Virginia Woolf: The Novels by Nicholas Marsh (auth.)

By Nicholas Marsh (auth.)

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He has retold his reaction to Percival's death, and this passage tells about his return to ordinary, day-to-day life after the 38 Analysing Virginia Woo/fs Novels shock of bereavement. The waves is more difficult to get hold of than Mrs Dalloway or To the Lighthouse, because the characters tell their own mental and emotional life as a series of monologues. There is no narrator and no story apart from what the six characters happen to mention in passing. The book is therefore made up largely of reflections rather than moments of actual experience.

It is, thought Peter Walsh, beginning to keep step with them, a very fine training. But they did not look robust. They were weedy for the most part, boys of sixteen, who might, to-morrow, stand behind bowls of rice, cakes of soap on counters. Now they wore on them unmixed with sensual pleasure or daily preoccupations the solemnity of the wreath which they had fetched from Finsbuty Pavement to the empty tomb. They had taken their vow. The traffic respected it; vans were stopped. I can't keep up with them, Peter Walsh thought, as they marched up Whitehall, and sure enough, on they marched, past him, past every one, in their steady way, as if one will worked legs and arms uniformly, and life, with its varieties, its irreticences, had been laid under a pavement of monuments and wreaths and drugged into a stiff yet staring corpse by discipline.

We have traced the details of everyday life through the extract. As we did so, we found that what began as tea, milk and sugar grew to include all the efforts and activities of life, including reproduction, farming, plants, woods, birds and insects. At the same time, the character's hostility to all this has developed and crystallised. He questions, then feels contempt, fear and anger, then sees an 'enemy' and fights. Now we can ask: in this extract, what contrasts with everyday life? In the first paragraph, Bernard contrasts 'the light of the stars falling .

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