In the second part of Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”, she describes the total deterioration of the house as well as the Ramsey family. I feel as if there is as connection between the loosening shawl which reveals the “beast skull” and the death of Mrs. Ramsey. She is always described in what I refer to as warm language. When Woolf describes the personality and mannerisms of Mrs. Ramsey, she gives one the feeling that Mrs. Ramsey is a warm, kind and caring person. The fact that her death is described so offhandedly is shocking to me. Woolf takes so much time to build up her character and we feel as if we know her so well, then she is suddenly gone and hardly mentioned afterwards. It seems as if the deterioration and utter destruction of the house is related to the lack of Mrs. Ramsey’s presence in the family. When she dies, it seems as if her family slowly deteriorates with the deaths of her children, Prue and Andrew, and the obvious longing and loneliness of Mr. Ramsey.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Mrs. Dalloway is a novel which surrounds the events of the preparation of Clarissa Dalloway - wife of a politician, Richard Dalloway – for a party she is hosting at her house that evening. As we follow her on her first errand of purchasing flowers, we come to realize that Clarissa Dalloway does not feel as though she is an independent entity, but simply viewed as Mrs. Richard Dalloway. It is understandable that when one is in a marriage in which the other partner is more socially significant or has some importance within one’s community, that one would feel overpowered by the other’s significance. It is obvious that over the years of being the spouse to such an influential figure in society, that she would feel personally insignificant. After a while, it would seem as though her husband’s identity and prominence overpowers her own and we see in the novel that she feels as if she has lost her identity. We hear of this many times, especially in middle aged individuals that they wish to find themselves. While many are unsure what it means to find one’s self or how one would lose one’s self, I can see how Mrs. Dalloway, after being the supporting actress in her own life could lose her sense of self.
Another thing which interests me in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, is the character of Septimus Smith, whom is suffering from what was known then as “shell-shock” from seeing the horrors of World War I. Today, we know this disorder as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. We first meet Septimus during Clarissa Dalloway’s trip to downtown London to buy flowers. A car in the busy streets of the city of London backfires, and startles Septimus, causing him to have a flashback or episode from his post traumatic stress disorder or “shell shock”. He believes he is responsible for the commotion and begins to act strangely. His wife, Lucrezia or Rezia, guides him to the park where he can settle down. She is seriously concerned about her husband’s condition; feeling that it is a strain on their marriage. She is also concerned due to his recent threats to commit suicide. From what we know now about post traumatic stress disorder, it seems that Septimus is suffering from such a disorder. It is interesting to me that Virginia Woolf describes the thoughts and fears Septimus suffers through so accurately. I can’t help but wonder if in fact, she wrote Septimus’s character with her own experiences as a model. After reading “A Sketch of the Past”, it is easy to see how Woolf herself could have possibly suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. If she in fact suffered from this illness, it could be possible that she simply shifted the cause of the post traumatic stress disorder to fit Septimus’s character, but in fact, the depression and the flashbacks as well as other symptoms were something that she experienced herself. How else could she have written such an accurate portrayal of someone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder?
Kew Gardens, although an interesting read, was a tough one to follow as well. Woolf changes perspectives quite often within this short story. I do find it very interesting that Kew Gardens was written during a time when there was nothing being grown in Kew Gardens with the exception of onions. I believe that Woolf wrote the description of Kew Gardens completely from memory. Many times, when reading a novel or a short story, we get so caught up in trying to figure out what the plot and the point of the text is that we miss the beauty of the language. Virginia Woolf’s writing forces us to stop and “smell the roses”, if you will. Due to the fact that Kew Gardens lacks a profound plot or story line, we as readers must reevaluate the significance of her literary works. In Woolf’s writing, the profoundness is not found in the story line, but in the language Woolf uses to describe the scenes, characters and occurrences within her texts. Description is the heart and soul of Kew Gardens. As a reader, you learn much more about the characters within the short story by reading Woolf’s descriptions of them than by paying attention to what it is they are saying. The way in which Woolf gives attention to even the minutest of details paints a perfect picture in the minds of her readers. She uses words as a paintbrush and we as readers feel as though we see, in our mind’s eye, the exact visions Woolf experienced whilst walking through Kew Gardens before it was turned into an onion crop.
Another aspect of Kew Gardens is the idea of time and its relativity. As the story opens, we are introduced to a man walking ahead of his wife and children, deep in thought. He recalls a time when he proposed to a girl he loved and she turned him down. He remembers how he had bet that if a dragonfly which was hovering around the two of them at the time settled on a leaf, that his love would agree to marry him. However, the dragonfly never landed. During our insight into his thoughts, we realize that he is glad that the dragonfly never landed and that he is married to his current wife. Everyone has experienced a moment like this in which they believed that their boyfriend or girlfriend was that person’s be all and end all, and when the relationship came to an end, that their world was falling apart. However, most of us look back and realize that the previous relationship really wasn’t for the best and are glad that it ended and now see that it was not the end of our world as we knew it.
Monday, September 20, 2010
In Virginia Woolf’s autobiography, A Sketch of the Past, Woolf builds herself from her childhood memories. Many people define themselves by who they are in the present or what they’ve accomplished, but you cannot fully describe yourself without using your childhood memories as a base. I know that when someone asks me who I am, my first thought is to describe myself physically; 5’2, dark brown hair, size seven and a half shoe. But when you really delve into the question of “who am I?” you have to start from the very beginning, and that’s precisely what Woolf does in A Sketch of the Past. I think everyone has that photographic image of their very first memory. You don’t remember the details, but you can see the basic point of the picture.
Mine is out of focus, and the heads of some people may or may not have been cut off, but I can still remember sitting in my mother’s lap drinking Coke out of a sippy cup. Like Woolf, I have a strong sense of color in my first memory. I can still see the plush, grey-blue rocking chair which seemed to blend in with the grey carpet and the green sippy cup with the opaque, plastic lid. Though I don’t remember why I was there or what else may have been going on around me, I do have what feels like the first picture in my “memory album”. Woolf describes her first memory as sitting on her mother’s lap and describing the blue and red flowers against the black background of her mother’s dress.
But I digress. Woolf goes about her autobiography in a completely different way than expected. Most people write about where they grew up and how many siblings they had and what their favorite flavor of ice cream was in a predictable, monotonous voice which drones on and on until the reader loses interest entirely. While Woolf gives us this type of information, she does it in a way in which we feel as if we’re sitting down for story time as opposed to being lectured on a historical figure. She uses words to piece together photographs of her memories. Reading A Sketch of the Past is like seeing things through the eyes of Virginia Woolf herself. She builds her autobiography as if she is constructing a character in one of her novels by showing us rather than telling us, who the character is and what made her that way. For example, Woolf discusses her positive memories and negative memories without overwhelming us with descriptions of her emotions. Although she may state how she felt at the time during which the mental photograph was taken, we can tell how she was feeling in the way in which she describes her memory. The fact that Virginia Woolf constructs her autobiography by showing her readers examples of childhood memories makes the reader feel as if they know her on a more personal level. If you think about it memories and experiences, good and bad, are what makes us who we are at present, and is a far better way of conveying what it was like to grow up as Virginia Woolf.
Monday, August 23, 2010
My expectations for this course are to familiarize myself with the writings of Virginia Woolf. I have never (to my knowledge or that I can remember) read any of her novels or short stories, so I am excited to see what is in store for me this semester. After reading over the schedule, it seems that science and nature were the two most discussed and written about topics in the 2010 Virginia Woolf Conference. Gender was another popular topic, although not so much as the two mentioned previously. The trends seemed to be following nature’s role in Woolf’s short stories, especially concerning The Waves. This was the one work of Woolf’s that I saw being the most frequently included in papers, and therefore seemed to be the work in which the Woolf scholars were interested most followed by Mrs. Dalloway. The subject that was most intriguing to me was that of Victoriana in Mrs. Dalloway. I am very interested in the subject of literature and the Victorian Era, so this appealed to me the most out of the other subjects presented at the conference. The paper title in which I was most interested was “The Nature of the Sexes: Androgyny and Communication in Woolf’s Kew Gardens”, written by KT Engdahl. This is the paper which I most wish I could have read or would like to read on the chance that it may be published in the future.