Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

I.XIII.4 Mirth

Lily articulates the ways in which electric lighting and shabby surroundings prevent her from attaining restful sleep. Lying alone in the darkness seems terrifying to her, but “if she left the light burning the dreary details of the room would brand themselves forever on her brain." Photographic metaphor renders Lily’s mind a film roll* upon which the image of dinginess is forcibly printed. In one way, Lily identifies herself as an embodiment of such shabbiness but, in another, she seems to see herself as she saw her father—a laborer to the household. It was one thing for Lily to provide labor in the form of social services for Judy Trenor and Bertha Dorset—for this meant that she could carry on a life of luxury, however, being a servant amongst dinginess is a lowliness to which Lily cannot succumb (per her mother's last words).

*In 1900, Kodak release the Brownie--a snapshot camera available to the masses. During the time Wharton was writing, household photography was the new standard. 

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