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The letters have become herself; she has written herself into the multifaceted figures of the beloved: the wife, the lover, the whore. They have learned what would please each other in an attempt to know, and to soothe their longings to unite. These, too, have become part of their story. ” No matter how much of a union the two Nora and Marthe 29 achieve, they can never overcome the fact of their otherness to each other, the separateness that exists even in love: her ultimate and entire strangeness.

Lovers use narrative to know each other, to validate their connection, but the knowledge engendered by those narratives is unavailable to outsiders. Mrs. Parnell’s memoir caused a sensation in the English press when it appeared, and from the start was considered deeply flawed. ” This version Katharine and Parnell 35 was strikingly at odds with how many had experienced the scandal and then came to remember Parnell after his death in 1891. The story of Katharine O’Shea and Charles Parnell reads, briefly, like this: Katharine O’Shea, an Englishwoman, was married to Captain Willie O’Shea, a Catholic Irishman; Captain O’Shea was something of a ne’er-do-well, a gambler and profligate who would disappear to London for months at a time, leaving his wife alone in the suburbs with their three children.

The rupture caused by the imagined betrayal unveiled the darkest fear of love, that of distance. The insistence on oneness comes from that very fear. Such fear, such distance, is seen in a letter sent to Nora a few days later: “I received two very kind letters from her today so that perhaps after all she still cares for me” (Letters II 178). The use of the third person is striking here, in that it clearly articulates distance, as the desired object is held at an even further remove, on the other side of a gulf the traversing of which becomes more and more difficult.

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