Time is a concept that is hard to define. It’s not exactly a tangible object but in one way or another we can see time. We see it as people and things grow from young to old and day turns into night. Time is important; it can bring the means to an end or a beginning. Woolf demonstrates time well in her novel “To The Lighthouse”. In the beginning, she illustrates time as being slow, standing still. Time is frozen; it’s the calm before a storm. Everyone has experienced this sort of calmness where everything seems to be suspended. One feels it before a natural disaster hits i.e. a tornado or tsunami. It is also felt by soldiers just before battle or whole nations before war erupts. It was felt during WWI. Time was frozen while the war occurred seeming as though it would never move on and the world would remain in a mass of chaos. But then the war ended and time sped up catching people off guard. Woolf’s novel is a good depiction of how the war seemed to its participants. Before Woolf’s section ‘Time Passes’, she sets her novel to consist of an entire day. She freezes time in order to reflect on every little aspect life has to offer. She takes in every point of view that she can and shows the world in that blink of an eye before the storm hits. It’s very sublime in the way she freezes time for her readers. Even though time is constantly moving, it is the most stable thing in this world. It never goes away like all other things in this world; time is universal. Woolf reflects this stability in the lighthouse. The lighthouse offers a sense of stability and comfort. It also reflects time. A lighthouse is always standing. It is what sailors seek in times of refuge. In the beginning of her novel the lighthouse seems to be off but once Woolf begins the section on ‘Time Passes’ the lighthouse has been turned on. The revolving light of the lighthouse is a reflection on how quickly time moves. The light turning illustrates days turning to weeks and weeks to months then to years. In ‘Time Passes’ Woolf speeds up time. Time is no longer standing still; it is revolving just as the lighthouse light is. She also gives the impression of time being serene and quiet just sitting back and watching from above. In my opinion, it’s almost as if Woolf is giving time a god like feeling in the second part. But this is, of course, just my interpretation of Woolf’s meaning behind time.
Time is a recurring theme throughout Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In Part I (The Window), Woolf stretches time, devoting the first 124 pages to a single day. This reflects the desire of some of the characters for time, that day, to stand still. Mrs. Ramsay in particular wishes for them to always be together as they are in the dinner scene and for her youngest children, Andrew and Cam, to never grow old and suffer as she has.
In contrast, in Part II (Time Passes) ten years are compressed into approximately 20 pages. The passage of time is reflected by the deterioration of the house on the beach. While only a few words are devoted to the lives of its former inhabitants, the house’s increasingly poor state reflects their own experience over this period. The series of tragedies in the background of WWI are sudden and confusing. Their presentation in a short, objective, bracketed form disrupts the narrative and generates this effect. These years and events are then condensed into a few pages as they are slowly processed over many years. This reflects the way in which the world attempted to process the events and implications of WWI. In its aftermath a strong sense of confusion, shock, and disillusionment was felt. Nature seemed disrupted, as it is around the abandoned house: “…(for night and day, month and year, ran shapelessly together) in idiot games, until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by itself” (134-5). This processing was extremely gradual. Likewise, Woolf’s compression of ten years into 20 pages suggests that little changed over the course of these ten years as the characters, most likely, grappled with these sudden tragedies and, to some extent, the disruption of nature itself (the loss of the constant, binding force of Mrs. Ramsay in many ways represents this disruption of nature in their lives). Time moved on, but many people did not and so the narrative focuses on the state of nature and the beach house as opposed to the characters.
In Time Passes, we can say that Woolf uses time in a different way that in Part I, first by saying that Part II is much shorter than the first one.
Here, she describes time with the seasons which helps her telling the story, it’s different from Part I since the story was described with different points of view and not on a long-time period such as this one. Nature is also very used and helps us to understand what will happen after, she describes a lot the landscapes, and talks about flowers, the wind, the sea… For example chapter 6 (p.109) “the sunset on the sea, the pallor of dawn, the moon rising, fishing-boats against the moon, and children pelting each other with handfuls of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity, this serenity.” It seems like this peacefulness offsets the several deaths happening in this Part. Compared to Part I, Time Passes seems like a metaphor of the war, it illustrates it. In the first chapter, the conditions set warn us that something bad will happen (death). There is no light, “gold letters describing death in battle”, a particular vocabulary “ghostlily”, “ravaged”… and at the beginning of the paragraph in which we know that Mrs. Ramsay dies (chapter 3), “The nights now are full of wind and destruction”. Then, death continues until the last chapter, in which peace surfaces “THEN indeed peace had come.” This would mean that even if war happened and that you lost siblings, there is still hope.
As a conclusion, we can say that time is used with a description of Nature, especially the seasons and a kind of parallel with war through all this second part, conveying the message that war can be long, and that everybody can suffer from it, but you can also see the end of the war as a new beginning.
In part II,“Time Passes”, Virginia Woolf focuses on nature and how it reflects on the desolate atmosphere in the house and how there is short time that is spent with the seasons and the way that nature is described in the house. An instance of this is when Woolf describes the night as “full of wind and destruction” to foreshadow the events to come of having the death of Mrs. Ramsay happen in the middle of the night (128). Also, the fact that this happens at night is without the presence of the Lighthouse that used to mean the beacon of hope for the characters and the atmosphere in the last part of the novel. Her style of writing is different in this part because she uses parenthesis after describing a tragic event in the characters from relating the real nature toward the lives of the characters. An instance of this is when “a drop into silence, this indifference, this integrity, and thud of someone falling” to foreshadow the event that Andrew died during the war (133). This shows the transition of using vague pronouns to a direct correlation of an member of the Ramsay family. Woolf uses this to also show how time spent in the war happens at a short period and how the reality of its repercussions of it as having death be upon many families as well. The house maids shed a new light for the house to brighten up with “dusting and sweeping” to show how there is still hope toward the rest of the family in coping with their loss of their family members and returning home to where they would spend their summers again (133). She uses time to show how the older generation is helping the younger generation in their pursuit of having no hope for themselves.
Part two of the novel is shorter in comparison to part one since there is more actions involved in the character’s life span and in nature like the seasons changing and there could be new beginning despite the atrocities that happened in the Ramsay family. An instance of this is when Mr. Carmichael “brought out a volume of poems” to show how there is this transition of how society is trying to pass the time during the war (134). This also shows how the time spent trying to read poems is different than taking up duties that they enjoy when there was no war. Overall, time is reflected by ways of nature and how short it is conveys the life of the characters and the change in seasons as well. This also shows a sense of new beginning with Lily and Mr. Carmichael the only survivors to go back to the house.
The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot expresses the anxieties dealing with the aftermath of WWI through multiple voices, literary quotation, and fragmentation.
The anxieties present in The Waste Land are present through the multiple voices echoing throughout the poem. The narrator addresses “we” then shifts to “I” and then “you.” Figuring out who the poem is addressing most of the time is confusing and blurs the line between which aspects of the anxieties of the war pertain to only the “I” part of the narrator. The echo of the “us” I hear addressed in the poem, is interesting because it shows the emotions and actions of everyone as a whole.
The chain of thought throughout the poem describes the chaos and mixed emotions about the war. The poem beings with the narrator stating “April is the cruelest month, / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire.” From the phrase, the reader gets the impression that this is the voice of a world war veteran. The veteran warns the reader that he mixes his memory and desire often, as it is seen carried out throughout the poem. He discusses his days at war, then his memory skips around and takes him back to his childhood. His memory skips around and jumbles up his thoughts. What I like most about the idea of the narrator mixing reality with memory is that it expresses how confusing human beings actually are. As humans, we might be walking around town, yet thinking about distant memories, then tuning out the memory to absorb the present.
What I found the most fascinating about The Waste Land was Eliot’s use of literary devices. Eliot’s poem presents a story of what it’s like to live in the 20th century, which is an oversimplification of this poem at best. Much like the inconsistency and uneasiness of the 20th century, the Waste Land lacks any true structure. The poem will have flashes of structure and at most blank verse such as in the beginning of section two, A Game of Chess. In the end though, this all falls apart. Another element that Eliot uses is enjambment. In parallel with the time period, Eliot writes this poem with a lack of closure, conclusion, and confusion. The lines bounce too and fro and never truly connect. An example of this is when Eliot wrote, “Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither / Living nor dead, and I knew nothing” (39-40). This style is Eliot emotionally influencing the reader to feel what the 20th century felt like; confusing, lacking closure, and despairing. On top of this, Eliot’s multiple voices provide a scene that leaves the reader perplexed, like in the middle of a crowd of unfamiliar faces. This isolation appeared to be a personal journey for Eliot and one that also encompassed the feelings of many people of the time.
T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” presents several anxieties regarding the aftermath of WWI through the dark and descriptive content of the piece, as well as the hurried and varying structure of the poem itself. The format of “The Waste Land” seems to mimic the ticks and clutter of a shell-shocked WWI veteran, with its sentences which pause spontaneously and carry over, mid-thought, to the following lines of the poem. With fragmentary and repetitive style, Eliot replicates the quick-fleeting thoughts of such a veteran writing, “And I was frightened. He said Marie, Marie, hold on tight. And down we went” (15-16). It appears as though the narrator has suffered a great deal of trauma as he repeats to himself his own ideas in order for them to solidify, stopping every so often to recollect his jumbled thoughts. He hyper-focuses on previous, mundane events and objects, such as “hyacinths” (34) or “The Hanged Man” tarot card (55), hinting to readers that Eliot’s voice is either missing or avoiding the more relevant memories of his past. Readers, representing the public of post-war time, grow to fear mental instability and trauma.
In addition to the structure of the poem, Eliot utilizes a handful of allusions to express the public’s post war anxieties. Through the incorporation of such distressed voices as Shakespeare’s Ophelia, “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies” (172) and John Webster’s doctor, “What is that noise now?” (119), the tone of the poem grows more and more apprehensive. All references reiterate the theme of insanity, each bearing anxieties in the form of uneasy speakers in scenarios of anguish. In addition, they hint at a dark demise for the poem’s narrator, who struggles similarly. Ophelia and Cleopatra both take their own lives, and Tristian dies tragically as he watches for his love. It’s only predictable that the same hurried voice which incorporated the former characters’ verses will suffer a dismal fate as well. Eliot hides this final fear regarding unsatisfactory death well within his allusions, leaving readers to discover such an anxiety gradually and subconsciously.