Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. She was very much influenced by her highly intellectual family on approach to writing and to art in general. The death of her mother and after of her sister provoked a nervous breakdown with a consequent status of mental instability, manifested in migraine attacks, and phantom voices in her head. After the death of her father, she founded a circle of intellectuals which would become known as the Bloomsbury Group. Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the River Ouse in 1941. Among her most important works we remember “Mrs. Dalloway” (1925) and “To the Lighthouse” (1927).
A feature of Virginia Woolf’s novels is that of entering her characters inner world. The time is often dilated, in fact a single moment can last for a very long time. The technique used by the writer is the indirect interior monologue that representing the gap between chronological and interior time. Woolf gave more importance to the impressions of the characters who experience these events, in other words to their subjectivity. She is particularly concerned with female subjectivity, which has made her a heroine to many feminist. Woolf takes the point of view of characters themselves, speaking from within their minds, showing their thoughts, feelings and sensations directly as the occur. In Woolf’s indirect monologue there is still the occasional presence of a narrator who, however invisible, gives some order to the characters thoughts by arranging them in logical and grammatical sequence.
Moments of being
The moments of beings are the moments of intensity, perception or vision which illuminate our lives. There is an awareness of something that reached our consciousness. Everybody receives a series of impressions that hit us in a different way according to the period of our life. Life is not a series of gig, but a halo, a circle of lights, something of complete. When we receives this impression, our consciousness caught it and this is the “moments of being”.
Mrs. Dalloway: the plot
The story “Mrs. Dalloway” lasts only a day and is set in the central of London. The protagonist is Clarissa Dalloway, who organized a party for her husband, a politician, and during the day she is captured in her many changes of moods and memories. We see her also through the other character’s eyes and thoughts, like the man she once loved who suddenly comes back from India, like her friend, like her daughter. But the key character is Septimus Smith, a disturbed, who had a nervous disorder because of the bad experiences in war. No doctor is able to help him and, at the end of the day he kills himself. When Clarissa gets the new at the party, where one of the doctors was invited, she understands Septimus and feels like him. Somehow she is glad that he committed suicide because, thanks to him, she could understands the true meaning of life, and at the same times lives more intensely.
Features and themes
“Mrs. Dalloway” is considered Woolf’s first fully realized novel, a book in which the writer has fully mastered her modernist literary technique. The beginning of the novel is a brilliant example of interior time, that is in contrast with chronological time. Clarissa walks around London and everything capture her attention, in fact the physical impressions are interwoven with the mental ones, because she constantly reminds her past. An important aspect is that Septimus and Clarissa became dependent even if they never really met. Like Clarissa, Septimus too moves around London and the physical act of walking is interwoven with the chaos in his mind. But unlike Clarissa, Septimus is unable to put together all the impressions and sensations he receives. His choosing to die is inseparable from her acceptance of life, and his death becomes the halo that illuminates her life.
To the Lighthouse: the plot
This novel is divided into three section. The first one, “The Windows”, tells of a summer’s day in the life of the Ramsays, a family on holiday with eight children an some guests, when James, the youngest child, wants to visit the nearby lighthouse. But the trip is postponed due to bad weather. The second one, “Time Passes”, is set a few years later and tells of the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay, her son Andrew and her daughter Prue. In this section are describes the pain and the sense of desolation of family. In the end lights a little hope when two of the guests who were present in the first part, return to the house. In the third one, “The Lighthouse”, are describes the journey Mr. Ramasy finally makes with James to the lighthouse, and at the same time, one of the guests, ends the painting that began ten years before.
Features and themes
A characteristic aspect of “To the Lighthouse” is the treatment of time. The first part is to be the longest despite describing a single day. This is because the characters’ interior time is dilated through her use of indirect interior monologue. The symbols that dominate the novel are the lighthouse, the journey and the sea. The motif of light/ dark/ light, permeates the novel's overall structure, and this motif is like a crack in time, which marks an irreparable division between past and present. The scene of the failed trip seems to be a time of lost. The sea reflects the movements of Woolf's prose. Her style is in fact highly poetic and, like the sea, gives an impression of fluidity that reproduces the flow of inner feelings and thoughts.