Time Passes and the Weight of the War

Virginia Woolf utilizes narrative perspective in “Time Passes” to convey the destruction wrought by World War I and the disillusionment which followed. In the very first chapter Andrew says “It’s almost too dark to see” which foreshadows the darkness of the War creeping up on England (125). Then the story switches to narrative perspective and as the tide of darkness hits “Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness” (126). Shadows and nothingness become recurring themes, mirroring the desolation felt by England as World War I began. The voices and thoughts of the characters are lost in the nothingness. Their lives are trivial as nature destroys the house. Any mention of these characters’ lives, the former focus of the story, is bracketed, cut off, and remote. The deaths of Mrs. Ramsay, Prue, and Andrew are barely recorded just as deaths of soldiers on the battlefield were looked over amidst the gigantic weight of the War.

As “another fold of the shawl [loosens]” life progressively falls apart (133). Even spring, which normally carries the message of renewed life “[takes] upon her a knowledge of the sorrows of mankind” (132). The voices of the characters are not needed to express the sorrow which wrapped itself around England, the decaying of the house expresses it. Nature moves forward, the plants “were as gay as ever,” but “the mirror was broken” (134-5). This implies that bad luck and troubles are to come in the future, even after the end of the War. In the aftermath of all the destruction it seems that “One feather and the house, sinking, falling, would have turned and pitched downwards to the depths of darkness” (138). This narrative perspective of the world reveals the deep disillusionment felt throughout England, that things had gotten so bad that the weight of one feather could tip everything into complete despair.

 

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