‘Lappin And Lapinova’ by Virginia Woolf

Lappin And Lapinova by Virginia Woolf, 1938

The magic trick:

Leaving doubts in the reader’s mind even as the protagonists seem to find a solution

When early in the story, the young married couple invents a fantasy game in which they sustain their marriage by pretending to be rabbit royalty in a magical world full of rabbits, you would think the reader would be amused and charmed.

But…

The story does a very good job of making the reader uncomfortable. Without making any conclusion too obvious, the story definitely makes sure that there are doubts in the reader’s head regarding this couple’s rabbit game. We wonder if the husband is so fully invested in the rabbits. We wonder, too, if the wife is so invested in this entire marriage concept overall.

The doubts create tension. The tension creates suspense.

And that’s quite a trick on Woolf’s part.

The selection:

When there was nothing new to talk about on their long solitary walks – and it rained, as everyone had warned them that it would rain; and the maiden ladies had gone and the fishing man, and the waiter only came if you rang the bell for him, she let her fancy play with the story of the Lappin tribe. Under her hands – she was sewing; he was reading – they became very real, very vivid, very amusing. Ernest put down the paper and helped her. There were the black rabbits and the red; there were the enemy rabbits and the friendly. There were the wood in which they lived and the outlying prairies and swamp. Above all there was King Lappin, who, far from having only the one trick – that he twitched his nose – became as the days passed an animal of the greatest character; Rosalind was always finding new qualities in him. But above all he was a great hunter.

“And what,” said Rosalind, on the last day of the honeymoon, “did the King do to-day?”

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