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.

The Waste Land

Overall, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” has a dark tone and confusing structure that mirror the aftermath of the Great War. Throughout the poem, different voices emerge unannounced, making the reader feel as confused as many people felt after the war. For instance, in Part II after line 110, Eliot begins using someone else’s voice as shown by the quotation marks. The lines ” ‘My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me./Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.’ ” (2301) sound jittery and psychotic; this could relate to the vast number of veterans with shell shock. Shellshocked men developed nervous ticks and exhibited strange, even paranoid behavior, so the fragmented sentences featured in Part II of “The Waste Land” show a concern for this new development of traumatized ex-soldiers. Another instance where a (new) voice in quotations reflects concerns of the time is located after line 130. The other voice worries ” ‘What shall I do now? What shall I do?…What shall we do tomorrow? / What ever shall we do?’ ” (2302). These lines address the same subject as Sigfried Sassoon’s “Everyone Sang”; although the soldiers rejoiced that the war was over, they lacked a sense of direction and purpose as soon as it ended. The voice in the aforementioned lines is frantically questioning what it should do, just as the veterans of the time were unsure of what to do after the completion of war. In fact, after the devastating results of an almost pointless war, many civilians also began to wonder what the point of their lives were. These two voices capture two very real anxieties from the aftermath of WWI.

In addition, Eliot uses many different allusions throughout “The Waste Land” to increase the insanity and depressing tone of the poem. Part I begins with a reference to Sybil who, after wishing for eternal life, claims she wants to die. This sets the dark mood for the rest of the poem and relates to the aforementioned questioning the purpose of life that became popular during this time. The selection of this particular scene could also indicate that mankind made a fatal mistake by starting the war and now has to live with the consequences of that mistake, just as Sybil is cursed to live with her mistake of not asking for eternal youth forever. Eliot also references a very different source, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, to end Part II of “The Waste Land”. In the play, the character Ophelia says “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.” (2303) and this is seen as a sign of insanity by the King. By ending the second part of the poem this way, Eliot is directly alluding to insanity to help characterize the lost, confused, and insane feelings many people had after the Great War. I believe Eliot’s many references to earlier works could be a search for meaning by exploring the thoughts of past writers and thinkers, but no matter how much he tries to use the past to explain the present, life in the aftermath of the first world war stays as dark and confusing as ever.

The Waste Land and WWI

The Waste Land is a very complex poem that uses multiple voices and quotations to connect with the reader and share a point about World War I. The entire poem begins with a Latin reference to an ancient Roman figure, Sybil, wishing she could die, which sets the dark tone for describing the aftermath of World War I. The poem then follows with rotating narration that cycles from a woman describing April with German quotations to the description of a hyacinth girl to a tarot card reading, and finally to a man walking through London who is able to see a dead man he knew from the war. The purpose of so many voices could be to show the vast impact of the War; it seems to me that what appear to be unconnected stories come together in the last bit of Part 1 with the French quote “hypocrite lecteur!- mom semblable,- mon frère!” This statement stood out to me most because I saw it as a way of bringing attention to how everyone was affected by the war. Particularly how it is not just the soldiers who have lost and carry the weight of many dead ones on their shoulders.

Another tactic Eliot uses is quotation for indicating speaking of characters in the poem. This stood out to because it is not something I typically see in poems. Particularly, the section in Part 2 where the woman wonders “Where the dead men lost their bones. What is that noise?” She seems to be going slightly insane and with the reference to dead men alludes to the fact that the war and the significant number of dead might be having an effect on her mental stability. This point is only further proven when she later wonders, “What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do?” The sentiment this woman expresses likely mirrors how must of Europe was feeling in the wake of this catastrophe as they questioned what now becomes of their lives.

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.

Youth in The Waste Land

Throughout the all the parts of the poem the dramatic tone obviously reflects all the worry and fear the people at this time have. Since the war ended, what is supposed to happen and how are we supposed to go on with life since all of this has happened.From the beginning with the quote from Satyricon of Petronius she says she was granted eternal life and not eternal youth and I feel like this is the same way with these young soldiers. They were granted more time on earth but their youth was basically taken away, they fought this war and now all they are left with is scars of what happened which can never be unseen. They are left to attempt to pick up their lives where they left off which is almost impossible because of this life they have became accustomed too. This is the same scenario with the people that were not fighting. Society is viewed in The Waste Land as this apocalyptic place where one must fend for themselves and continue and explore this land that is destroyed and covered in sorrow and waste of what used to be the war.

I found the dedication to Ezra Pound interesting, I feel like it shows this connection between Pound and Elliot as something more than a friendship. Even on this level of living and nonliving Elliot can feel this fear that probably Pound encountered more than Elliot because he was in the war. I feel like he is also talking to Pound examining what he has done and what he is left to live with without Pound by his side, which could be scary.

“Dust in the Wind”: Life is A Kansas Song in “Time Passes”

            Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse presents three different sections, spanning a decade, each told in a different way.  The second section, “Time Passes”, although rather short, makes its way through ten years including World War I, whereas “The Window” covers only an evening or so.  While the “The Window” addresses time as relative to one’s thoughts, emotions, and consciousness, “Time Passes” is told from the perspective that time is independent from human life.  That is to say that the hours, days, and years that make up time will continue to pass by at the same rate that they always have. 

            Throughout the passage, Woolf personifies inanimate objects such as the draft that sweeps through the house during the time when the family is away.  She describes the drafts as “smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the waste-paper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, “Were they allies?  Were they enemies?  How long would they endure?” (126).  She also touches on the isolation and confusion which WWI wrought.  A sense of personal and national identity was lost during the war, especially in England.  Similarly, Woolf posits how the objects in the house have lost their identity because the people who give there lives meaning are gone.  Woolf elaborate continually through the section on how time infects all things such as “some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes- those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated” (129).  She also hints at the emptiness of the post-war world as all of the material items of the millions of young men lost to the war remain and how they are the only reminders of their lives.  While “Time Passes” puts a large emphasis on the role of time in nature and in aging the house, it gives very little consideration to the Ramsays and their friends.  References to them are given in brackets, such as “[Prue Ramsay, leaning on her father’s arm, was given in marriage.  What, people said, could have been more fitting?  And, they added, how beautiful she looked!]”  Human life is more or less an afterthought in the grand scheme of life.  Time continues to push forward, thrusting humanity along with it, regardless of whether or not people are ready for it.  People and things may fade, but time marches on.                    

“Time Passes” and WWI

While Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse deals heavily with the aftereffects of World War I, the novel does not really address the War until its second section, entitled “Time Passes”. This section consists of ten short chapters. “Time Passes” encompasses a decade’s worth of events in around twenty pages, in contrast to the first section, “The Window”, which consists of 125 pages and describes the details of a single evening. The effect of the severe condensation of time in the second section is disorientation for the reader. The section consists of mostly narration and very little dialogue; it also mostly mentions events after they have already happened: “[Mr. Carmichael brought out a volume of poems that spring, which had an unexpected success…]” (134). This gives the reader the sense that the entire section was written in retrospect as the narrator reminisced on the things that happened to the Ramsay family between 1910 and 1920. The somewhat historical perspective that is therefore created in this section engages with WWI because it looks back on the War as a past event as opposed to experiencing it firsthand, which mimics the way the reader would be approaching the text as well.

Furthermore, the way that the reader is bombarded with death in this section parallels the chaotic and devastating way Woolf’s generation had to deal with the loss of loved ones. Interwoven with commentary about the passage of time, the narration notes that Mr. Ramsay reaches out for Mrs. Ramsay, although “Mrs. Ramsay [had] died rather suddenly the night before” (128). Additionally, “Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with childbirth” (132) and “Andrew Ramsay[‘s] death, mercifully, was instantaneous” (133) after a shell exploded during the War. All of these deaths, being mentioned one after another, allow little time for the reader to process what is happening. As opposed to the generous time given to many different perspectives during the first section of the novel, the narration moves on from each of these deaths with very few comments on their effects. The deaths seem to lose their importance due to the style of the narration, leaving the reader with a sort of numbness that was pervasive in English society following the end of WWI.