use of the word “over” satirizes what is a false end to the War. Despite the passage exclaiming “over” three times, Woolf is clear that the impacts of violence continue to linger.