Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

V.3, X.1 Hudson

Roderick’s descent is marked both by his inability to meet Rowland’s expectations and his unconventional efforts at subverting his gendered identity. The sub-plot romance between Roderick and Christina results, in Chapter 10, in Roderick’s desire to take on the same social role as his beloved. In observing Christina’s courtship with Prince Casamassima, Roderick notes the power that Christina’s sexuality holds in dictating her social standing. She need only boast her beauty and marriageability to attain a life a leisure. Roderick’s longing for such a life is most evident when Rowland, upon receiving news that Christina has broken her engagement to the Prince, goes to check on the young artist. He finds Roderick “lying on a divan in a white dressing-gown, staring up at the frescoed ceiling. The room was deliciously cool, and filled with the moist, sweet odor of the circumjacent roses and violets . . . He was smelling a large white rose, and he continued to present it to his nose.”

The picturesque beauty that Roderick so clearly envisions himself exuding mirrors Chapter 5's description of Christina: “She had never been so beautiful. Dressed simply in vaporous white, relieved with half a dozen white roses, the perfection of her features and of her person and the mysterious depth of her expression seemed to glow with the white light of a splendid pearl." There are two intriguing distinctions between these two descriptions. The first is that Rowland does not observe the beauty in Roderick that he so often had earlier in the novel. In his vision of Christina, however, “she had never been so beautiful.” This distinction reveals that Roderick’s effeminate contamination has rendered him unattractive in Rowland’s eyes. 
Although the scene’s dialogue makes clear that Roderick is celebrating Christina’s broken engagement, the vision of the scene paints a portrait of leisurely seduction: “In the darkness of the room [Roderick] looked exceedingly pale, but his handsome eyes had an extraordinary brilliancy. He let them rest for some time on Rowland, lying there like a Buddha in an intellectual swoon, whose perceptions should be slowly ebbing back to temporal matters.” Roderick’s body language seems as if he is attempting to woo Rowland into physical intimacy. Rather than have a platonic patron-artist relationship, Roderick proposes that he be Rowland’s (compensated?) lover. His efforts at seduction seemingly fail, however, for Rowland quickly flees the sitting room. 
The scene also paints the image of Roderick’s continuing spectralization. As he begins to imagine himself as embodying some form other than his own, he begins to pursue an existence outside the bounds of that his physical body places upon him within the social fabric. If Roderick may only carve out time and space for resting when existing in the feminized space of a sitting-room and in playing the role of a lady of leisure, then he must escape his manly corporeality. Spectrality is evident through the pearl-like paleness that Roderick mirrors from the earlier vision of Christina.

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