The comparison of the three works of Woolf, Lawrence and Hardy Research Paper
Updated: Apr 29th, 2019
Analysis of the key features of each, finding the elements of the authors’ signature styles and deducing the influence of modernism in the given works
The shift of the emphasis from the depiction of events taking place in the outer world to the inner world of the main protagonist is one of the most significant features characteristic of modernist novels. By applying the stream-of-consciousness technique and the method of literary impressionism, novelists intentionally revealed the deficiency of singular focalization limited to the experience and perception of single protagonists.
This paper will discuss the stream-of-consciousness technique used by Woolf in The Mark on the Wall, the embedded vision used by Lawrence in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter and the vision illusion used by Hardy in On the Western Circuit as the elements of the authors’ signatures and identify the common modernist features found in these three stories.
Stream-of-consciousness as the specific feature of The Mark on the Wall by Woolf
Though the first attempts to use a stream-of-consciousness technique were made by realists, this literary form as a mix of memories, expectations, emotions and unexpected associations simultaneously arising in the person’s mind is attributed to modernism (Kern 87). This uniquely interesting technique was used by Virginia Woolf in The Mark on the Wall which was recognized as a manifest of modernism (Leech 136).
Regardless of the seeming spontaneity and inconsequentiality of the writing style used by Woolf in The Mark on the Wall, readers can follow the train of thoughts of the main protagonist. Though everyone experiences a free flow of thoughts and impressions, the ability to put it into writing depends upon the writers’ knowledge of how other minds think and other bodies feel (Leech 143).
Therefore, the syntactic structures, parenthetic sentences, repetitions and contrasts used by the author demonstrate Woolf’s profound understanding of the process of thinking and ability to put complicated thinking processes into simple words.
The repetition of the phrase ‘the mark on the wall’ shows how obtrusive this idea appears to be for the protagonist. The definite articles used for both nouns from the very beginning show that the idea has occurred to the character previously and the background of the story is concealed from readers.
Woolf’s literary experiment of the stream-of-consciousness writing blurs the dividing lines between different genres, including a story, an essay and a diary entry. By blending the opposites of reality and fantasy, inner and outer experiences, the author creates a unique framework.
To reveal the process of spontaneous thinking and inner monologue of the main protagonist, Woolf uses exclamations, interjections and response forms. The stand-alone constructions and the use of the response forms produce an impression that the inner monologue is fragmented and misses certain linking elements. For instance, the protagonist admits: “Yes, it must have been winter time” (Woolf 2424).
In this sentence the protagonist gives a response to the question that was never voiced. However, readers can make certain guesses and fill in the gaps in the narration. Additionally, Woolf inserts a number of parenthetical sentences into the longer ones, destructing the linearity of the text. It makes the text to resemble the process of associative thinking which cannot be reproduced in simple linear sentences.
The interjections and exclamations used by the author make the inner monologue more emotional. “Oh! dear me, the mystery of life; the inaccuracy of thought! The ignorance of humanity!” (Woolf 2424). The progressive structures are used to reproduce the add-on principle dominating in everyday speech. “Yes, it must have been the winter time, and we had just finished out tea, for I remember that I was smoking a cigarette when I looked up and saw the mark on the wall for the first time” (Woolf 2424).
According to the grammar rules, this sentence is too long. However, the author does not divide it into shorter ones, attempting to show the spontaneity and speed with which these thoughts run through the protagonist’s mind.
The stream of consciousness used by Woolf in The Mark on the Wall portrays the process of thinking as an active and adventurous process, taking place in real time with its dynamics and undergoing the influence of external factors (Leech 143).
The embedded vision as the peculiarity of The Horse Dealer’s Daughter by Lawrence
The technique of narrowing and expanding vision which was characteristic of modernism was used by Lawrence in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter for structuring this short story (Kern 183). Additionally, the theme of vision and physical sight interrelated with the motifs of understanding and feeling is closely connected to the concept of self-identity of the main characters.
Touching upon an important philosophical question of body-mind dualism, Lawrence treats the eye as an instrument of physical sight in the first part, narrowing the vision of the narration and refers to it as a sentient organ in the second part of the narration, expanding the vision. The author’s attempt to show the relativity of physical vision which can be rather delusive is compatible with the modernism principle of embedded vision.
At the beginning when the vision is narrow, the first example of treating physical sight as a fruitless attempt to understand the outer world takes place when the doctor meets Mabel for the first time. “At this point Mabel rose from the table, and they all seemed to become aware of her existence… The young doctor looked at her, but did not address her” (Lawrence 2593).
Therefore, the doctor did not notice her previously even though she has been sitting in front of him. It shows how limited the physical vision can be because of the individual’s perspective. The second glance passes between Fergusson and the girl when he notices her at her mother’s grave at the cemetery.
Though this circumstance is concealed from readers and the doctor at this point, the girl intends this glance to be her last act before she drowns herself. Regardless of the intensity of this glance and the overall situation, the doctor’s vision appears to be only a fruitless attempt to understand it.
Taking into account the fact that readers are no aware of the girl’s intentions either, it can be stated that the vision of the narration is initially narrowed to the doctor’s perspective. The situation and the vision changes after Fergusson sees the girl go into the pond to drown herself. At this moment, the physical sight enabled the character to understand and interpret the meaning of the situation and the girl’s secret was revealed.
After the doctor throws himself into the pond to rescue Mabel, in the water of the pond the two of them lose their sight for a short period of time and vision changes after they go out from the water. “The pond remains an important point of mediation between the earlier focus on sight and the subsequent focus on the eye itself” (Bell 104).
Analyzing the situation in the pond and the following scenes, it can be stated that the doctor saves the girl and the girl saves the doctor because she appears to be the one in need. Mabel saves Fergusson from his loneliness and isolation. After the episode, the secrets are revealed and the characters look into the eyes of each other, perceiving the eyes as the windows of the soul.
The physical sight is closely related to vision and self-identity of characters. After losing sight for a few moments in the pond and expanding vision after going out of the pond, the doctor and the horse dealer’s daughter modify their personal identities.
Lawrence found the proper balance between the divine and trivial in depicting everyday reality of the male-dominated world in which his characters live and in which the girl is treated as the daughter of a horse dealer. The alteration of the vision, an open ending and involvement of readers into the process of interpreting the text of The Horse Dealer’s Daughter by Lawrence can be regarded as indicators of Lawrence’s individual signature in the modernism movement.
The vision illusion in On the Western Circuit as an element of Hardy’s style
The vision illusion created by a roundabout has become a starting point of the love affair between the main characters of On the Western Circuit by Hardy. The aspect of the vision distorted because of the limitation of the personal perspective of characters as a feature characteristic of modernism has become an element of Hardy’s signature in this short story.
The delusion starts after Charles sees Anna on the roundabout for the first time and is intensified during their epistolary romance when Edith writes letters to Charles under the name of Anna who is illiterate. The juxtaposition between the urban phenomenon of the steam engine, roundabout and the rural life of the housemaid Anna can be attributed to Hardy’s complicated criticism of modernity and Britain’s policies concerning the imperial ventures overseas (Morgan 563).
The steam circuses not only hide certain aspects of reality from the viewers, but also create an illusion that becomes preferable to reality. Therefore, when Anna is spinning by on the roundabout and Charles is looking at her, under the influence of the visual mistake and the consequent queer emotion, the two of them delude themselves.
Charles believes that Anna is a girl he loves madly, while Anna becomes certain that she has chosen Charles herself. Therefore, the delusive image of a pretty girl spinning by on the roundabout becomes a starting point of the visual illusion and self-fraud of the main characters which would have been impossible in the ante-industrial era.
The second aspect contributing to the self-delusion of the main characters is the influence of writing upon them. Edith, who has written letters to Charles signing them with Anna’s name and read Charles’ responses to illiterate Ann, undergoes the influence of this correspondence and believes that she is Charles’ real correspondent and she has fallen in love with him in the course of their epistolary romance.
Additionally, Edith believes that their correspondence has the same effect upon Charles. After witnessing the marriage ceremony between Ann and Charles, Edith is disappointed. “’I have ruined him!’ She kept repeating. ‘I have ruined him; because I would not deal treacherously toward her!’” (Hardy 1934). After Edith tells Charles about the fraud with correspondence, he keeps repeating that she has ruined him.
However, Hardy shows that physical attraction is still stronger in creating bonds between a man and a woman than writing because Charles chooses Ann. Moreover, the main reason for the self-deception of the main characters is even deeper than visual illusion created by roundabout or the effects produced by writing.
One of the fundamental causes of their self-deception is their self-betrayal and the loss of identity. The characters deny not only their true features, but also their very names, betraying themselves and ready to betray others.
Therefore, the different levels of illusion and betrayal affecting vision of the main characters are peculiar elements of Hardy’s style in On the Western Circuit.
The comparison of the visions and the modernist features of the three stories
Notwithstanding the striking difference between the three stories under analysis and the peculiarities of the writer’s individual signatures, all of them have common features characteristic of the modernist aesthetics that influenced all of them.
The first and one of the most significant aspects is the language used by Woolf, Lawrence and Hardy. Event though the stream-of-consciousness technique in its pure form was used only by Woolf, Lawrence and Hardy chose other ways for revealing the conscious and sometimes even unconscious processes in their characters.
Despite the fact that Lawrence conceals Mabel’s inner monologues which took place in her consciousness before she goes to the pond to drown herself, this character shows the tension of her thoughts through her gaze which is defined as dangerous and frightening by the author. Edith as the character of Hardy’s story deludes herself that she falls in love with Charles.
Though Edith’s thoughts preceding her decision to say the truth to Charles are mostly concealed from readers, they can make guesses judging by the following development of the events. Additionally, the omission of certain episodes and active involvement of readers into the process of interpretation of the text which is characteristic of modernist discourse is evident in these stories (Childs 211).
The elliptical sentences and unpredictable associations used by Woolf in the inner monologue of the main protagonist require readers’ efforts for filling in the gaps in the chain of thoughts. Lawrence conceals Mabel’s intentions before she goes into the water of the pond so that the readers could reproduce her thinking process in their imagination.
Hardy conceals the thoughts and feelings of Edith until the concrete moment. Therefore, apart from the open endings of the three stories which offer variety of possible interpretations, Woolf, Lawrence and Hardy leave gaps in their texts for the purpose of involving readers into the active process of interpreting them.
Developing the theme of consciousness and thinking process, it should be noted that the authors emphasize the limitation of individual perspective by shifting the vision of their stories. Thus, the main protagonist of Woolf’s story cannot identify the origin of the mark on the wall until the unknown interlocutor intervenes into the inner monologue.
The doctor as the main protagonist of Lawrence’s story The Horse Dealer’s Daughter cannot understand Mabel’s gazes until he sees her going into the pond. The self-deception as the result of the vision illusion of the main characters becomes an important point of the plot of On the Western Circuit.
Therefore, by shifting the vision, narrowing and then expanding it, the authors show readers how limited their own views can be. Importantly, the theme of the false romantic correspondence as one of the generators of self-fraud in Hardy’s story reveals the potential impact of writing upon readers in its exaggerated form.
Though readers’ active involvement is required for decoding the messages conveyed in the three stories, the techniques chosen by the authors doubtlessly had an important impact upon the readers’ perceptions and responses.
Notwithstanding the significant differences in the main plot lines of the stories under consideration and the peculiarities of the individual signatures of their authors, the emphasis on the conscious and subconscious process of the main protagonists, active involvement of readers into the process of interpreting the stories and shifts of the vision are characteristic of the three stories and compatible with modernism aesthetics.
Comparing and contrasting the techniques used by Woolf in The Mark on the Wall, Lawrence in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter and Hardy in On the Western Circuit, it can be stated that working in the frames of modernism aesthetics, these authors managed to preserve their unique signatures, combining them with the features characteristic of the movement.
Regardless of the differences in the techniques and themes developed by Woolf, Lawrence and Hardy, these novelists put emphasis upon the readers’ active involvement into the process of interpreting their texts and focused on the inner mental lives of their characters, showing that their perceptions can significantly differ from reality.
Bell, Michael. Literature, Modernism and Myth: Belief and Responsibility in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.
Childs, Peter. Modernism. 2nded. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Hardy, Thomas. “On the Western Circuit.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Meyer Howard Abrams. 8thed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.
Kern, Stephen. The Modernist Novel: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
Lawrence, David Herbert Richards. “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Meyer Howard Abrams. 8thed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.
Leech, Geoffrey. Language in Literature: Style and Foregrounding. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008. Print.
Morgan, Rosemarie. The Ashgate Research Companion to Thomas Hardy. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2010. Print.
Woolf, Virginia. “The Mark on the Wall.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Meyer Howard Abrams. 8thed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.
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