Virginia Woolf spent her summers in Cornwall and the image of sea remained central to her art, as a symbol. In particular, she gives two means to water: on the one hand, it represents what it's harmonious and feminine (symbol of life), on the other it represents the possibility of the resolution of intolerable conflicts in death (symbol of death). In water she found life and death both. Against the image of the war, which for Virginia is the worst moment in human life, she presents the image of water, as positive symbol of life. She had a very deep culture thanks to the access to her father's library. She became a member of Bloomsbury Group, a literary and intellectual group. It was formed of writers, artists and intellectuals, who rejected the traditional moralities of patriarchal society and the common conception of art. They based their reputation on stream-of-consciousness prose style developed by Woolf, on theories by philosopher B. Russel and on Post-Impressionist painting of V. Bell and D. Grant. These intellectuals developed the modern features of coming mid-century. In 1929 Virginia delivered two lectures at Cambridge, which were a great and important work linked to women's role within the society and the writing activity. In particular, V. focused her attention on the importance of economic independence and artistic independence for every woman. The Second World War increased her anxiety and fears: she was haunted of losing her mind. So, she drowned herself in a river at the age of fifty-nine.
Woolf was interested in giving voice to complex inner world of feelings and gave great importance to memory. She believed that man's life is like a continuous stream of emotions and impressions. In her novels, the omniscient narrator disappeared and the point of view shifted inside the characters' mind with the use of flashback, temporary impressions and associations of ideas, presented as a continuous flux. Virginia said: "The mind receives a myriad of impressions, which come from all sides, like as a continuous shower of atoms". About writers, she said: "If a writer were a free man and not a slave; if he could write what he prefers and not what he must; if he could base their works upon his own feelings and not upon conventions, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style.". She said that "life is not symmetrically built, but is like as a giant halo, which surrounding us from the beginning to the end".
As for Joyce, also for Woolf subjective reality came to be identify with the stream of consciousness. Differently from Joyce, who presented the characters' thoughts directly with the use of the interior monologue, Woolf never presented the characters' thoughts without control: in her prose we can find always a great control and logical and grammatical order. In fact she uses the interior monologue in third person with the alternance of past tense (used to describe the inner world of emotions and feelings) and present simple (used to describe the reality and the social dimension). In this way, Woolf create an illusion of fusion of present and past, outer and inner world, speech and silence. While in Joyce we find the "epiphanies", in Woolf we find the "moments of being", rare moments in which the character can see the true reality behind the appearances and social masks. If Joyce is more experimental (and gives great importance to speech's sound), Woolf's prose in more emotional, allusive and poetic; in fact the most important feature of her language is the fluidity. Both lived during the same period and both suffered the war, which considered like as wall that separate the present from the past. "Mrs Dalloway" is similar to "Ulysses": it takes place in a single ordinary day, and the protagonist lives in a small area of London, on which she organizes her formal parties. Differently from Joyce, Woolf doesn't elevate her characters to a mythical dimension, but she only wants to demonstrate their deep humanity behind the social masks. Clarissa thinks that her present situation and her future plans are linked to her past experiences. V. Woolf wants to say that life is a continuous flux, that changes moment to moment.
About women's writers, Woolf shows the obstacles and prejudices and explores the differences between women as "objects" of representation and women as "authors" of representation. The main obstacles of a female writer are: the economic dependence on men, the entrapment in marriage and the prejudices in academic institutions. According to Woolf, it was necessary to turn the form of literature in one based on women's interests. Wolf speaks about the possibility of an androgynous mind, in which both masculine and feminine faculties are used.
According to Woolf are three the things that a woman must do:
- she needs to know herself; - she needs to built a background, confronting her opinion and situation with others; - she need to struggle within the society in order to affirm her role, as an artist too.