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Time passes: Experience and expression in ‘The Years’ and ‘To the Lighthouse’

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  1. Introduction
  2. Definition and restrictions
  3. The transformation of the present to the past
  4. The final scene and the perspective of an artist
  5. The book To the Lighthouse
    1. The fluidity and poetic style
    2. The conventionality in the book
    3. The entry of the characters into the stream of life
  6. The book The Years
    1. The change in the language and form of the text
    2. Perspectives of conflicting interpretations of the characters
    3. Nicholas reflection during a bombardment
    4. The search for truth
  7. Conclusion: Moving through Woolf's prose in the books
  8. Bibliography

The present unfolds as I trace my way along the thin black lines laid across the page. Woolf writes; I read. We then assemble these fractured signs, these fleeting moments in our conversations to compose a unified ?whole.? A scene passes. My eyes discern a pattern and then resume their marked progression, following a clearly defined line across the blank space of the page, ?like caravans perpetually marching? (Years 3)? ?slowly wheeling like the rays of a searchlight the days, the weeks, the years passed one after another across the sky? (Years 4). But these words and the reality they describe and create are ?uncertain? (Years 3). The present slips into the past, caught in a torrent of images, of light and sound that draw me deeper within the rhythm of Woolf's prose. And, despite my intended focus? ?everybody in the crowded street, it seemed, had some end in view? (Years 5) ? I am left undefined, without beginning or end.

[...] To the Lighthouse immerses us in the unceasing and overwhelming complexity of the human experience by revealing the fluid and inter-related moments that define being. The Years divides our experience of reality into scenes, forcing us to acknowledge the process by which we weave these bits and pieces together to create our perception of reality. Both present us with questions, engaging us in conversation with Woolf as we examine the lines that divide and distinguish reality from fiction and expression from experience. [...]


[...] In 1910 the language and form of the text changes, expressing a shift in thought, a breaking free from the oppressive structures that dominated the previous scenes. What was certain and absolute, is suddenly broken, opened to new possibilities as the relationships between these characters and their world shifts. It is as if puzzle were solved, and then broken? (Years 160). Sara, Rose and Maggie enter into conversation, examining the distinction between the past and the present, between reality and fiction as they question the structures that had defined them: They talked, she thought, as if Abercorn Terrace were a scene in a play. [...]


[...] To realize the experience of life, art must reveal the fluidity of being, the arbitrary nature of meaning and the role of perspective in the creation of this meaning. To the Lighthouse leaves us unknown and undefined, consumed by the process of creation and the ?great mystery? that out of nothing- here is something a mark that stands, encompassed in the white space of the page. The present, the ?here and repeats and expands, building. Time passes and the moments that define us, the scenes that become us lay scattered, waiting to be either assembled or forgotten, to either create order from the random chaos of existence, or to simply let go to be consumed by the rhythm of the waves upon the shore. [...]

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