Monday, August 19, 2019
Djuna Barness The Diary of a Dangerous Child :: Djuna Barnes Diary Dangerous Child Essays
Djuna Barnes's The Diary of a Dangerous Child "By this I mean that I am debating with myself whether I shall place myself in some good man's hands and become a mother, or if I shall become wanton and go out in the world and make a place for myself." -Olga, "The Diary of a Dangerous Child" In Djuna Barnes's short story "The Diary of a Dangerous Child" (1922), the narrator, an adolescent girl named Olga, ponders her destiny on the occasion of her fourteenth birthday: should she marry, settle down, and have children or become a "wanton," independent woman? During the rest of the story, however, the same young girl seduces her sister's fiancÃ ©, plans to dominate him using a whip, yet has her plan spoiled when her mother disguises herself as the fiancÃ © and arrives at the proposed midnight rendezvous. The youth consequently decides to become neither a maternal wife nor an independent tramp; instead, Olga decides "to run away and become a boy" ("Diary" 94). Like many of her early writings, this Barnes story ultimately problematizes the unrelenting sexuality and corresponding apathy of the child vampire Olga and the "traditional" view that women have only two mutually exclusive lots in life: that of the domestic and that of the worldly. What differentiates this female va mpire from other literary examples of her type is her age and the issues pursuant to it. Although disciplined in the end by her mother, Olga is but a child herself yet comes close to luring the unsuspecting fiancÃ © into her game of sexual supremacy. Because literature and criticism lack a solid tradition concerning vampires and children, particularly a mixture of the two, one must pursue other sources as contextual avenues into this figure in Barnes's early works. In its mixture of the domestic (baby/child/adolescent) and the sensual (vampire) and the dangerous appeal that fusion entails, the child vampire in Barnes's writings and illustrations symbolizes the ambivalence that American society of the Modernist period had about newly acquired freedoms for women. This paper explores a kind of perilous yet unwavering attraction that the child vampire epitomizes. In pursuing a contextual, interpretive framework that provides a path into Barnes's use of the child vampire, I turn to visual culture of the period, focusing upon the tradition of the screen vamp and the use of children in early American cinema as initial sources of these conflicting feelings.