Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

II.XIII.4 Mirth

The “intense cleanness” that Lily envisions here contrasts with the dark and dirty connotations implicit in “dingy,” which describes her final landing place. The self-contradiction inherent in the passage’s paired juxtapositions imply that Lily has finally separated her interiority from her environment—seeing within herself an “intense cleanness” even as her present surroundings are terribly drab.

This is reinforced by Lily’s absolute severance of her futurity and her environment: “In the mysterious nocturnal separation from all outward signs of life, she felt herself more strangely confronted with her fate . . . But the terrible silence and emptiness seemed to symbolize her future—she felt as though the house, the street, the world were all empty, and she alone left sentient in a lifeless universe." 

The foreshadowing of Lily’s drive toward death is intensely building in this passage. Lily’s vision exemplifies her internal tension of wanting to both be sentient—to exist—while also desiring a permanent rootedness, even if it is within in a “lifeless universe.”

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