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More Night Than Day: an Analysis of Virginia Woolf

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In Virginia Woolf’s “Night and Day”, we, as the reader, can examine various feminist themes throughout the novel. Even though, “Night and Day” is one of her more conventional novels, many of the issues fly in the face of traditional values and capitalizes on the female oppression that was present in that time era. Even though, this was one of her earlier works, I believe that her conventional structure was an intentional creation, as she was trying to make a point on literary tradition and feminism.

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In contrast to many of her later novels, like “To The Lighthouse”, which had much anti-structure and stream of consciousness, “Night and Day”, is full of carefully written dialogue and proportional description of character and setting. This deliberate act of structure is almost symbolism itself, and is the depiction of the idea of marriage in that decade. Marriage was a very meticulous and structured event, as the beginning of the book models, but toward the end, the dialogue begins to get a bit chaotic and incomplete, symbolizing a transition in the female parallels of Mary Datchet and Katherine Hillbery.

And although the characters are seemingly foiled to be equal but opposite, Woolf’s favoritism for one character over another is evident; This not only reflects her own personal feministic opinion, but creates the illusion of a happy ending that begs the question, “Is ignorance really bliss? ” In the book, it is assumed that Katherine represents the female frustration of the decade and the indecision to succumb to her family values. She often questions engagement, and is apprehensive about abandoning her independence as a single woman.

She also questions the sincerity in the happiness she is promised, and throughout the novel, the reader can surmise her general unfullfillment with her time period. Mary Datchet, is the other half of the parallel, but undergoes a slight intersection with Katherine, as the text becomes more oblique in structure. It is widely accepted that Mary Datchet is a creation of Virginia Woolf’s own feminist ideals, as generally represented in her later work, “A Room of One’s Own”.

She is a perfect foil of Katherine Hillbery, who, in the beginning of the novel, hosts formal tea parties that ooze with common propriety. Mary Datchet host’s women’s suffrage rallies full of women revolutionaries and opposition fighters. For a large portion of the book, these two universes maintain their parallel distance, and even as they begin to interact more with each other, the contrast between them is blatant. Within the text, there are also various motifs and allusions to other works pertaining to love and marriage.

One particular symbol that is continually revisited is the night sky. As we begin to see more of Katherine Hillberry’s development as a frustrated woman, she looks to the stars for solace from her life. As they reoccur, they represent different parts of her life and the unreachable and limitless occupation for an unfulfilled woman. At one point Henry tells her that he understands “[she] lives her life by the stars”(123), which is true because, she surfaces in and out of terrestrial circumvention, much like the night sky.

She is supposed to grow in the direction of literature, but she grows perpendicular, towards the stars and mathematics, which every night shine down on her, “illuminating her distress” (125. ). Subconsciously, she may even feel that they are the isolation in women who are unable to make decisions of their own, and glow dimly through life, only taking fire in the night, in the absence of moral obligation. After almost each pivotal movement in the dialogue, Katherine will confide in the night sky, or moonlight will wash upon the outside view of Mary Datchet.

Often the descriptions, favoring the night to the day, are subtle but quantitatively apparent. The title of the book itself, is supposed to be summary of Katherine and Mary’s foil to each other, as they differ like “Night and Day. ” But, Woolf’s fascination with the night sky contributes more to her favor of one character over the other. The book ends with Katherine’s engagement and overall ignorant bliss, but Mary remains a sole axis of freedom, as she denies Ralph Denham’s proposal, even though she is in love with him.

In the novel, Woolf delves into traditional female perspective, providing a social commentary on the existing sexism of her time. Women were expected to marry and bear children, and believe it to be the greatest fulfillment they could achieve. She believes it to be ignorant bliss when succumbing to the expectations of the “modernistic” society. Mary Datchet is Woolf’s own martyrly creation in the sense that she sacrifices her mental well being for the sake of the respect for herself as a person rather than a gender.

Her happiness dies at the end along with the parallel of Katherine’s free will when they make their final decisions; therefore, creating a perpetual “night” over Mary’s life and an everlasting sun over Katherine’s. Through an eclipse of archetypes, we can see the black cloud with the silver lining. With convention comes the empty fulfillment of societal acceptance, and with defiance comes being alone in a crowded world. It is a matter of judgment, not stupidity, which gives us happiness. Katherine chose, in her only moment of clarity, the path illuminated; while Mary Datchet forever burns at the stake of Virginia Woolf’s imagination.

Cite this More Night Than Day: an Analysis of Virginia Woolf

More Night Than Day: an Analysis of Virginia Woolf. (2017, Jan 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/more-night-than-day-an-analysis-of-virginia-woolf/

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