I’ll start by apologizing for the alliteration, I’m not a fan of it myself but it fit so well with such an odd letter that… well… I had to.
Down to business! I’ve decided to have a look at a particular paragraph from Mrs. Dalloway which I found very exciting. I’ve left my textbook at school, so I’m using a PDF copy of the book (which I’ve cited at the bottom of this post, if anyone wants to pull it up, just go to the link and download the PDF), so my citations will not match up with the textbook (clearly).
I’m looking at this paragraph (pp 9 in the PDF):
“It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! to hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite, or quite secure, for at any moment the brute would be stirring, this hatred, which, especially since her illness, had power to make her feel scraped, hurt in her spine; gave her physical pain, and made all pleasure in beauty, in friendship, in being well, in being loved and making her home delightful rock, quiver, and bend as if indeed there were a monster grubbing
at the roots, as if the whole panoply of content were nothing but self love! this hatred!”
I know I’m not supposed to put the passage down, but I think this is probably easier since I’m using a different version.
What is it that makes this passage amazing? For me, the beauty of this passage is in the diction and the metaphor. For me, this passage defines Woolf’s writing.
The dark word choice in this passage makes the image of hatred which she’s trying to describe come to life. Words like “rasping,” “brutal,” “scraped,” and “monster” all carry very violent and vivid (there’s that alliteration again…) connotations with them. Since she is describing hatred in this passage, Woolf has opted to liken the feeling to an all-consuming monster, which is also a violent image, and she has used these words to back up and strengthen her point. And her likening the soul to a forest, a dark and distressed one at that, what with it being full of horses and (in my imagination) dead leaves and twigs scattered about, made the hatred metaphor sink even deeper. The reader can almost feel the depth of darkness and evil that arises in the soul when such true hatred is felt.
I absolutely love when she uses these kinds of metaphors. If anyone has read another of her works, A Room of One’s Own, specifically the section “Professions for Women,” you will be familiar with her metaphor of violently murdering the angel in the house in order for the woman to have the freedom to embrace her voice as a person. This is an equally powerful metaphor, and just as violent.
The depth and power of this paragraph captured me while I was reading it. How she can make such a small thing, like an emotion, feel so all-consuming, violent, and ultimately real through such a simple thing as word choice is truly amazing. Every time I read her work, this is what draws me into the piece and what keeps me absorbing her work.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. 1925. Goodreads. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <http://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/14942.Mrs_Dalloway?doc=2073>.
Woolf, Virginia. “Professions for Women.” The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose. Ed. Laura Buzzard et. al. 2nd ed. Toronto: Broadview, 2011. 100-04. Print.