The mechanic of time works very differently in the second section of To The Lighthouse than it does in the first section. In the first section time passes extremely slowly, sometimes even stopping, and great emphasis is put on the interior of characters minds. In “Time Passes” this seems to flip. Time at the house is going by quickly, jumping from season to season, year to year. This section also is interested in the exterior, specifically what the house looks like. “The swallows nested in the drawing=room; the floor was strew with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls; rafters were laid bare.”(137) This section also under-emphasizes the actual characters of the story by related the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay, Prue, and Andrew all within brackets as if that information were an aside. This makes the section feel extremely dehumanized which mirrors the sense of dehumanization felt by the survivors of WWI. “Time Passes” presents the cruelty of nature, especially in its ability to continue on cyclically without the need for human life.
“The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot holds many ideas from the earlier poetry of Decadence. Eliot, in this poem, repeatedly presents trivial everyday objects and events as equal in importance to questions about the stability of reality. At one point the narrator quickly switches from thinking of his outfit “my necktie rich and modest,”(43) to philosophical questions about his place in the universe, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (45-46) This odd juxtaposition between trivial and non-trivial is present throughout the poem and shows that Eliot is drawing on many of the same ideas presented by Decadence.
However, while Decadence was concerned with amorality, Eliot seems to be concerned with discovering some type of new morality. Eliot’s world was changing quickly during this time. Industrialization and mechanization were increasing rapidly. Global relations were getting more tense and complicated. Even the most basic pillars of reality, that space and time were constant, were being challenged. People were looking for a some set of ideas to help them lead their day to day life. This is represented by Eliot in the narrators constant questioning. “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”(45-46) he says possibly referencing Einstein. He even is unsure about relatively unimportant things like “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”(122) His narrator is lost in the chaos of the modern world is looking for something to guide him through his life unlike the Decadents who had no desire to have any moral guidelines.
Friedrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England presents the problem of slums in England’s largest cities using both a Romantic and Enlightenment perspective. Engels uses Romanticism by appealing to the feelings of the reader by describing a direct experience of the slums. He appeals to the Enlightenment perspective by describing the slums as poorly planned and unsystematic.Engels draws on the romantic idea of the importance of feeling by inducing emotions in the reader by describing the slums in detail. In reference to Old Town of Manchester he talks of the passageways being covered in “a degree of dirt and revolting filth, the like of which is not to be found elsewhere. “(1106) Engels also describes a public bathroom as being so unkempt that “the inhabitants of the court can only enter or leave the court if they are prepared to wade through puddles of stale urine and excrement.”(1107) These vivid and disgusting images would invoke pity in readers and draw upon the romantic idea of valuing feelings. Engels also uses Enlightenment ideas to warn readers about the state of the slums. Particularly he criticizes the unsystematic way in which the slums are built. “The shameful lay-out of the Old Town has made it impossible for the wretched inhabitants to enjoy, cleanliness, fresh air, and good health.”(1107) This line places part of the blame for the poor condition of the slums on poor planning and engineering of those parts of the city. This would resonate with enlightenment readers who value systematic, well-planned civil engineering.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay, although partially inspired by the romantic nature of the French revolution, seems more in line with the Enlightenment ideal of reason over feeling. Throughout the piece Wollstonecraft uses the language of logic by relying on “ration” and “reason.” She repeatedly addresses an audience of “rational men” trying to persuade them that logic dictates that women be treated as equal to men. At one point she asks the reader to “Consider, Sir, dispassionately,”(289) enforcing the Enlightenment idea that passion and emotion can impede the ability to think rationally. I believe that the most apparent proof of this piece drawing more on the ideas of the Enlightenment than the Romantic is the passage as follows:
” I aim at being useful, and sincerity will render me unaffected; for, wishing rather to persuade by the force of my arguments, than dazzle by the elegance of my language, I shall not waste my time in rounding periods, or in fabricating the turgid bombast of artificial feelings, which, coming from the head, never reach the heart.”(292)
Here she directly states that she is not trying to win over her readers with any type of appeal to their emotions but rather to prove her point using logical arguments. This is directly in line with the ideals presented by the Enlightenment. Being as she is known to have Romantic leanings in her other writings, I wonder how she would have explained the extreme difference in this piece.
In this poem, Wordsworth contrasts the ideals of the Enlightenment in many ways however I feel like the most significant way he does so is by describing nature as greater than man. The text does this by describing the man as overwhelmed by nature. “and he would gaze till it became / far lovelier, and his heart could not sustain / the beauty still more beauteous.” “When Nature had subdued him to herself,” The text also described man as being beneath or lesser than nature. “The world, for so it thought, / owed him no service: he was like a plant.” ” The man, whose eye / is ever on himself, doth look on one, / the least of nature’s works,” These lines cause me to question whether Wordsworth thought humans even lower than animals (he compares us to a plant) or if he is trying to state that all life is on the same plane but under a higher entity of “nature.” Either way these lines contrast harshly with the Enlightenment idea of man mastering nature.