v Assignment paper:E-C-301 The Modernist Literature
v Topic : Stream of Consciousness
“To the Lighthouse”
v Student’s Name : Gandhi Pooja S.
v Roll No : 08
v URL : gandhipooja151011.blogspot.com
v Semester : 3
v Batch : 2010-11
Dr. Dilip Barad
Department of English
Ø Stream of Consciousness in “To the Lighthouse”
Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882 to Sir Leslie Stephen, a Victorian critic, philosopher, biographer, and scholar and Julia pattle Stephen. Woolf struggled to meet the standards set by her father’s learning and her mother’s social graces until the finally found peace with them in writing ‘To the Lighthouse’.
As a young woman Woolf wrote for the prestigious ‘Times Literary supplement’ and as an adult she quickly found herself at the center of England’s most important literary community know as the “Bloomsbury group” after the section of London in which its members lived, this group of writers, artists, and philosophers emphasized nonconformity, aesthetic pleasure and intellectual freedom. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912. On March 28, 1941, she wrote her husband a note stating that she did not wish to spoil his life by going mad, she then drowned herself in the River Ouse.
In describing her next novel ‘To the Lighthouse’ Woolf used the language of psychoanalysis. She wrote,
“I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotions. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it to rest.
v Virginia Woolf’s works:
‘The Voyage Out’ (1913)
‘Jacob’s Room’ (1922)
‘Mrs. Dalloway’ (1925)
‘To the Lighthouse’ (1927)
‘The waves’ (1931)
‘The years’ (1937)
‘Between the Acts’ (1941)
‘A room of one’s Own’
‘Three Guineas’ (1938)
v What is ‘streams of consciousness’?
Stream of consciousness was a phrase used by William James in his principles of psychology (1890) to describe the unbroken flow of perceptions, thoughts and feelings in the waking mind; it has since been adopted to describe a narrative method in modern fiction. Long passages of introspection, in which the narrator records in detail what passes through a character’s awareness. Stream of consciousness is the name applied specifically to a mode of narration that undertake to reproduce, without a narrator’s intervention , the full spectrum and continuous flow of a character’s mental process in which sense perceptions mingle with conscious and half- conscious thoughts, memories, expectations, feelings, and random associations.
Some critics use ‘streams of consciousness interchangeably with use of term ‘interior monologue’. It is useful however to follow the usage of critics who has the former as the inclusive term, denoting all the diverse means employed by authors to communicate the inclusive state.
v The stream of consciousness novel: its causes:
The rise of “The Stream of Conscious Novel”, in the early twenties is but a reflection of the increasing inwardness of life consequent upon the break-down of accepted values with the turn of the century, a process which was accelerated by the outbreak of the world war. Giving an the rise of the psychology novel, David Daiche writes,
Two other factors in addition to the breakdown of a public sense of signification help to produce what we have called the modern novel. One is the new concept of time as continues flow, rather the ‘conscious’ is only a very small part of the human psyche or soul.
v Rejection of Traditional Technique by Virginia Woolf:
Mrs. Woolf’s concern in writing novels was not merely to narrate a story as the older novelists did, but to discover and record life as the people feel who live it. Hence it is she rejected the conventional technique of narration and adopted a new technique more suited to her purposes.
It is this reason that in ‘To the Lighthouse’ she has not told a story, I the sense of a series of events, and has concentrated on a small number f characters, whose nature and feelings are represented to us largely through their interior monologues. She has used the stream of consciousness technique, but she has not used in consistently throughout. The interior monologues of the different characters are, no doubt, given, but the novelist, the central intelligence, is also constantly busy, organizing the material and illuminating it by frequent comments.
v Selection and organization of material:
There is no random presentation of material, rather the central intelligence is ever at work organizing it and commenting upon it. The use of the third person and of conventional sentence structure gives less the impression of the impact of the immediate moment than of the process of reflection- the way memory and association are continually being called up. The novel as a whole is reflective rather than spontaneous and the obvious selection by the author focuses our attention on the idea of the working of the mind, which is more interesting than a more naturalistic imitation of its confused processes.
v The stream of consciousness as a technique:
Virginia Woolf’s characters are not directly described; she does not follow the traditional method of set description. There is no summing up of her men and women no formulae covering up their personality. Woolf’s characters rarely reveal themselves by what they say or do. Rather,
“We derive our impression of other characters in the novel. Her method is cumulative and her characters cannot be taken out of the contact and judged in isolation.”
This is done by the use of the stream of consciousness technique. The personality of a character is built up not all at once, but gradual step by step, by nothing the impact on his soul of significance scenes and moments both past and present. A character is further rounded up by nothing. In this way characters are made memorable and visualized characters like Mrs.ramsay live in the mind and enlarge our capacity for imaginative sympathy.
The writer effaces herself more and more, the illusion of the all-seeing eye of the novelist is replaced by the illusion that we are seeing by glimpses, with our own imperfect vision. In this way we see much more than in the conventional novel. Human beings arose in each other profound and valued feelings, and sum of such feelings in different personages gives a vivid account of their personalities. They throw light on each other.
v Suspense and curiosity:
“To the Lighthouse” begins by taking us into the middle of a scene; Mrs.ramsay opening remark is the answer to an unstated question, which we have to supply by picking up clues from what follows. The reader’s natural curiosity thus becomes involved. We wonder who these people are, what they are taking about and so on. As we read on, prompted by this desire to know, we begin to recognize a pattern in the narrative at the same time as we assimilate names, facts, ideas. This unobtrusive quality and the novelist’s care to make everything seem natural, artfully concern the fact that this opening is doing several things at once.
v The pattern : Conversation and Reaction:
Then, too, the pattern begins to establish itself; the pattern, that is, of conversation and reaction, of the actual words in the first person and present tense, and the reflections of the characters in the third person and the past tense. The opening conversation consists of only eight short- remarks of a normal, even trivial, kind, but from the beginning we are made aware that the surface of normal, human relationships conceals a mass of tangled feelings and associations and that these feelings can be strong and passionate, though they are concealed.
v The Time- Scheme:
It is by means of this combination of the conversation that is actually happening and the connected thoughts that may range over any event that a time-scheme is also established, in the sense of the present moment seen in relationship to the past, which is continually woven in with the present in the minds of most people.
v Stream of consciousness in “To the Lighthouse”:
“To the Lighthouse” is a search for control, for something unifying; in a world where nature is apparently hostile and threating. First, Mrs.ramsay, when thinking of her eight children is afraid that they should grow up because they should grow up because they will only find solitude, hostility, and injustice in the world.
In the second part of the book, “Time passes” in which the faces of nature are seen in action and which surely represents the authoress view of the nature of things, Virginia Woolf puts this common aim poetically.
“In those mirrors, the minds of men, in those pools of uneasy water, in which clouds forever turn and shadows form, dreams persisted, and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation...............”
“Single, hand, bright, like a diamond in the sand, which would render the possessor secure……………”
Yet hostile nature was in the combining, creating in relation to the lives of those that her (Mrs.ramsay) powers lay and all the while house is decaying as the result of the hostile forces of nature.
“Tortoise shell butterflies burst from the chrysalis and pattered their life out on the window pune, poppies showed themselves among the dahlias; the lawn………….....sturdy trees and throned briars which made the whole room green in summer.”
Mrs. Woolf has cleverly avoided the drawbacks of the stream of consciousness novel, and given form and coherence to her material. She is not haphazard and incoherent like the other “stream of consciousness” novelists. Through her style she conveys a sense of amazing richness and complexity of life.