“Sexual Symbolism in W. H. Hodgson”

Review: “Sexual Symbolism in W. H. Hodgson”, Sid Birchby 1964.

Voices from the Borderland
Cover by Daniele Serra

Birchby isn’t as Freudian as I expected, but I’m not convinced of the significance of his examples of sexual symbolism in two of Hodgson’s novels: The Night Land and The House on the Borderland.

In the latter, Birchby sees the opening beneath the house as a vulva-like opening. And what comes out of that opening but swine-men, there speech “glutinous and sticky”? Continuing with what Birchby sees as the novel’s general disgust with the body and sex, the narrator’s true love does not allow herself to be touched in the Sea of Love. Much is made of the house sinking into a pool of water. We are told the Sea of Sleep is a womb the narrator enters. The set of symbols adds up to an alleged disgust of sexual intercourse and a belief that virginal love is best.

On a more defensible level, Birchby sees three fetishes at work in The Night Land: the striptease, feet, and domination (Naani even kisses the narrator’s hand after he flogs her). Birchby also contends The Night Land symbolizes a “mother-fixation” on the part of the hero given that “mother” shows up in the novel’s final line.

Birchby doesn’t explicitly claim this analysis reveals the character of Hodgson, but it is implied.

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