Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

I.V.1, II.IX.2 Mirth

The description of Mrs. Hatch in Book 2, Chapter 9 can be compared with narrator's portrayal of Judy Trenor in Book 1, Chapter 5, as both visions of Lily's patrons are contrasted with Selden's enlightened way of seeing:

Evoking Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Mrs. Hatch seems to be unnaturally birthed from the very forces of electric lighting and maintains a youthful vitality via electricity. Similar to the dingy waters that threaten to pull Lily under, Lily sees Mrs. Hatch as thriving off of similar waters of ostentation, those that shine artificial spotlight on exhibitions of the self. The light is emitted from “excrescences,” which call to mind grotesque bodily protrusions or some other unnatural and undesirable abnormality. The garishness of Mrs. Hatch’s calculated social display seems to be the very reason for Lily’s grotesque diagnosis.

"That was the secret of his way of readjusting her vision. Lily, turning her eyes from him, found herself scanning her little world through his retina: it was as though the pink lamps had been shut off and the dusty daylight let in. She looked down the long table, studying its occupants one by one, from Gus Trenor, with his heavy carnivorous head sunk between his shoulders, as he preyed on a jellied plover, to his wife, at the opposite end of the long bank of orchids, suggestive, with her glaring good-looks, of a jeweller's window lit by electricity." Lily imagines (all herself, I might add) that through Selden's "retina," she can discern how those around her are enmeshed and, in some ways replenished, by the very modes of modernity that are detrimental to her own well-being. She imagines that by switching off electric lamps and seeing things through the glow of natural daylight she may better understand the artificiality of the society members with whom she surrounds herself in an effort to relinquish her dependency upon them. 


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