Passing the Time with Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf uses narrative perspective in “Times Passes” to calmly detach the reader from the main story, and instead establishes a surreal environment at the house itself during the night, engaging with the sentiment of WWI. She writes of the night in a dream-like manner, personifying darkness itself, “the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there are sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers” (126). This is a night void of cognizant thought, but rather an uncontrollable and unsettling feeling like a nightmare. She creates an environment filled with danger, “The nights now are full of wind and destruction; plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain-pipes and scatter damp paths” (128).

All of these subconscious, hopeless thoughts point to the helplessness experienced during WWI and its aftermath. The tradition and norms of years’ past are degraded by the war, leaving a dazed confusion with no answer. Woolf characterizes this confusion with that of the night surrounding the house, “almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night whose questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer” (128). The previous meaning and life of the world has been taken out of it, it is exhausted, “Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness” (126). Finally, after a lengthy description of light meandering in the home, Woolf concludes it with the conclusive depression of the WWI sentiment, “At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to” (127). The lamentations of the world truly are aimless as it destroys itself in war, ending with a meaningless slam.

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One thought on “Passing the Time with Virginia Woolf

  1. I agree; she definitely drove home the point that it was all meaningless and aimless, as well as unthinking and unsettling. I would also say that the all-encompassing darkness, swallowing all in its path so eerily, is somewhat numbing and neutralizing.

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