Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Woolf's Short Stories

One of my initial reactions to Virginia Woolf’s short stories is a bit of confusion! I remember feeling this same way as I read Mrs. Dalloway! Shortly into Woolf’s stories I realize my confusion, and return to the beginning of the story. For me, these short stories are evident of some of Woolf’s first experiments in of circular story lines and stream of consciousness. “A Haunted House” is a perfect example of this experimenting. The story is very intriguing, though I cannot pinpoint what exactly is happening. It seems that the narrator is jumping in time and space much in the way Eliot does his poetry, especially in “Portrait of a Lady.” In one moment, the reader is identifying with the speaker who seems to be the new occupants of the house, while in the next it feels as if the speaker is the previous owner. In “An Unwritten Novel” the same stream-of-consciousness and ambiguous narration occurs. This short story is particularly interesting however, because it seems as if it could be a precursor to Mrs. Dalloway. I suppose it is the author, perhaps Woolf, speaking to her characters, as she creates them and their situations. Once again, time and space are being challenged and explored through a circular narrative. Also, in “An Unwritten Novel” there seems to be a focus on distinctions between the urban and the natural world. As setting of “The Haunted House” seems to be separated from the urban cities and away from the chaos that is throughout “An Unwritten Novel.” “Monday and Tuesday” seems to weave the two distinctions together with the heron weaving through the urban setting “lazy and indifferent” (18), and the fleeting characters are overly concerned with trivial things unable to notice the heron. “A Unwritten Novel” begins with the predicaments of the urban world, as the writer’s character is troubled by all that may appear in the Times, and there is the looming presence of war. Another element that struck me as I was reading was Woolf’s focus on women. Though this may not necessarily be a modernist characteristic, it is definitely a clear concern for Woolf. “The Society” (while not assigned) is an interesting play on an allegory of a group of women. “The Mark on the Wall” reminded me a bit of the Charlotte Perkins Gilmore and “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The story seems to explore the difference in the way women process thoughts or go about the creative process. Though there is no final action of the character going mad, the woman of the story obsesses over this mark in the wall, which in turn allows her to muse over a range of topics that could be possible inspiration for writing. Unlike the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” who was prevented from writing, this narrator is free to flow from topic to topic in her mind, and return when she determines the time to return is appropriate. The stream-of-conscious flows through this story making it appear to be a very feminine attribute of the narrative process.

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