Katharine, Virginia Woolf, shadows, character, melancholia, ego, identity, Freud, Night and Day


Following Woolf’s own belief that the human character and condition changed in 1910, Woolf examines in Night and Day the human condition by destroying the identity of Katharine and following her reconstruction of self to evaluate just how far the human character has changed and where this change will lead the modern novelist. Through a Freudian melancholic reading, we identify what Katharine has lost, the ambivalence that shadows cast upon her play in one’s self-discovery, and the death of her ego, which causes her to retreat into her imaginary world. Although Katharine fails to gain a new ego at the end of the novel, I don’t believe the same applies to Woolf. Katharine’s experience with melancholia and her use to protect her imagination with illusions of identity were for Woolf a therapeutic exercise to do the same in her professional life. Virginia Woolf’s knowledge of writing trapped her within the world of the Edwardian and Georgian styles of narration and her ghosts and shadows were the men who crafted these styles. The recognition of the loss of composition and the realization that she had outgrown her former writing tools must have scared and exhilarated Woolf. Now was the moment that she could cast aside the ghosts of past patriarchal narratives and move toward a new literary voice. Woolf’s failure to protect Katharine from oblivion was not a complete loss, the death of her ego gave rise to a new concept of the human character and modern fiction for Virginia Woolf.

Document Type

Class Project or Paper

Publication Date


Permanent URL







University Standing at Time of Publication



English 495