Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

II.XIV.1 Mirth

Given that “Beyond!” is often speculated by scholars to be the singular word shared by Lily and Selden upon her death (see example here), it is clear that Lily desires a a place of belonging in the beyond and through her pursuit of deathly oblivion. However, what scholars have neglected in their assertions of Lily’s death drive to “Beyond!” are the ways in which her biological need for passivity in sleep conflicts with the ever-propelling forces of modernity.

Through its prevalence of artificial lighting and night-time activity, Lily’s environment de-naturalizes her perception of sleep as a physiological necessity. Furthermore, her social and cultural milieu impress upon her a disgust of shabby interior spaces, which instills within her a dread of her sleeping quarters at Mrs. Peniston’s in Book One and the boarding-house in Book Two. Lily’s biological instincts are rivaled by her unnatural social drives. In the novel’s end, Lily’s bodily drive toward sleep and her counteractive, wakeful compulsion reach a stasis in her transmutation into the “Beyond!”

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