The novel Nightwood is a series of conversations and stories wrought with turmoil and interpersonal struggles between and within characters. The character at the core of all this hardship and strife is Robin Vote. Though not much is known about Robin’s background, she has a constant habit of hurting the people who love her and emotionally abusing them in a way that is similar to the behavior of a long-term addict. Each relationship she’s in is plagued by her constant wandering, drinking, and adultering. Nora Flood is portrayed in the book as the person who loves Robin more than anyone, and it is she who is the most troubled by Robin’s behavior. However, her love for Robin will only cause her pain because Robin is too addicted to her destructive lifestyle to give anything to Nora. Thus, it is only in letting Robin and her addiction go that Nora will be free from the evil that has so deeply tormented her soul.
Robin is highly addicted to her destructive lifestyle of constantly spending nights out at bars. Her behavior is similar to a character in the short film called Hollow. In this film, a husband and wife are recovering heroin abusers who have recently found out that the wife is pregnant (Sorrenti, 2010). While they seem to be going well for a while, Mark, the husband, ends up going out for a few beers one night and relapses into his heroin addiction after first getting drunk (Sorrenti, 2010). Mark has a steady job and a wife who loves and supports him in his recovery even as she recovers as well. Yet in all of this stability, Mark still is unable to resist the alluring call of heroin and falls back into his destructive pattern, resulting in him being kicked out of the apartment. For Mark, Alice’s voice of him being a father and finding happiness in their love was overcome by heroin’s voice of simply getting high.
In Nightwood, Nora says, “There’s something evil in me that loves evil and degradation–purity’s black backside! That loves honesty with a horrid love; or why have I always gone seeking it at the liar’s door?” (144). She and Alice are deeply drawn to people who have attached themselves to destructive patterns of substance abuse. Nora is filled with self-loathing because of her desire for this dark evil in Robin, and Alice struggles with her own addiction because she is unsure whether or not the man she has married will be able to support her and her child. Both women are suffering because of the person they love, however the difference in these two women is that Alice ends up finally making the decision to rid her life of the person that has brought so much pain. Though Nora “[will] never love anyone again, as [she loves] Robin,” (145), her only hope of liberation comes from purging her life of the addiction that has plagued it. An addiction that can only be rid of when one is rid of its owner.
Sorrenti, Rob, director. Hollow – Short Film. Vimeo, Rob Sorrenti, 12 Oct. 2010, vimeo.com/15765896.
Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. Harcourt, Brace, & Co., 1937.