War, Sibling Love, and Loss in The Voyage Out and Night and Day
This chapter explores the themes of sibling love and loss in the context of war in The Voyage Out and Night and Day. Taking its cue from Juliet Mitchell’s claim that lateral kin relations are both significant and under threat in time of war, the chapter aligns Woolf’s thinking about siblings with relevant ideas of lateral kinship. Disruptions to lateral relationships are increased in war-time, and such experiences of loss and love are pivotal in Woolf’s early novels. The Voyage Out takes the war-time tragedy Antigone as a central intertext and in so doing emphasises the topicality of ruptured sibling relations. Prior to its political resonance in Three Guineas, Antigone facilitated Woolf’s treatment of sibling loss in her first novel. Highlighting siblings also allows for a reading of Night and Day as a war-time novel; the novel’s refusal to platform the war parallels the pacifism of Vanessa Bell, who the protagonist Katharine Hilbery is modelled on. The placing of a strong female character, divorced from public social life, at the centre of the war-time novel is an early example of Woolf’s pacifism and her related resistance to patriarchy. Woolf’s first two novels are rarely associated with war, but this chapter demonstrates their sensitivity to central experiences in war—the losing, loving and othering one’s peers—and the necessity of acknowledging the important place of siblings in the origins of Woolf’s thinking about social and political life.
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