Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

XI.1 Hudson

The On Vital Reserves essays (1899),* penned by James's older brother William, articulate the internal tension from which Roderick suffers. In his essays, the elder James encourages his readers to control their inner “combustibility” and denounce “bottled lightning” as a “characteristic national type” (60), which he exemplifies as the “intense, convulsive worker [who] breaks down and has bad moods so often that you never know where he may be when you most need his help, —he may be having one of his ‘bad days’” (61). Such a description illustrates Roderick’s character throughout the novel. The paradox of simultaneous kinesis and stasis is best articulated through the following conjecture from “Gospel of Relaxation”: “I suspect that neither the nature nor the amount of our work is accountable for the frequency and severity of our breakdowns, but that their cause lies rather in those absurd feelings of hurry and having no time, in that breathlessness and tension, that anxiety of feature and that solicitude for results, that lack of inner harmony and ease” (62). In this scene, Roderick thoroughly embodies "feelings of hurry and having no time," although the feeling seems far from absurd considering his massive indebtedness to Rowland at this point in the novel. 


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