Virginia Woolf Night and Day Book Review

Night and Day is arguably one of the most romantic, and simple book to comprehend by Virginia Woolf. The book revolves around the relationship of five young people, namely; Katharine, Denham, Rodney, Cassandra, and Mary Datchet.download

The one thing I love about this book is the ability of Woolf to develop all the characters equally yet independently, without any slight inclination towards any. They represent one emotional entanglement, as they pursue both love and happiness with an optimism of knowing themselves.

The Story Line of Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

Katherine talks with Denham in the library after leaving the tea party in the drawing room. He seems indifferent towards her ideas, and not at all amused by the history of her family the Alardyce, and in particular her grandfather Richard Alardyce, who was a great poet. When Denham leaves for his home, he thinks Catherine a remarkable person, whom he longs to know more; she represents an enigma: a sweet fantasy that he hopes to unravel. But there is a twist in all this, for Katherine thinks ill of him, for he seems not at all amused by her and her family, and she feels he particularly dislikes her.download (1)

Katherine is in a relationship with Rodney, who is equally an excellent poet and a playwright, and they plan to get married sometime in the year. However, this comes with its own drawback, as suddenly she realizes that she likes Denham. Meanwhile Mary Datchet loves Denham, save she is afraid to share her feelings with him, for they have been friends for the longest time ever.

Yet as the four people meet in Mary Datchet house amidst other young people, they soon realize their interest in each other lives changes their outlook on life. For instance, Katherine gradually starts to resent Rodney, while Denham caught up in his infatuation for Katherine, hurts Mary greatly, and she pains in deathly silence. Nonetheless, things change when Cassandra comes to visit Katherine. Rodney becomes fond of her, to a larger extent of talking to Katherine about it. Both of them agree that they should cancel their engagement, and Rodney to court Cassandra, and Katherine, Denham.

A huge confrontation arises when Mr. Hilbery, Katherine’s father finds out about Rodney and Cassandra’s relationship from his sister Mrs. Milvain. He outwardly confronts Katherine, who confirms in presence of Rodney, and Cassandra of their love affair. He becomes annoyed, irrational, and warns the two to never set foot into his house, and further for Katherine to stop seeing Denham. In spite of this, his wife, Mrs. Hilbery resolves the conflict the following day. In the end, Cassandra and Rodney become engaged, while Denham and Katherine too become engaged. Mary Datchet, knowing that she has lost Denham to Katherine, is left alone, and decides to pursue her career into politics.images

The symbolism of Day and Night in Virginia Woolf’s Novel

In her novel Night and Day, Woolf uses the analogy of day and night to show emotional development, derailment, and influx of human feeling in relationships. Using this symbolism, she is able to build up the characters extensively as they converse with one another, get lost in an emotional entanglement, and presently become absorbed in their own thoughts and those of their beloved.

For instance, when Katherine talks with Rodney in his rooms before dinner, she is caught up between his words and the mental imagery of Denham. She contrasts and compares the two men concurrently in her mind, wondering who of the two would understand her best, and make her feel fearfully happy. On one side Rodney is a civil, well dressed man, who converses impressively on all matter of subjects in life including books, and politics, while Denham on the other hand is a shabby dressed young man, who plans to quit his career as a solicitor, and live in the countryside somewhere near the sea, in a small cottage to write a book, yet his siblings and mother look up to him.download (2)

Virginia Woolf, like in her most novels, takes us into the mind of the characters using parallelism of day and night to show both internal and external conflicts between the characters themselves and their partners. A good example of this is when she uses a stream of consciousness to show the disillusionment and illusion of Denham towards Katherine. He says he loves the image she represents in his mind, for it is undeniably perfect as she appears most congenial, witty, and beautiful, yet presently when they are together, he does not know how to express his love, plus she finds her distant, at times dull, and unresponsive. He is confused, and wonders if he can truly marry, and live happy with Katherine.

Just like in the Waves, where Wolf takes us into the minds of the characters, and the sea waves represent a time determinant, that shows change, growth, and development in the lives of the characters, so too does light and darkness pave way to the overall development of the characters, and sets the immediate plot for the entire novel. She has ingeniously used nature; the moon, the sun, the wind, the river – different elements, to bring out different themes in the story including romance, love, betrayal, family life, and the effect of the society on one.images (1)

It is true that the characters seem confused, and do not know what exactly they want, something that Woolf I think did intentionally, for human feelings in themselves are never settled, they are like day and night, ever changing. Nevertheless, this does leave one wondering whether there is any certainty in relationships, in marriage. Can one truly be happy with another without harbouring doubts in a relationship? Is there any future in marriage, in relationships? Can one truly be contented with ones partner? Does love really exist? Can ones partner really make one contented?All these are tough questions to answer, yet Woolf does give us the answers, and they are invariably portrayed by the actions of the characters, who seem to change their minds on the choice of their partners as the novel comes to an end.

One Response to “Virginia Woolf Night and Day Book Review”

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for your comment, and for your question. Yes I can write more on the subject. Tell me, what did you have in mind? Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Ndiritu.

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