She embodied the modernist experimental spirit and, after Joyce, she is considered the other great introspective novelist. In fact, she shifted the focus of the novels from plot and actions to thoughts, memory and feelings.
As she claimed in her lecture “Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown”, delivered in 1924, the basis for good fiction lays in the characters themselves. Since the human beings are not only what they do (actions, dialogues) but above all what they are (feelings, thoughts, memories), the novel had to turn inwards and explore man’s mind and inner world.
Thus, what became important for the writer were what she called the “moments of being”, which are the moments of greatest intensity that strike our minds everyday and that give us the possibility to understand reality beyond its surface.
Woolf abandoned the traditional technique of novel writing for a new and modern form. She eliminated traditional plots and direct dialogues and started using the interior dialogue: what she wanted to focus on was the inner life of the characters, because external reality had lost its importance, except for the influence it had on the feelings and thoughts.
Describing her characters’ thoughts, she needed to shift back and forth from past, present and future. In order to do so she used two techniques:
- time montage: the subjext remain fixed in space and its consciousness moves in time, underlying the difference between inner and outer time (sarebbe tipo Bergson)
- space montage: time remains fixed and the space around the subject changes
She was brilliant in finding an almost perfect balance between her characters’ inner speculations and the realism of the situations she described.
Also, to describe the inner life of her characters, Woolf used different literary devices that allowed her to immerse the reader directly into the character’s mind. She used first of all the interior monologue, in which she lets the character speak directly and spontaneously to themselves. Another technique she used was the indirect interior monologue, where the characters’ thoughts are narrated in the third person, past narrative.
She was also brilliant in moving between one stream of consciousness to another. This gave her the opportunity to describe different reactions to the same event and also give the reader different points of view.
She used a highly figurative language, symbolism, similes, metaphors and other figures of speech. Also, she paid attention to the rhythm and musicality of words.