Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

VII.2 Hudson

Christina’s words profoundly disrupt Roderick’s social identity. The emotional distress works its way through his body and further distracts him from his work: “The deterring effect of the episode of the Coliseum was apparently of long continuance; if Roderick’s nerves had been shaken his hand needed time to recover its steadiness. He cultivated composure upon principles of his own; by frequenting entertainments from which he returned at four o’clock in the morning, and lapsing into habits which might fairly be called irregular.”

What results is Roderick’s desire to affirm his social agency in other ways—through his internalized glorification of whiteness. He befriends a “crazy fellow” and “fantastic jackanapes”—a Central American emissary to the Pope—and enmeshes himself within a circle of “very queer fish” flanked by “negro lackeys.” After a late night of revelry with his friend at the home of a renowned Spanish lady, Roderick bursts into Rowland’s bedroom just as the latter is preparing for sleep: “Rowland was going to bed, but Roderick flung himself into an armchair and chattered for an hour.”

Roderick’s describes the evening with his “Costa Rican envoy” as “awfully low,” telling Rowland: “All of a sudden I perceived it, and bolted. Nothing of that kind ever amuses me to the end: before it’s half over it bores me to death; it makes me sick.” He remains silent, “willing to wait for Roderick to complete the circle of his metamorphoses, but he had no desire to officiate as chorus to the play.”

Rowland’s thoughts are vague as to what exact transformation Roderick undergoes in this scene. By referring to his company as “awfully low,” Roderick hopes to contrast himself from racialized others and regain some bit of social currency. For Rowland, however, Roderick’s keeping such company only reinforces Roderick’s effeminacy. After an exhaustive monologue about his disgust for society and failure to produce the beautiful art that he envisions, Rowland, in a dour mood, interjects: “Excuse me from taking any view at all.”

When Roderick pushes Rowland for a more enthusiastic response, Rowland shuts him down: “Allow me to say I am sleepy. Good night!” Roderick, as evinced here, is beginning to lose sleep as a result of his association with Roderick. As the reader might recall, the previous chapter concludes with Rowland finding "himself aroused from sleep early the next morning, to see Roderick standing before him." Sleeplessness, then, acts almost as a contagion, in which Rowland--in trying to control Roderick--is rendered sleepless despite his class privilege. 

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