Modern Literary Period Constitutes Challenge To Realistic Representation

838 words - 4 pages

The early twentieth century saw war ripping society in England and across the European continent into fragments which forced many individuals to struggle to piece together and make sense of the new disjointed and fragmentary modern existence. Also, rapid industrialization and radical advances in technology changed the way people perceived time and reality. For instance, philosophers like Henry Bergson criticized the Victorian notion of ‘time’ as a linear quantity, stipulating that time is a ‘heterogeneous qualitative multiplicity’. All the moments of time or duration intermingle within the mind and cannot be separated into individual components; there is no beginning, middle, and end. ...view middle of the document...

For Woolf, the traditional realism limits the representation of the complexity of life in all its immediacy and multiplicity.
To the Lighthouse breaks away from traditional representations of reality with its depiction time, an essential component of reality and experience, in an innovative manner. In To the Lighthouse, time is not measured by an objective clock but through the subjective experiences of the various characters. Events of a single day constitute the first and third part of the book each; events which the characters linger over and where the perceptions of the past, present, and future all intermingle. In contrast, the passage of ten years is compressed into a few dozen pages in ‘Time Passes’. In ‘Time Passes’, the minds and concerns of the characters are put into the background as opposed to the other two parts of the book where they are the central to the narrative. This narrative structure highlights the difference between subjective time and the flow of natural time that is independent of subjective time and human life. Thus, the deaths of Mrs. Ramsay and her children are presented within brackets, showing how incidental one’s life is against the bigger picture.
The novel’s employment of the third person narrator but with multiple focalizations to narrate the story is also a departure from the previous literary traditions of having an all important narrator to interpret ‘reality’ for the reader. The multiple focalizations for narration and using free indirect discourse and ‘interior monologue’ allow Woolf to demonstrate the different versions of ‘reality’. We experience reality through the different...

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