Time Passes

Time Passes is the shortest part of “To the Lighthouse” yet the longest span of time. The first part focuses on one day yet is over a hundred pages long whereas Time Passes is less than 25 pages. Also unlike The Window, it is told through a nonhuman perspective, focusing mainly on the house and the changing weather. In the first half there are many different perspectives from the people staying in the house. They wonder about their life and how much they have done. They think about their impact in the world and in this section of the book Woolf provides the answer to that. One way she does this is by mentioning the deaths in brackets saying how Mrs. Ramsey, “died suddenly the night before,” or how “Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay.” They seem to be after thoughts and give us an idea of how much time has passed and what is going on in the world. How she introduces them shows the insignificance they hold compared to time. Time keeps moving on no matter what else is happening and is portrayed in a somewhat mechanical way.

The deterioration of the house and Mrs. McNabs struggle to clean it conveys feelings of WWI. Mrs. McNab is an old woman and is seeing this grand house and the remnants of the people that stayed there decay and be taken over by nature. It talks about how rain came in, things had gone mouldy and the attics being inhabited by rats. Finally Mrs. McNab gives up, thinking, “It is too much for one woman, too much, too much.” This portrays the overwhelming feeling that WWI brought and the inability to deal with it. This could also pertain to the “shell shock” that soldiers experienced and woman’s struggle to deal with them due to lack of knowledge on PTSD during that time. Just like the house, men’s minds deteriorated and like Mrs. McNab, women felt that they could not help them by themselves.

The deaths during Time Passes also show the effects of WWI. Mrs. Ramsay’s death is the fall of the Victorian woman. She played the domesticated wife whose duty was to nurture her children and worry over men, and her death marks the fall of these characteristics. Prue’s death comments on beauty, youth, and fertility. Andrew whose future was so bright in his parents eyes shows how war ended that hope. Overall their deaths and the state of the house convey uncertainty and lack of hope for the future.

London Labour and the London Poor

Henry Mayhew tells the stories of two children in  “London Labour and the London Poor” and the harsh conditions they faced. In this he uses elements of both the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Enlightenment elements can be seen in the way that Mayhew relays the experiences of the children. He is very detailed and factual showing how they do not think the same way children normally do. On page 1110 he says, ‘I can’t read or write, but I knows how many pennies goes to a shilling, why twelve, of course, but I don’t know how many ha’pence there is, though there’s two to a penny.” All throughout her narration, the girl talks about money and working and she knows them very well but she does not know what a park is. Mayhew highlights this non-childlike knowledge that she has through the sort of mechanical telling of her story. He shows this again with the boy, by including the explanation of the sweeper’s system.

Mayhew also uses elements of Romanticism by using emotional appeal. He shows how poor these children are when the girl says, ‘I don’t have no dinner,’ (1110). She only gets two meals a day and meat only on Sundays. As for the sweepers, they buy a shovel with all their money to shovel snow during the winter. The boy says, ‘It’s awful cold, and gives us chilblains on our feet: but we don’t mind it when we’re working, for we soon gets hot then,’ (1113). These sort of things, as well as their home life and the abuse they suffered, draws on the readers sentimental side and is an element of Romanticism.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

While reading “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” I kept going back and forth over whether it was primarily an Enlightenment or Romantic argument. Even now I could not say for sure whether it was one or the other but believe that there are elements of both. Throughout the introduction and first two chapters Wollstonecraft uses the argument of reason which is primarily an Enlightenment idea. She refers several times to woman’s lack of education and the view that they are animals instead of rational human beings. She says, “the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of misery I deplore; and that women, in particular, are rendered weak and wretched,” (290) conveying that she believes education to be a source of power and if women had it they would be seen with more equality. They would “cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect” (291). Wollstonecraft also points out how men don’t see women as “human creatures” but view them as “in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone” (292). Furthermore Wollstonecraft ends her introduction saying that, “intellect will always govern,” which once again is an Enlightenment idea.  In contrast to reason she often brings up the concept of morals and love and also uses flowery language even though she claimed she wouldn’t. For example she says, “to gratify the senses of man when he can no longer soar on the wing of contemplation” (296). She appeals to nature and love in chapter 2, “the course of nature.-Friendship or indifference inevitable succeeds love,”(300). Wollstonecraft uses manly arguments like this which tend to be of Romantic sentimentality.  Also the opening line of the introduction Wollstonecraft wonders whether the inequality seen in her time comes from nature or civilization which I think foreshadows the use of both in her arguments. Therefore I can only conclude that Enlightenment and Romantic arguments are used equally.

Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree

After reading “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” I find that it contrasts the Enlightenment sensibility mostly in regards to privacy, self-reflection, and nature. In the poem the man flees from society feeling neglected and tries to embrace his solitude in nature. Yet he cannot forget his time and he has been changed by it and by his pride. The poem suggests that having privacy and inward reflection is healing, “True dignity abides with him alone/ Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,”  unlike the Enlightenment ideal that the way to happiness is through industriousness and working for the public good. This can also be seen in the beginning of the poem where the “Traveller” is beckoned to come and clear his mind, “if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves/ That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind.” Another significant contrast is view of harmony with nature being a source of wisdom. In the Enlightenment reason and religion are sources of wisdom but in the poem harmony with nature brings about “inward thought” and “true knowledge” which leads to love.