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Woolf Virginia

To the lighthouse

To the lighthouse Оценка: 5.0 (1)
Genre: prose
IntroductionOne does not have to read very much of To the Lighthouse before one realizes that Woolf has chosen here a very particular style, a way of telling the story which exerts a strange and compelling effect upon the reader. In this lecture I wish to focus upon some aspects of this style in order to consider some of the ways in which a few very important aspects of what this novel has to reveal are directly linked to the author's decisions about point of view and language.One of my major purposes in this lecture is to offer some suggestions about why we might consider Woolf a major modernist writer and link her to other modernist artists we have been considering in Liberal Studies, even to those who, at first glance perhaps, don't seem to share quite the same style: Kafka, Eliot, and certain modern painters.I shall be trying to establish as my major point the idea that what does link Woolf to these other modernists is the way in which her style compels us to recognize a fundamental problem of modern life: the deep and apparently unbridgeable dichotomy between the fragmented inner world of the self and any sense of coherent order to the world beyond the self, that is, the world of human relationships, of nature, of society as a totality.The Power of Style: An ExampleHowever, before moving to such large concerns, I would like to consider a particular example, selected almost at random, from an early part of the book. This particular example is part of a description of Mrs Ramsay; it occurs on p. 15 of our edition:All she could do now was to admire the refrigerator, and turn the pages of the Stores list in the hope that she might come upon something like a rake, or a mowing machine, which, with its prongs and its handles, would need the greatest skill and care in cutting out. All these young men parodied her husband, she reflected; he said it would rain; they said it would be a positive tornado.But here, as she turned the page, suddenly her search for the picture of a rake or a mowing-machine was interrupted. The gruff murmur, irregularly broken by the taking out of pipes and the putting in of pipes which had kept on assuring her, though she could not hear what was said (as she sat in the window which opened on the terrace), that the men were happily talking; this sound, which had lasted now half an hour and had taken its place soothingly in the scale of sounds pressing on top of her, such as the tap of balls upon bats, the sharp, sudden bark now and then, 'How's that? How's that?' of the children playing cricket, had ceased; so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, 'I am guarding you-I am your support,' but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow-this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.The first thing we notice about this style, I suspect, is the extraordinary sentence structure. The second paragraph contains a sentence of 260 words, a sentence which, in effect, is a single complex sentence of 32 words enormously embellished by parenthetical phrases and clauses, modifying phrases, and a whole rich array of various grammatical constructions. These hold up the full meaning of the sentence and transform it from something clear and straightforward into something delayed, qualified, uncertain, and (for the

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  1. Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse
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