Literature is a way to convey your thoughts from the perception of others. Be it a king or peasant, the art of writing a tale has many dimensions. More than the actual story, it is about the underlying message conveyed. Within words, we understand the issues that impact us on a subconscious level. Such writings help us to understand the issues of society without actually facing it. It is crucial as we empathize with characters, we also understand the struggle of the unheard or unseen. Work of Virginia Woolf has such an impact on its readers. She raised issues in the midst of the chaos that still resonates with today’s society.
Early days of Virginia Woolf:
Born on 25th January 1882, she came from a wealthy family. From a very young age, she was interested in writing. She was encouraged in writing as her parents were free-spirited. She and her sisters were homeschooled. Most of her time was spent in the luscious Victorian library. She spent her summer days in St. Ives, a beach town. These days are later recalled in one of her novels, To The Lighthouse. Later she started a family newspaper, Hyde Park Gate News to record her family’s humorous incidents. However, her childhood abuse overshadowed her happiness. She recounts her misery in Sketch of Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate. Moreover, her mother’s sudden demise lead to her first mental breakdown. By the age of 13, she suffered the loss of her loved ones, including Stella, her half-sister.
Irrespective of her personal loss, she continued to study Greek, German and Latin in King’s College London. She met a handful of a radical feminist during her four years of education. However, her father’s death caused her emotional setback. This resulted in her institutionalised for a few months. In 1905, she started writing for ‘The Times Literary Supplement’. After her father’s death, she shifted to Bloomsbury, London. She met many members of the Bloomsbury group. These included Clive Bell, E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, John Keynes, Duncan Grant. In 1910, this group became famous when they dressed up as delegation of Ethiopian Royals for Dreadnought Hoax. After this act, Leonard and Virginia were close. Eventually, they married each other on August 10, 1912.
Her Literary Work:
Her first novel took nine years and was published in 1915, The Voyage Out. She used different techniques such as dream- sequence, prose etc. Later, she bought a used printing press. This was known as Hogarth Press. Virginia and Leonard published their own writings. This press also published works of T. S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud and Katherine Mansfield. A year after World War 1, Virginia published Night and Day, a novel based on Edwardian England. In the year 1922, she published her third novel, Jacob’s Room. This book was based on his brother Thoby, who died at age of 26. This novel marks the start of her first modern classic writing.
Mrs Dalloway brought groundbreaking and remarkable fame to Virginia. An intriguing story with concepts of feminism, homosexuality and mental illness was fresh in the year 1925. This book was later adapted into a film and it’s sequels in 2002. To The Lighthouse was also a success with its concept of human consciousness. In 1928, her novel Orlando received appreciation due to the unconventional story of a nobleman who becomes a woman under mysterious circumstances. This book has been studied by scholars of woman and gender studies.
In 1929, she wrote a feminist essay A Room of One’s Own. This states that role of woman in literature. “A woman must have money and a room of her own, if she is to write fiction” is the main idea of this essay. This book was based on two lectures given in Newnham College and Girton College in the year 1928. The Waves published in the year 1931, is play-poem written in voices of six characters. Her final novel, The Years recounts the family history over the generations. In 1938, she published her essay, Three Guineas. This essay also continues the feminist theme along with the rising fascism of World War 2.
Emotional State of Virginia Woolf:
Virginia had emotional mood swings due to abuse and traumatic loss in her early years. Her husband, Leonard was aware of her mood swings and symptoms of depressions. While writing her final manuscript Between the Acts, which was published after her death, she slipped deeper into despair. Eventually, she took her life on March 28, 1941, at the age of 59.
Virginia Woolf undoubtedly remains a pioneer writer, intellectual, an innovative and influential feminist. Her works were lost in history until the rise of the 1970s feminist movement. Her writing gave significant momentum to the younger generation’s activism. Throughout her career, she was vocal about her opinions. She gave lectures and also wrote essays on rising social issues. Her ability to narrate a tale with an intense plotline in a light-hearted way earned fame and respect. Woolf’s works now have different fans who understand Woolf’s power of writing. Her works voiced the opinion of many marginalised communities. Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and To The Lighthouse are some of the most celebrated works.