Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

II.X.9 Mirth

The “mounting tide of dinginess” and the furies she imagines chasing her at the end of Book One become one in the same in this scene. Lily projects a familiar face onto these ghastly huntresses, imagining them as the embodiment of her social decline: “More and more, with every fresh mischance befalling her, did the pursuing furies seem to take the shape of Bertha Dorset; and close at hand, safely locked among her papers, lay the means of ending their pursuit." Lily is tempted to blackmail Bertha Dorset in order to marry Rosedale, which would also mean betraying the man she loves, Selden, and marrying a man for whom she cares little—all in an effort to escape dingy interiors and rest amidst luxury.

Lily’s obsessive disdain for dowdiness, as well as her compulsion to attain wealth, deprive her of the calmness necessary to lull one’s self to sleep. She views these engrossing forces as morally and physically crushing, fearing that she will debase herself further for the sake of social ascendancy: “She could not trust herself again to the perils of a sleepless night. Through the long hours of silence the dark spirit of fatigue and loneliness crouched upon her breast, leaving her so drained of bodily strength that her morning thoughts swam in a haze of weakness."

Taken more literally, the bolded phrase in this passage uncannily describes the experience of sleep paralysis, as described in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.*


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