Riassunto esame Cultura e Letteratura inglese, libro consigliato To the Lighthouse, Woolf
modernists wanted to give unity to chaos. In particular, she wanted to discover a sort of
pattern, written, hidden behind reality. The true meaning lies in this pattern, in this moment
of upmost intensity, when something is revealed. She’s in search for that. Her novels and
modernists texts are always highly organized, even if they convey their idea of life as it is,
there is a strong structure behind.
Novels as life. In 1924 she delivered a lecture entitled ‘Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown’, in
which she stated that the basis of good fiction is in character itself. She attacked the
Edwardians as materialist writers who presented their characters from the outside giving
them a sort of external house. But the human beings are not only what they do, but above all
what they are, feelings emotions, memories. So, the novel has to turn inwards and explore
man’s mental experience and his complex consciousness. The novel has to be a faithful
analysis of human nature. In order to achieve so, Woolf’s way of narrative is not mimetic
based on the imitation of the world, but it can be defined as impressionist or post-
impressionist, where no stories are told but a continuous series of impressions are given to
readers, which appear and disappear, dissolving. Moments of being represent the climax of
her narrative, they are moments of visions, upmost intensity, during which character live
both in past and in present. The flows of impressions are unstoppable and undiscriminating,
there is no difference between important and trivial moments, because everything is
essential in our mind. In order to grasp Woolf’s ideas of moments of being, we have to point
out that conscience flows but also accumulates. Both past and presence coexist in our
What is life? What is meant by reality? Woolf writes in The Art of the Modern Fiction
(1919). Undoubtedly, the condition of modernity with its social, cultural, and political
upheavals, with its instabilities and fragmentations contributed to erode and reshape the
traditional reassuring concepts of reality. Aware of the loss of the confident sense of a
common world and of the fact that in the real world nothing is univocal or permanent she
perceives life as something vague and indefinite, a luminous halo, surrounding our
Her novels are modern because of her representational psychology. In her text, there are no
heroines or heroes, no actions, or plots. Her novels are the accounts of mental and
psychological experiences, of moments of beings, and of interior worlds.
In fact, when we talk about Mrs Dalloway, the true protagonist is her perceiving mind;
what we know as readers are her thoughts, how she perceives the people she meets during
the day. There are no descriptions, but everything is seen through her mind and perceptions.
Woolf thinks life is incoherent and that the world is disconnected. Mrs Dalloway herself
feels to be a collection of desperate parts. For Woolf, what gives unity and what imposes
order to the chaos of life is art. She recognises that life is made up of different parts, and
through art she recomposes these parts, respecting them, without violation. But this
coherence that can be reached is always provisional, not for ever.
In order to represent her ideas, she used the indirect, interior monologue, meaning that
punctuation is maintained, and the narrator maintains the logical organization of the text but
words and images fuse into each other. Imagines and perceptions keep on dissolving. For
her, life is made of impressions rather than realities, and since she feels the precariousness
of the existence, her writing reveals an impulse to unity. She needs to penetrate at the heart
of things, to discover hidden patterns, which must be perpetually re-made. Also, she focuses
on the idea of the self as an isolated individual, imprisoned in his or her personality.
Experiences, feelings, emotions are always personal and private. The language is public and
creates a problem since it’s not a faithful reproduction of what individuals feel. There is a
chiasm between the two spheres, the public and the private, what we are and how other
people think we are. In other words, selfhood is not dialogical, there is no exchange between
characters, there is no interaction in her novels because language is not a reliable mode of
communication. We are solitary monads cut off from each other. In Mrs Dalloway,
characters share the same experience but from different perspectives. Another important
theme of the text is that the self is doomed to solitude. Speeches must be understood as the
tip of the iceberg of personal experience, the rest is completely covered. We can say that the
unsaid is more important than what is said, and what really matters is how something is not
said. According to Woolf, there is something hidden, a place where our lives are secretly
intertwined, which is the dimension of empathy. In fact, both Mrs Dalloway and Septimius
feel a kind of vital contact without even meeting, because empathy overcomes distinctions
Woolf was interested in notions of time, space, consciousness, and their impact on the
creation of identity. Also, she explores new ways of representing these notions, because she
wants to find new forms of writing to represent life. In life, behind appearances there is a
paradigm of connections, that is of universal meaning, patterns, where hidden rhythms and
truths are revealed. Moments of being create connection between past and presence, the true
experiences of life are present in moments of being, which are always private revelation of
this hidden pattern.
Mrs Dalloway begins with a solitary woman reverie, a sort of dreaming dimension. She is a
lady of 50 years old, wife of a conservative member of the parliament. She lives in
Westminster. The story unfolds in one day, during which she prepares for a party she would
give in the evening. The sound of the squeaking of the door made her remember a summer.
She is both in the present and in the past. It’s interesting that as Clarissa is thrown back in
time, the author highlights the power that the past has over Clarissa, in terms of words,
sounds, and emotions. At the same time, Clarissa feels something awful is about to happen,
which refers to the novel tragic climax, and she immediately establishes connections
between two characters, referring to the death of Septimius. Memory from this point of
view, becomes an actualization of the past.
The problem is not that the character has memory, but the character is memory. This
moment of being highlights the experience of being as a continuous moment of becoming.
The process is that of transforming continuously. The scene is presented how Clarissa
perceives it, there are objective descriptions and it’s immediately offered in an impressionist
way, as a flow of hidden penetrating moment. Now is clear that consciousness not only
flows but also accumulates. The image is that not of a river but of a snowball. The real time
is filled with memories. As for the connection between the two characters, they are not in
the same place, but they live similar situations, nevertheless they read reality differently.
The novel is full of flashbacks that expand and contract time, thus giving it a new sense that
is not objective.
The novel is set in London on a June day in 1923. Instead of having a voyage or a full life
we have a complete but ambiguous single day of the life of a woman. It’s complete because
of the psychological insight, ambiguous because is not always clear. Instead of the authorial
narration, we have the stream of consciousness, where not events but thoughts follow each
other. Isolation of the individual, lack of communication and the theme of identity, which is
both private and public, are the main elements. It’s a novel of the city because of the
presence of London and the story is told from the perspective of Septimius, a shocked
veteran. He’s intended as Clarissa’s double, they don’t know each other, nevertheless,
Septimius’s story develops parallel to that of Clarissa. Both try to escape from their past.
He was once a poet, and now he has been visited by a famous psychiatrist, who has
prescribed him a period of isolation and rest. But in a fit of madness he kills himself. The
acknowledge of his death prompts Clarissa into a moment of being. As a victim of the war,
Septimius is unable to overcome his hallucinations. Clarissa has experienced the horror of
seeing her sister’s death. On the one hand, characters try to recompose themselves, on the
other, Woolf tries to recompose reality.
Mrs Dalloway. Through her prose style and the musicality of words she conveys the
rhythm of life. The use of a highly figurative language, the delicacy of her imagery, her
symbolism, the richness in metaphors and similes, tinge her prose with poetry.
Mrs Dalloway is a mosaic of reminiscences, considerations about past and present
situations, a sort of plunge into the continuous fluidity of time. The action develops through
the characters’ minds, their thoughts, feelings, and recollections in an alternation of
Septimius Warren Smith is an anomalous character, he has no links with Clarissa and her
world, nevertheless, he becomes the second focal point of the novel and the protagonist of
what can be defined the subplot of the book. Once a poet, back from the WWI he has had a
nervous breakdown. He embodies isolation, loneliness, inability to establish contact. He is
Clarissa’s other self: her irrational and tormented side. Woolf sees lack of communication as
the serious ailments of society, it’s universal, it does not affect a single individual but the
whole society. The news of his death casually reported to Clarissa plunges her in her
moment of being: she has her private vision of death.
The passage from page 122 to 129 represents a key point of the text towards the end of the
novel. The protagonist is Septimius’s death. The couple is at home and Rezia is working on
a hat for the little girl of their neighbours. While she’s working Septimius looks at her and
says that, according to him, the hat is too small for the girl. Rezia is completely shocked
because it’s the first time in weeks that he speaks logically. So, she thinks he’s back to
normal and they start joking as they used to do. Rezia thinks they are a perfect couple now.
According to her, now she can say whatever she likes, and he can understand anything.
The line “that was almost the first thing she had felt about him […]” is a flashback and
refers to the time when Rezia met Septimius in a café. She now refers her first impressions.
“She had felt” and “now remember” are clues to indicate the flashbacks. We are inside her
mind and what she says refers to the past.
The idea conveyed by the word hawk is that of violence, force, but Septimius on the
contrary is described as a very peaceful man. There’s a strong contrast between what he is
and what he appears. This means that Rezia was able to go beyond appearances and see the
true man inside Septimius. They were playing dominos inside the café.
The war destroys his mind, his heart, his soul, and his body. Now Septimius considers the
world hostile. He is lost. He is a victim of the war and knows the absurdity of the war. For
him, life in post-war is a nightmare, from which he’s not able to recover. The expression “he
could help her and she, too, could help him” is a reference to the fact that before the war
there was a perfect harmony between them. All her thoughts were read by Septimius, who
was able to read her soul and mind.
He loves reading Shakespeare and he wants her to read Shakespeare for him. Woolf wants to
give us this piece of information, clarifying that Septimius and Clarissa are readers. In the
text, characters can be divided into readers and non-readers. Among those who don’t love
reading there is Septimius’s doctor, dr. Bradshaw, who is hostile to those who love reading,
and finds this hobby stupid. As reader, Septimius is able to read not books and reality,
beings able to give things their right meaning, penetrating surfaces. Reader characters are
deeper, they have got emotions, feelings.
The expression “but this hat now” states that we are back in the present. Now we have a
very poetic scene. It’s like inside her mind Septimius is a bird, who flies from branch to
branch. He knows all of her secrets and feelings and precedes her thoughts even before she
formulates them. The expression “but he remembered” symbolises the fact we are inside
Septimius’s mind. The reference of the expression “the people we are most fond of are not
good for us when we are ill” is to the fact the doctor wants to separate the couple. This idea
of separation has been imposed on them, because doctors control them. Doctors have
already planned their destinies, abusing of their power. Septimius distrusts doctors, and
Bradshaw in particular is unable to see and understand Septimius’s illness. There’s a strong
irony because Bradshaw is a very famous psychiatrist and said that Septimius suffers from a
strong illness. He was able to discover this through a couple of questions in a couple of
minutes, which is of course a key feature of irony.
Bradshaw prescribes him a long period of rest and isolation in one of his houses. So, he
wants to separate the couple and once again there is irony, instead of speaking of madness
he says that there is a lack of proportion, which according to him are social norms. So,
basically, he wants Septimius to conform to social rules.
There is the repetition of the word must, which resounds like a tragedy, like Woolf is
reminding her readers that something painful is going to happen.
Over him/to me: Woolf is entering and exiting the mind of the character.
From the line “she brought him his papers” we are inside his mind and after describing the
doctor he’s thinking about his own papers. He draws images and writes nonsense,
sometimes with the help of his wife. The problem with this paper is that no one is able to
understand it. He wants to burn them because he doesn’t want Bradshaw to read them.
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher morreale.9 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Cultura e letteratura inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Catania - Unict o del prof Polopoli Valeria.
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