Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

VIII.3, XII.2 Hudson

In the disturbing scene in Chapter 8, Roderick sleep deprivation (Within a period of 48-hours he sleeps but "half an hour") leads to an insomniac-like reverie, in which he imagines Roderick falling to his death from some high precipice: "There swam before Rowland’s eyes a vision of Roderick, graceful and beautiful as he passed, plunging, like a diver, from an eminence into a misty gulf.”

A similar daydream plagues Rowland again in Chapter 12 when, "communing with himself during [a] restless ramble," Rowland "had dreamed—it was the most insubstantial of dreams—that she [Mary Garland] had given him the right to believe that she looked to him to transmute her discontent."

Before he gets to thinking of his desire in Chapter 8, the narrator notes: "[Rowland] felt certainly very unlike himself; long afterwards, in retrospect, he used to reflect that during those days he had for a while been literally beside himself. His idea persisted; it clung to him like a sturdy beggar. The sense of the matter, roughly expressed, was this: If Roderick was really going, as he himself had phrased it, to 'fizzle out,' one might help him on the way." 

Without compensation from his arrangement with Roderick, Rowland determines that he will remain "restless and resentful until he found [compensation]." Ultimately, he sees a vision that, like "the children’s game of the 'magic lantern' a picture . . . superposed on the white wall" seems to be more of a sleep-wake hallucination (hypnagogia), in which Mary Garland appears and serves as that final compensation to end Rowland's restlessness. 

With such imagery, James draws on techniques of phantasmagoria, which was often associated with depictions of the dreamworld.

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