Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 207

The most prominent theme in Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is, obviously, homosexuality. Published in 1936 by a woman who was herself a lesbian, this novel was one of the first to ever portray a female/female romance in a way that was clear and unashamed. It is an exploration of female sexuality and the different ways in which this can manifest itself.

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While the main theme may be homosexuality, this is not the only thing this book is about. Another huge theme is relationships in general. Each character in the novel is attached to Robin Vote, the main character, and her relationships with each of them serve to showcase a different aspect of her inability to form a healthy romantic or personal relationship with anyone.

A third theme is trust, or lack thereof, as Robin breaks the trust of every single person with whom she enters into a romantic relationship. They cannot depend on her, and thus, everything falls apart.

One last theme could be selfishness. Robin spends the entire novel trying to escape from things that make her unhappy, without ever staying in one place long enough to take a look at herself and to see how her wild nature damages the lives of those around her.

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