Virginia Woolf

I have always avoided Virginia Woolf. I thought she was depressing and complicating and bizarre (not that she isn’t, but I thought all the worst of her for it, why was I such a reading-prude?? Beats me.). This avoidance was most likely because I tried reading “To the Lighthouse” by myself and didn’t get all those undertones and symbolic nuances she put in there. To me it was a weird story. I saw the movie, “The Hours” starring Nicole Kidman, and I didn’t really get it either, and I vaguely remember thinking it was depressing. Well anyway, through my uni years, I’ve somehow managed to avoid having to read any V. Woolf, too (you know, those old professors get carried away on lengthy tangents and some works end up having to be cut out of the syllabus and it always happens to be a Woolf work). This year, it was almost cut out again, but, at the last minute, it was reinserted and Graeme Greene’s “The Destructors” was taken out instead (which I’m totally okay with since I did an in-depth analysis of it in high school – I vaguely remember thinking that the kids’ idea of creation was destruction or something like that – plus, I was getting increasingly curious about Mrs. Woolf).

People in my class didn’t really enjoy “The Death of the Moth”. They were all, like, “this is boring”, “she comes to such a depressing conclusion”, “she wrote this before she committed suicide by putting rocks into her pockets and walking into the river”. I thought it was a beautifully written essay, where the life of a moth becomes the muse for which the writer can project her thoughts and observances about human life. I thought she was just being practical, of course the moth’s gotta die. Everything living dies. But the difference is that Woolf emphasizes the nature of life with the presence of death. Death focuses how we value our life. See? Virginia Woolf won me over with this essay. I’ve gone from studiously avoiding her to obsessively looking for more insight about her (did you know there is only one recording of her voice?). And now, I’m defending her.

“The Death of the Moth” started me off hunting for more Woolf-y things. I read her essay on “How should one read a book?” and other works. I’ve come to really enjoy her stuff now. She’s not judmental, she’s observant, she’s slightly removed, yet I feel connected to her writing, I feel like she’s subtly guiding my thoughts in one direction and prompting me into self-reflection, too. I also feel some sort of sincerity in her writing, as if she really seeks to put her true thoughts into paper, no matter if they end up contradicting each other a little. Maybe it’s her use of stream of consciousness that’s seducing me.



  1. Hey lady, long time no see!

    I’ve read a few essays by Virginia Woolf, to analyze for a prose class, and then virtually nothing else. I struggle a lot with stream-of-consciousness prose. What’s her voice sound like? Nice to listen to? Toni Morrison, not one of my favorite writers, has a positively gorgeous speaking voice. I could listen to Toni Morrison talk all day.

  2. What Jenny said! *waves*

    I haven’t had much luck with Woolf’s fiction (though I plan to try again with Orlando), but I love her non-fiction. A Room of One’s Own and The Common Reader are wonderful!

  3. Have you tried Mrs Dalloway? It is complicated but so beautifully in depth into the protagonist’s personality in a moment of crisis. Depressing? Life is never easy and the best literature I’ve read is about tragedy or drama. Anyhow, no, Mrs Dalloway choses life in the end. I loved Michael Cunningham’s THE HOURS, too. It is a great book. Have you read it or you only saw the movie?

  4. I second Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, and it has made me all the more curious about Virginia Woolf as a woman and a writer, as well as a woman suffering from such a terrible illness.

  5. I think I am in the position you were in a few years back.

    I read Mrs. Dalloway and I didn’t mind it, but it never actually resonated with me, like it does for others.

    I find so much introspection rather difficult to take.

    I saw “The Hours”, and I liked the movie, but again it was just way too depressing for me. I also just could not accept the lady who abandons her son.

  6. Jenny – I’ve never read Toni Morrison! Which of her works did you enjoy the most? In the recording, Virginia Woolf has an interesting accent. She speaks deliberately and reverently and doesn’t really overwhelm you with her opinions, but slowly gets you to see her point.

    Nymeth – *waves back* I’m still here…sheepish smile….I have to make my way through my Virginia Woolf anthology one of these days.

    Maria Grazia – I only saw the movie, the Hours. I think I’ll have to read the book and re-watch the movie. I may have been too immature and impatient to really understand that movie back when I saw it.

    Mariel – Yes! All these things are making me speculate more and more about Virginia Woolf and want to find out more about her life.

    Nishita – Have you tried reading Virginia Woolf since then? I’ve never read Mrs. Dalloway but I have a copy of it! You know, I don’t think I like too much introspection usually either, but right now I’m okay with it and how Virginia Woolf uses it.

  7. HONEY, it is really the aim of virgie ( virginia woolf) to be prerogatively vague, because her style has something to do with her story, plus the fact the roller coaster ride of the words are the primary essence of her style, intertwining of the ideas, the fixating bluishness of her wanderings are like ” whew…. what the crap has happened n this lady”… bizzare, transgressive, very progressive…

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