Have you read Nightwood by Djuna Barnes? Here are my thoughts on the story:
When love is self destructive…
In Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, Nora says to the doctor, “Love is death, come upon with passion; I know, that is why love is wisdom. I love her as one condemned to it.” (Barnes, 146) I read this passage where the Doctor is going on and on trying to save Nora from her own love. As funny as that sounds, Nora’s love for Robin was a self destructive one since early stages as she was always on pins, not knowing where Robin was. The doctor for a good portion of the novel is trying to inject some wisdom into Nora. He is also trying to get Nora to understand her love for Robin in order to make peace with herself regarding this lost love. He talks lengthily of the ‘night’ to make Nora understand that Robin is never coming back, and that Nora has to move on. But who are we to console or try and inject logic into a wounded heart?
A wounded heart wouldn’t process any form of consolation or explanation for it is overwhelmed by its own pain, suffering and longing. Maybe the doctor had the right to try and talk to Nora as we would do for a close friend, but I am not surprised that the Doctor was not successful in appeasing or fully consoling Nora’s aching heart. One could argue that knowing and understanding one’s situation is helpful to recover, but in this case I felt like, the more Nora uncovered about Robin, the more she longed for Robin’s love. We are responsible as readers, to carefully understand these relationships, as they deserve that. We are dealing with hearts that love beyond human capability and minds that have wondered into depths we haven’t even dreamed of entering. We are dissecting one’s pain and longing. We are trying to understand why these characters would ‘night walk’, and the meaning of night walking. These characters who engage in night walking seem to think it is holy or religious to do so. Would it cleanse their souls? We are fortunate as readers to come across this love, its magnitude and depth, for Nora says, “Every hour is my last, and, she said desperately, “One can’t live one’s last hour all one’s life!” (Barnes 143)
Finding solace within the darkness…
“Those who turn the day into night,” this line got to me as I was trying to figure who would do this or who would turn day into night. Aside from mythical creatures such as vampires who cannot walk during the day, but only during night, I couldn’t understand ‘turn the day into night’. Did Barnes mean, treat day as night? Or ignore the day and not live during the day, but only during the night? It could also mean living during the night for that is the ‘day’ for some people. This just brings me back to vampires. These dark, hellish creatures cannot walk during the day and at night time, they live. They hunt for blood and prowl about as night creatures. They have no choice for they repel the sunlight. I see this quality in Robin for she ‘lives’ during the darkness or she comes alive during night time. She is human, so why? This question has many answers and possibilities, but I would say that she is a vampire of sorts. She doesn’t feel like she belongs in the day time.
Even among us there are some who study better during day time and others during night time. This is due to the fact that we all have a certain time during the day which is unique to us, that serves as our ‘peak’ time. This peak time is when we are able to absorb facts more and to enjoy what we do more while being efficient in most ways. Robin’s peak time was the night time. This is when she was able to function naturally and as normally as she possibly could. The night was normalcy to her. She felt like a stranger during day time for she didn’t feel like she belonged there. This could be a biological factor, but I believe it is more psychological. The passage goes on to say, “the young, the drug addict, the profligate, the drunken and that most miserable.” Barnes seems to say that these sorts of human beings walk in the night. It seems to me that she is implying that the young directionless soul, the drugged, the drunk and the miserable have turned their own realities to the darkness. To explain further, I feel that she is trying to say that these people have lost their way in life. They have lost track of normalcy and realism. Therefore the directionless of the night seem to make more sense to them. It is easier to understand and it is more second nature to them. One might say that finding the path at night, in darkness is more of a challenge than in the light, but to them it is not about finding the right road, it is about walking on any path and still not feeling lost, for the night would bring this comfort to such souls. The night comforts the miserable for it draws a black curtain upon the realities one might want to hide away from. It is better to walk some road than to know or feel like you are walking the wrong one.
Were your thoughts on Nightwood different? Feel free to let me know!