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Night and Day

katharine conventional hilbery poet

V. Woolf's second novel and her most conventional in form (criticized by K. Mansfield for being ‘a lie in the soul’), published in 1919. It is a four-sided love story which is at once comical, melancholy, and awkwardly formal. The tone is Jane Austen-like satire, with a Mozartian, operatic structure of quest and resolution, and a strong ingredient of Shakespearean comedy. There are four main, young characters from different backgrounds. Katharine Hilbery is the granddaughter of a famous nineteenth-century poet and belongs to an intellectual aristocracy; her mother, the fey, stage-managing Mrs Hilbery, makes her guard the poet's shrine, but Katharine would rather escape into the abstractions of mathematics. She is engaged to the prissy, conventional William Rodney, but falls in love, in a tentative, almost asexual way, with a solicitor's clerk, Ralph Denham, who is loved by Katharine's suffragist friend, Mary Datchet. These four allow for a consideration of the social and sexual choices for women. A desire is felt for an alternative, utopian world where incoherent fragments might be unified; but the narrative has difficulty in expressing these concepts.

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