Time Passes

“Time Passes” is an appropriate title for this section of Woolf’s novel.  The first section of the novel felt as if time were standing still.  Mr. Ramsey’s thoughts, for example, take up substantial space within the novel while progressing very little of the plot.  As he walks around thinking on how Shakespeare is irrelevant, he slows the plot down to a mere crawl.  This contrasts greatly with the form of “Time Passes” say many important things in a short amount of time.  Late in the passage, Woolf writes “So she was dead; and Mr.  Andrew killed, and Miss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but everyone had lost some one these years”(77).  The twenty year time-travel is evident in this passage through its simulation of the effect of a whiplash speed of time; one only has time to see brief important things and repeat them later as a representation of the whole.  Furthermore, Miss Prue’s death in childbirth represents the inability to reproduce and continue time through human’s own ability, as if time continues while leaving humanity behind.  The irrelevance of man in the riptide of time is evident again through the observation of the cook.   Woolf writes of “The cook now, Mildred, Marian, some such name as that”(77).  The phrasing implies that the cook is a replacement whose name is not worth memorizing, possibly referencing how soon she will be gone too and thus replaced by another nameless cook.

The passage connects with World War I in its confusing and quick movements characterized fewer insights into the characters themselves.  “The Window” contained multiple passages that delved deep into the psyche of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, while “Time Passes” implies that the replacement cook, who will soon be replaced herself, is not worth the time taken to memorize her name. In addition, Woolf juxtaposes stillness and chaos with day and night as she says “the stillness and brightness of the day were as confusing as the chaos and tumult of the night” (76). Historians characterize World War I as an unusually uniform war.  Two trenches: one side attacks, the other attacks subsequently, and it goes on. The war dragged on for such a monotonous stalemate that any sort of stillness in the constant fighting would be alien and disorienting.  The passage as a whole uses the speed of time, which was proven to be relative in the early 1900’s, to bring out a meaning of the War’s ability to warp time.  Nature continues on, patient as usual, while humanity gets caught in its own storm, getting left behind in the night.

A War Film

The poem “A War film” by Teresa Hooley represents many of the ideals of modernism. War films, a recent invention at the time of World War I, usually functioned as propaganda. They exhibited glorious battles where the enemy of the country that produced the film suffers a humiliating loss or an unfair victory. In a bitter sadness, common to modernism, the poem displays elements of imagism also typical of the movement. The poem opens with saying “I saw” and listing a series of images such as “The Mon Retreat” and “The ‘Old Contemptibles’ who fought, and died,” (1,5-6). The entire poem focuses on clear imagism as showcased by those lines, continuing onto the next stanza which speaks of “hearing machine-guns rattle and shells scream” (9). The imagery in the poem, sharp and broken off randomly from one another, exemplifies the use of imagism associated with modernism.

In addition to imagism, “A War Film” experiments with a new form. The poem’s structure closely represents a war film. The short introductory stanza and the quick stanza following represent the basic introductory elements in most film: the characters, setting, and situation are introduced, followed by a quick turn of events which sets the plot into motion. The next stanza is over twice the length of any of the others, representing the plot, or in this case, battle. The last stanza, medium length, occurs after the plot or battle similarly to the conclusion of a film or aftermath of a battle. The poem’s most intense words occur at the end of the long stanza, around the climax speaking of going “To War. Tortured,/Torn. /Slain./Rotting in No Man’s Land, out in the rain” (22-24). The poem itself mirrors its subject while using sharp and clear images, featuring the typical elements of modernism.

J. Alfred. Prufrock

T. S. Eliot includes many elements of decadence in his poem “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.  Decadence, a weakening of morals often as a result of indulgent activity, fills the poem through descriptions of Prufrock’s lifestyle.  Aside from the content, the poem itself represents a break from past establishments.  Eliot writes the poem in an unconventional verse and rhyme scheme.  It presents a more free style than the previous more structured forms of poetry, similar to how decadence represents a free living lifestyle compared to previous practices, especially in the Victorian age.

Moving to the content itself, decadence is evident in Prufrock’s  practices and Eliot’s word choices to describe them.  Eliot writes about “restless nights in one-night cheap hotel,” suggesting a sexual affair with either a prostitute or a sort of mistress (6).  Even if Prufrock’s partners were steady girlfriends, the traditional view on moral sexual activity is that it should be reserved for marriage.  Later in the poem, Eliot writes “there will be time to murder and a time to create” (28).  This line, followed by another “and time for” line functions mirrors a bible passage directly.  The beginning of Ecclesiastes 3 is a long anaphora with lines repeating “a time to,” including one that says “a time to kill.”  The twisting of the biblical passage shows the decadence movement through its blatant falling away from the past scripture. T.S Elion also asked the question “Do I dare/Disturb the universe” (45-46).  Decadence, associated with a more modern way of living and lifestyle, connects with this question.  Previously, religion and social norms ruled morality itself.  The question asked has a way of questioning reality itself.  As decadence is a falling away from morality as suggested by Prufrock’s sexual escapades, asking if one should disturb the universe is a similar questioning of authority by contemplating disturbing reality itself.  In a way, this new form of poetry and its blatant, shameless discussion of subject matter that would be taboo in Victorian times disturbs the universe as well.

Romanticism and Enlightenment in Engels

             In Engels’s “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844,” he uses elements of both Romanticism and Enlightenment through his tone and detailed descriptions.  To begin, his descriptions draw heavily from Romanticism. He describes Manchester as a “beautiful hilly countryside” where “the land slopes down to the Irish sea, intersected by the charming green valleys of the Ribble, the Irwell,” and other bodies of water (1105). Engels seems to be writing a travel brochure through his praise of nature.  However, he takes the Romantic view one step further by describing what Industry has turned Manchester into. He speaks of a district of Manchester, “Old town,” coming back to the Romantic fascination with the old and ancient, as “a district which is quite obviously given over to the working class” as the residents “make no effort to give their establishments a semblance of cleanliness” (1106). He cries out “Enough of this! All along the Irk slums of this type abound.” He continues on with a negative, emotion evoking portrait of Manchester, juxtaposing it with the earlier praise for its beauty, and thus making a statement on the damage industry has done. His dramatic descriptions of nature and emotional depictions of the slums both represent his Romantic style, and highlight his Romantic ideals through their contrast with each other.

               I addition to his Romantic writing, Engels incorporates a few elements of the Enlightenment as well. In a logical tone, Engels describes in detail the economic situation of the working class.  He says “Capital is the all-important weapon in class war” and makes the conclusion “the poor, having no capital, inevitable bear the consequences of defeat” (1102).  Engels not only discusses class war and capital, two topics discusses by Smith, Marx, and other Enlightenment thinkers, but he also does so with a logical tone.  His rhetoric resembles a “therefore” type of argument resulting in a conclusion drawn of deduction; Because capital is the most important weapon, and poor people don’t have it, poor people lose the war.  Secondly, he continues with his logical reasoning with his observations as a sort of political scientist and economist.  He says “The slums of English towns have much in common- the worst houses in a town being found in the worst districts” (1104).  This statement among others incorporates the simple logical reasoning essential to Enlightenment writing. As is such, Engels implements both the styles of Romanticism and the logic of Enlightenment in his writings of the condition of the working class.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women

The argument in “A vindication of the Rights of Women” follows that of the Enlightenment. Wollstonecraft bases her argument in reason, discussing the equality of women in economic and industrious settings. To begin, she claims to have produced “irrefragable arguments drawn from matters of fact” (289). Her later statements support her claim with simple logic such as “faithless husbands with make faithless wives” (289), and “I reason consequentially…that [men and women] have the same simple direction, and that there is a God.” (298). Enlightenment holds the belief that religion and reason are a source of wisdom while Romanticism focuses on nature. Many of the mentions of nature are often in context with education and society; she claims that the faults of men and women are “the natural consequence of their education and station in society.” (309-310). The main argument of Wollstonecraft suggests that upbringing, rather than nature, produces any “natural” qualities associated with gender. She argues that women grow up wanting to be pretty because they are taught to, implying the ability of man over nature, and identifying the possibility that teaching the opposite would in turn have the opposite effect. Lastly, she takes a practical approach on the unfair treatment of women. Instead of a romantic dialogue on how women feel because of their inferior treatment, she discusses how if a women were to lose her husband and be left with children, she would need “to educate them…to form their principles and secure their property” (305). The passage treats death like an economic issue, looking at the trials of a widow from a practical point of view, absent of all emotion. The logical thinking in the work and style of argument suggests characterize the work as part of the Enlightenment movement.

“Lines Left Upon A Seat In a Yew-tree”

In “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree,” Wordsworth embodies the idea of Romanticism by describing a reclusive man who loved nature and rejected the ideas of The Enlightenment. The yew tree itself symbolizes the poem’s subject who “turned away, /and with the food of pride sustained his soul in solitude” (Lines 19-20). Just as the “lonely yew-tree stands/ far from all human dwelling,” so does the man who rejected the city and its inhabitants (Lines 1-2). Wordsworth makes sure to include that the man retreats to a place that is “barren” (Line 4). Leaving the city to survive on a barren shore embodies the Romantic ideals that contrast those of the Enlightenment. Not only does the man flee to a place that is barren and therefore of little economic use, he flees into the country to be one with a place in nature he feels is beautiful. Living on the shore defies reason, but serves emotion as the man’s heart “could not sustain/ the beauty still more beauteous” (Lines 33-34). The man also lived an “Unfruitful life” (29). As The Enlightenment champions logic, invention, economy, and mastery of nature, the man who lives alone in an undeveloped shore rejects all ideals of being a productive member of a society, particularly is a city. The yew tree stands alone, not producing anything, yet it provides beauty. Likewise, the hermit made the choice to leave based off of his love for the shore and his hatred for economy and reason, living his life on his emotion and love, becoming one with nature.