Sunday, February 3, 2008

patterns of thought

At first, I had a difficult time getting into Mrs. Dalloway. I found Woolf's style of writing tough to follow, and thus could hardly sort out what was happening. She often chooses not to punctuate dialogue with quotation marks, making it hard to distinguish between a character's thought and speech. To further complicate matters, Woolf tends to jump around without warning from the mind of one character to another; this makes it confusing when trying to determine whose perspective is being shown. For example, one paragraph will be giving Elizabeth's thoughts about the city from the omnibus when suddenly the next paragraph is written from the perspective of Septimus Smith (136).

Despite these derivations from the standard rules of grammar, it didn't take long to adapt to Woolf's writing style. I suppose it just takes some adjustment because soon I felt that it all flowed rather easily in spite of the sometimes "jerky" thoughts. The characters in Mrs. Dalloway often interrupt their own thinking to question details or draw the reader's attention to another line of thought entirely. For instance, as Clarissa thinks about her own town, she second guesses the details: "For having lived in Westminster -- how many years now? over twenty, -- one feels even in the midst of traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity" (4). Though it is not necessarily important exactly how long Clarissa has lived in Westminster, Woolf goes out of the way to trace that thought.

However, these somewhat complicated thought patterns are part of what makes Woolf's novel so realistic; such thought patterns are true to experience. By contemplating our own everyday thought patterns, we realize that others, too, would probably be confused if given a script of our brain's thoughts throughout a day.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

You've hit the nail on the head with your assessment of Woolf's prose. It's difficult to follow in the same way it would be if you suddenly found yourself plopped down in the middle of someone's brain, reading his or her thoughts.

But if you think THIS is 'jerky,' wait until we get to Ulysses! Woolf's prose will seem like a leisurely stroll in comparison.