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Virginia Woolf

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Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen, in 1882. She suffered immensely as a child from a series of emotional shocks (these are included in the biography of Virginia Woolf). However, she overcame these incredible personal damages and became a major British novelist, essayist and critic. Woolf also belonged to an elite group that included Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot. Woolf pioneered in incorporating feminism in her writings. ?Virginia Woolf?s journalistic and polemical writings show that she made a significant contribution to the development of feminist thought? (Dalsimer). Despite her tumultuous childhood, she was an original thinker and a revolutionary writer, specifically the way she described depth of characters in her novels. Her novels are distinctively modern and express characters in a way no other writer had done before. One reason it is easy to acknowledge the importance of Virginia Woolf is because she wrote prolifically. Along with many novels, she wrote essays, critiques and many volumes of her personal journals have been published. She is one of the most extraordinary and influential female writers throughout history. Virginia Woolf is an influential author because of her unique style, incorporations of symbolism and use of similes and metaphors in her literature, specifically in Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves.

Virginia Woolf?s eccentric style is what causes her writings to be distinct from other authors of her time. The unique characteristics of her works such as the structure, characterization, themes, etc are difficult to imitate and cause a strong impression in her literary pieces. ?Virginia Woolf?s works are strongly idiosyncratic, strange, a surprise to the new reader? (Goldman). Due to the level of peculiarity in Woolf?s works, many consider her writings to be ?difficult? texts. This assumption is misleading; all literature must be approached with an open mind and careful deliberation. The uniqueness of Woolf?s writings can be seen when evaluating the characters in her literary pieces. ?We have found that Virginia Woolf is concerned with an unconscious level of experience in her characters? (DeSalvo). In other words, the characters in Woolf?s stories are not always traditional or logical in the way they behave. She uses an untraditional method of writing, in which the characters? thoughts and speech often contradict their feelings. The passage from To the Lighthouse demonstrates Woolf?s concentration on an ?unconscious level? of mental experience of the characters. (See exert 1) In this passage Woolf uses indirect ?Cam thought it was a horrid thing, branching all over the room? and direct speech ?said Cam? and ?said Mrs. Ramsay? so that the speaker is obvious. Notice that Woolf pays careful attention to details in this passage. For instance, they watch Mrs. Ramsay ?open the little drawers quickly one after another? and she ?laid her head almost flat on the pillow beside Cam?s?. This attention to detail and use of direct and indirect speech are examples of the distinctiveness of Woolf?s style. Another example is that Woolf?s sentences are extremely varied in length. The shortest, ?It was true? is a mere three words, while the longest (the first of only two sentences in the final paragraph) is 119 words. Often, conjunctions begin sentences such as ?then? the first word in the passage, and when Mrs. Ramsay begins with ?but?. It is evident in this passage of To the Lighthouse that Woolf uses her unique style to make her works influential by including different types of speeches, careful attention to detail, and varied sentence length.

Virginia Woolf began writing Mrs. Dalloway in June 1922 during the post-war years and while a considerable amount of human suffering was still affecting millions. The cause of human suffering, Woolf seemed to feel, was the battle between uncivilized or barbaric human beings, for political, economic, religious or social reasons. She felt that these battles were the explanation for a chaotic, uncivilized society, which she portrayed in the novel Mrs. Dalloway. In her diary she says, ?I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity; I want to criticize the social system and to show it at work, at its most intense?. Through Mrs. Dalloway Woolf explores superficial society in which she felt lacked depth in human relationships. To describe the different aspects of this society Woolf uses certain characters symbolically. Hugh Whitbread represents that which is most detestable in English middle-class life. He is a man who has read nothing, thought nothing and is a ?great snob?. ?This ?admirable Hugh??becomes symbolic of mental servility to plumed authority and of unnatural loyalties? (Guiguet). Woolf used the Queen Prince and the Prime Minister as the symbol of the state. These powerful people in English society are symbolic of the distorted values which lead to ?unnatural loyalties?, which is one of the causes of war and destruction. Unnatural loyalties are the loyalties English citizens supposedly have for those unelected officials in power. Woolf questioned this loyalty of the rich and the English government officials. Another symbolic character in Mrs. Dalloway is Miss Kilman. She represents possessive love and corrupt religious values. Bitter and burning, Miss Kilman had turned into a church two years three months ago?the hot and turbulent feelings which boiled and surged in her had been assuaged as she sat there, and she had wept copiously?So now, whenever the hot and painful feelings boiled in her, this hatred of Mrs. Dalloway, this grudge against the world, she thought of God. She thought of Mr. Whittaker. Rage was succeeded by calm. (Mrs. Dalloway 137) Miss Kilman is insincerely using religion not for a means of worship, but she is using religion as a means of escape from her anger and hatred. She wants to have control over others and subdue them. ?In Miss Kilman?s misplaced religious fervour she not only wants to humiliate and ruin Mrs. Dalloway, but also wants to possess and dominate Elizabeth? (Marsh). Miss Kilman represents repulsive qualities, such as she is domineering, cruel and has selfish love. As these are ugly and unpleasant things, Miss Kilman, who symbolizes them, is ?Ugly, clumsy and shabbily dressed in a green mackintosh coat? (Mrs. Dalloway 141).

In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf used Hugh Whitbred to represent the uneducated, rich ?snobs? unwilling to benefit society, the powerful Queen Prince and Prime Minister to represent unnatural loyalties, and Miss Kilman to represent to the corrupt, selfish, and cruel. The way in which Woolf uses symbolism



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