Woolf with two O’s

February 17th, 2007 § 0 comments

When I first began watching films in my Film Noir class, my teacher was lecturing to all of us what we should look for, concluding with, “and when the Femme Fatale dies at the end make sure you note how. . .” seeing the looks we gave her she paused for a moment and then added, “the woman always, always dies, I did not give anything away.” It is not a suspenseful genre of unexpected twists and turns, it is a formulaic creation of post world war II insecurity. This theme can also be applied to a certain genre of early feminist writers, Bronte, Chopin, Wharton, Woolf, etc, as it seems that none of their women live in the end either—death for them seems to be the only escape to their trapped existence within British society.

I just finished reading Woolf’s first novel called The Voyage Out, which can be seen as the 400 page version of the short story The Awakening. The woman ventures out into the world, having previously lived in a completely controlled environment censored by those around her. Once “out” she finds herself and what the world can hold, because of this new knowledge she understands that she will never be able to be the person she would like, or live the life she wants, and thus she dies. In this particular case Rachel dies just in time to save herself from a meaningless and disappointing marriage at 22. It is very tragic, and in true Woolf style, none of the characters, be they men or women, are deified or vilified, they are as complex as they ought to be after 400 pages of characterization, and they all have great qualities and deeper faults. She does not create people you can point at and say “oh that mean nasty man” or places for that matter. In her eyes London is as amazing as it is stifling and unbearable. I like this about her stories and style, they seem true because of the complexity with which everything is represented. One gets the feeling that she is not glancing at ideas, people, places, she is looking at them again and again, over and over, seeing a little farther each time or into some other cranny.

I have found that a lot of people think they know far too much for certain. I find that life, and by that I mean all aspects of it that one encounters, is a very slippery thing, it changes and morphs into anything and everything at any given time. I am not sure what I believe, what I think is “true”, what is right or wrong. The more I see and experience the more I realize that there is no need for this kind of assurance. It is all right not to know what to make of people, if I look long enough at something perhaps it will make sense. If I think long enough about something then perhaps I will understand a part of it. Or rather one day it will seem one way, and then something happens to change that, something that makes it untrue or just a part of an answer, and then I have to build from there or start again. While it may seem, because of the way we have been trained to accept absolutes, that this is accomplishing nothing, I think it is closer to what the world is really like. It is not full of one dimensional planes, there is no true anything, it is full of curves and hidden surfaces, many of which I will never see. It is better to allow impressions and experiences to change you than cling tight to that one little speck of surface you first saw. Infinite change is assuring enough.

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