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.