Free Silence in Nightwood Essay Sample

The book by Djuna Barnes extensively employs silence as a figure of speech and covers on uncertainty, confusion, the unknowable, doubt, impossibility of communication and the vital need to communicate. Through silence as a figure of speech the book depicts intimate relationships in Paris at the start of the 21st century. Key characters are Nora Flood, who features as an original American in Paris.

It is evident that Robins silence and confusion play major roles in Djuna Barnes’s narrative of Nightwood.  She is depicted to have married Felix and had a child with him from that marriage. She then leaves her husband Felix together with her child and develops lesbian relationship with Nora and later Jenny.

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Finally in the last chapter of the book we are served with a different perspective of amazement and shock due to unnatural behavior and norm on the intimacy of Robin with a dog. While reading through the book one realizes the depiction of Robin as evil to be true when she is found having intercourse with the dog.

First time readers of the novel I agree with the editors who view Robin as the source of bad tidings to her other characters.  Although Robin is the cause of all sore inflictions on the other people, we scarcely note her character in the book, except through the eyes of her fellow actors.  Silence as a figure of speech shows her being spoken despite her silence.  However, when re-reading and paying attention to Robin as a person from a different standing point as opposed to the first perception of her as destructive, one realizes her silence as part of speech.

Throughout the book, Robin actively felt in her interactions though in silence. Silence as a figure of speech is continued since on the day that Nora met Robin it is Nora who introduced the issue of relationship by holding Robin’s hand. During her time as an associate of Nora, Robin is quiet except when she tries to express herself and she is becomes victim for receiving no understanding. I think she chose silence because when she sings her close friend and intimate associate Nora can not understand the meaning of her song.

In silence the protagonist moves from one extraordinary relationship to another while strangeness increases from one to the other.  However she has never been heard uttering her sensations or what she expects.  All this while her relationships seem to be determined and dictated to her by Jenny, Nora and Felix.  This is supported by the fact that her voice is silent and hence makes it impossible to determine her intentions besides understanding her. , so it is our job as readers to understand the reason of her silence.  Silence as a figure of speech enables one to look at the novel as a work depicting minorities in the society. 

In the book there are no stereotypes of society but rather they are all oppressed voices or groups. This is evident from Doctor Matthew the cross dresser to Nora and Jenny the lesbians as well as Felix the Jew. In silence without complains and regard for her social circles, Robin is seen as a selfish character that is not considerate and attentive to the needs of other people.  This is shown through her act of abandoning her husband and son besides other people who had social connections to her.  However, other extensive considerations reveal that she was not understood by all these people and therefore leading to her silence.

Her silence also depicts the patriarchal aspects over the feminist in the society.  A traditional, patriarchal point of view would distinguish between irrational and rational, subconscious and conscious, passion and reason, heart and mind, while in silence women always value the former over the later. Therefore the protagonist’s silence therefore is no longer a silence but an expression in another language, a language that is not easily understood by anyone who regards talking as the only way of speech and expression.  Every reader should speak her language if he or she expects to understand the narration.


In conclusion the author nightwood silently depicts Robin as a victor when she finally manages to both come back to her self and in terms with the wild tendencies inside her.  Another silence is found in the meaning of the word like bestially which is applied to mean positive outcomes but not it normally means. Silently, there is no applause for the human parts in the book and neither condemnation for the beast. It is the beast who is applauded for its innocence and its resort to nature while human is corrupted by its desire to fit in a society that does not welcome the natural and the innocent. Symbolically Robin, whose stature and name could be a man's name, is presented as the most enigmatic person in the novel. This woman poses beautiful qualities that make her elusive and mysterious as she commits to accomplishing her goals.

And her final silent and adamant choice of intimate change into socializing with the dog rests her victory over a populace that has always worked hard to take her away from her endeavor and natural self of making her as societal and acceptable as possible, even if it means making her something other than what she is.


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