Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

At the end of the novel, Katharine believes that she has brought her life into a new harmony: “It seemed to her that the immense riddle was answered . . . she held in her hands for one brief moment the globe which we spend our lives trying to shape, round, whole, and entire from the confusion of chaos.” The need to bring all aspects of the complex life of the psyche to consciousness, to reconcile opposing values and ways of being and experiencing, is the theme of Night and Day. Katharine cannot become free and whole until she does so. She is often frustrated by a strong sense of the inherent dualities in life; she wonders, Why should there always be a disparity between thought and action, “between the life of solitude and the life of society, this astonishing precipice on one side of which the soul was active and in broad daylight, on the other side of which it was contemplative and dark as night?” Similarly, Denham cannot forever maintain a rigid separation between his routine, unexciting work and his inner, visionary soul. Life refuses to be compartmentalized in this manner.

For Katharine, this growth toward wholeness involves liberation not only from Rodney but also from her family and from the conventional role of woman in marriage, which she intuitively feels is wrong. This assertion of the need for a new kind of relationship between man and woman, one which allows a woman to retain her freedom, forms an underlying theme of Night...

(The entire section is 534 words.)