Analysis of Virginia Woolf's Essay "Modern Fiction"

  Virginia Woolf in her Modern Fiction makes a fair attempt to discuss briefly the main trends in the modern novel or fiction. She begins her essay by mentioning the traditionalists like H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and Galsworthy, who, while they propound new ideas and open out new vistas to the human mind, still follow the Victorian tradition as far as the technique of the novel is concerned. Read More Essay They believed that a great force on the individual was environment. However, they differed from one another in subject matter – in Arnold and Galsworthy the socialist point of view dominated and Wells, a brilliant writer of scientific romances. Read More Essay Mrs. Woolf marks these three as ‘materialists’. While defining the term Woolf states that these writers as well as their writing is stuffed with unimportant things; they spend immense skill and dexterity in making the trivial and transitory a boost of truth of life. As life escapes, the worth of the literary piece in minimal. Mrs. Woolf while criticizing the three makes a pivotal point of criticism on the traditional method of novel writing of Fielding types.

            Extending the pinnacle of criticism Mrs. Woolf further bids her point that the types are devoid of life or spirit, truth or reality. The essence of the novel i.e. the reality of life is missing in the traditional method of novel writing which is superficial characterization, artificial framework. Here in this types ‘the writer seems constrained, not by his own free will but some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant’. Read More Essay The tyrant is none other than the restriction or the catalogue of types – such as plot, comedy, tragedy, treatment of love etc. in dressing up all these criterion what we receive is the death of life or spirit or spontaneity or flow of conscience behest of terminology or doggerel methods.
            Mrs. Woolf makes it clear that the objective of the writer in his or her creation is to look within and life as a whole. The traditionism or materialism do not capture that moment – the reception of the mind of myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, and evanescent or engraved. Thus to trust upon life, a writer is free and he could write what he chose. Read More Essay So to dot down what he feels should not be conventionally in comedy, tragedy or love interests in accepted styles. Here is a withdrawal from external phenomena into the flickering half shades of the author’s private world. The reality lies not in the outer actions, but in the inner working of the human mind, in the inner perceptions.

Virginia Woolf
Further, analyzing the inflow of life, Mrs. Woolf defines life not as a series of tales symmetrically arranged. She says it as a ‘luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of conscious to the end’. Conscious is a constant flow, not jointed, not chopped up in bits. Thus the purpose of the writer should be the delineation of deeper and deeper into the human consciousness. Mrs. Woolf, in this respect, mentions the innovators like James Joyce and Joseph Conrad. Citing an example from The Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, she points out that here is in the story apparent disconnection and in coherence as a result of recording the ‘atoms of life’ in the stream of conscience. Read More Essay Through ineffable style, fragmented, hazardous, and unpleasant, here is undeniably important spirit or life. Mrs. Woolf comments “In contrast with those whom we have called materialists, Mr. Joyce is spiritual’. Read More Essay The externals of personality the habits, manners, physical appearance etc are altogether discarded as it seems impossible to give a psychologically true account of character by such means. Joyce’s in his novel loses himself into the complexities and subtleties of inner life.

            The new novel on consciousness, as Mrs. Woolf clarifies, is purely psychological. Under the influence of new psychological theories, life is not regarded as a mere tales, but a series of moments. Read More Essay In fact, the psychological theory of the functioning mind is a stream – of –consciousness. The technique or method by which it is possible to capture them is truly the new type, Mrs. Woolf asserts. Here is Joyce and the types who are to explore the dark places of psychology ignored still date. Mrs. Woolf here observes a key point from Russian literature where, particularly Chekhov is worth mentioning of exploring the world of mind as well as the world of heart. Modern English fiction is influenced by Russian literature – its spiritualism, saintliness, inquisitiveness.

            In conclusion, Mrs. Woolf in Modern Fiction pleads not to be narrow- minded and conventional. She says that there are ample possibilities of the art and here is no limit to the horizon. Here no ‘method’, no experiment, no extraordinary is forbidden, but only falsity and pretence should be discarded. Read More Essay The proper stuff of fiction does not exist – everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought if they are saturated by spirit or life in it. 

Now Try to Answer These Questions: 
Q. “Whether we call it life or spirit, truth or reality, this, the essential thing, has moved off, or on, and refuses to be contained any longer in such ill fitting vestments as we provide” – Elucidate the points of criticism of the materialistic novels by Virginia Woolf.

Q.“Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halos, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end” – How does Virginia Wolf in her Modern Fiction defend the stream of consciousness novel against the ‘materialistic’ novel?

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