This website is an interactive academic
tool for CEA-UNH course:
Gay Paris:
Culture, Society, & Urban Sexual Identity

CEA GlobalCampus | Spring 2009
UNH Course Code: GEN230
Credits: 3 | Location: Paris, France

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nightwood Chapter 7 | Go Down, Matthew

Chapter Summary

The Doctor visits Nora, who is still lamenting her relationship with Robin. Nora writes incessantly to Robin and the Doctor beseeches her to stop - to put down her pen. He launches into his twisting and turning speech and tells the tale of a whore in London and speaks of his own struggle with sexuality - of his battle with God in it. He implores at a church while exposing himself (he takes out his 'Tiny O'Toole), "I am not able to stay permanent unless you help me, O Book of Concealment! C'est le plaisir qui me bouleverse!" (It is pleasure that shatters me!) (p. 120).

Nora recounts the final hours of her relationship with Robin. Nora goes to visit Jenny Petherbridge. Jenny's house is a haunt of Robin - a picture of Robin as a baby hangs on the wall (which had gone missing from Nora and Robin's) and a baby doll on the bed. Of the doll Nora says, "We give death to a child when we give it a doll - it's the effigy and the shroud; when a woman gives it to a woman, it is the life they cannot have, it is their child, sacred and profane..." (p. 128) She goes on:

"When I got home Robin had been waiting, knowing, because I was late, that something was wrong. I said, 'It is over - I can't go on. You have always lied to me, and you have denied me to her. I can't stand it anymore."

"She stood up then, and went into the hall. She jerked her coat off the hook and I said, 'Have you nothing to say to me?' She turned her face to me. It was like something once beautiful found in a river - and flung herself out of the door." (p. 128)

The conversation continues between Nora and the Doctor, with Nora's unceasing account of her nights with Robin. This continual rehashing of the same events (much narration with very little plot movement) typifies modernist writing.

In her agony, it is almost as if Nora expects the Doctor to save her - or to rescue her from her tortured love and existence. Throughout their interaction Nora and the Doctor increasingly spin around each other's frantic words.

(Throughout the book, we hear little from Robin herself in terms of desire and perspective - in this way, she remains eternally elusive.)

The Doctor has enough of Nora's wailing at some point and leaves. He goes to the his regular café and laments the fact that "they all come to me" - to wring out their sadness. The chapter ends with his cursing the people in the bar for their cruelty and harsh judgment.

"Sometimes, if she got tight by evening, I would find her standing in the middle of the room, in boy's clothes, rocking from foot to foot, holding the doll she had given us - 'our child' - high above her head, as if she would cast it down, a look of fury on her face." (p. 133)

The Doctor:
"Do you think Robin had no right to fight you with her only weapon? She saw in you that fearful eye that would make her a target forever. Have not girls done as much for the doll - the doll - yes, target of things past and to come? The last doll, given to age, is the girl who should have been a boy, and the boy who should have been a girl! The doll and the immature have something right about them, the doll, because it resembles, but does not contain life, and the third sex, because it contains life but resembles the doll. The blessed face! It should be seen only in profile, otherwise it is observed to be the conjunction of the identical cleaved halves of sexless misgiving! Their kingdom is without precedent. Why do you think I have spent near fifty years weeping over bars but because I am one of them! The uninhabited angel! That is what you have always been hunting!" (p. 134)

"Pray to the good God, she will keep you. Personally I call her 'she' because of the way she made me; it somehow balances the mistake." (p. 135)

Nora to the Doctor:
"You know what none of us know until we have died. You were dead in the beginning." (p. 137)

The Doctor:
"The more you go against your nature, the more you will know of it - hear me, heaven!" (p. 146)

Terra damnata et maledicta! (p. 113): Damned and cursed earth

papelero (p. 114): stationer

Saxon-les-Bains (p. 114) - Switzerland

Madame de Staël (p. 114): a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad. She influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (p. 116): a 6-volume work by Edward Gibbon

grue (p. 118): crane (literally in french)

prie-Dieu (p. 119): a worshiping bench in a church

Turdus musicus (124):

peritoneum (p. 125): In higher vertebrates, the peritoneum is the serous membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity — it covers most of the intra-abdominal organs

'Dead March' in Saul (p. 127): Funeral march by Handel

suppuration (p. 138): the formation or discharge of pus

zenith (p. 138): highest point or state; culmination

propinquity (p. 138): nearness in time and place

Chi vuol la Zingarella (p. 139): from the classical Opera Zingari in Fiera by Giovanni Paisiello

Sonate au Crépuscule (p. 139): Beethoven

Der Erlkönig (p. 139): a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Who is Sylvia (p. 139): F. Schubert

gaol (p. 143): jail

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