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IlanaSimons
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Part 1: The Window

Woolf sketches wonderfully nuanced scenes between the sexes.
What themes are apparent to you so far?
Can you describe some techniques Woolf uses for getting inside her characters’ heads?
Does she create a sense of community in this book for you, and if so, how?



Ilana
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Re: Part 1: The Window

[ Edited ]

IlanaSimons wrote:
Woolf sketches wonderfully nuanced scenes between the sexes.
What themes are apparent to you so far?
Can you describe some techniques Woolf uses for getting inside her characters’ heads?
Does she create a sense of community in this book for you, and if so, how?



One of those "wonderfully nuanced scenes beween the sexes" in The Window section is the part where Charles Tansley accompanies Mrs. Ramsay to town on her errands. Woolf's descriptive third person sentences make us aware of Tansley realizing he is attracted to Mrs. Ramsay. It culminates with his taking up her bag when she leaves Elsie's house.----"for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was walking with a beautiful woman . He had hold of her bag."
Also in considering Woolf's writing, is anyone else finding this particular title of Woolf's more difficult to read with understanding? I have only read Mrs. Dalloway and I am still in The Window part of this book. But Mrs. Dalloway flowed much more smoothly for me.
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Message Edited by Librarian on 04-02-200701:57 PM

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Re: Part 1: The Window

Librarian,
You say this one isn't flowing, but you've really nailed that scene. When Tansley takes Mrs. R's bag, he's ambivalent: He wants to be kind, to love and be loved; but his expression of love is also an act of dominance. He wants control. He wants that bag. He wants to be the one in charge, and for others to see it.
I think everyone in this book wants both things: to loved and to be in control of others.
That's something Woolf knew so well, don't you think? We're _both_ nasty and need each other.



Librarian wrote:

IlanaSimons wrote:
Woolf sketches wonderfully nuanced scenes between the sexes.
What themes are apparent to you so far?
Can you describe some techniques Woolf uses for getting inside her characters’ heads?
Does she create a sense of community in this book for you, and if so, how?



One of those "wonderfully nuanced scenes beween the sexes" in The Window section is the part where Charles Tansley accompanies Mrs. Ramsay to town on her errands. Woolf's descriptive third person sentences make us aware of Tansley realizing he is attracted to Mrs. Ramsay. It culminates with his taking up her bag when she leaves Elsie's house.----"for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was walking with a beautiful woman . He had hold of her bag."
Also in considering Woolf's writing, is anyone else finding this particular title of Woolf's more difficult to read with understanding? I have only read Mrs. Dalloway and I am still in The Window part of this book. But Mrs. Dalloway flowed much more smoothly for me.
Librarian

Message Edited by Librarian on 04-02-200701:57 PM







Ilana
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piihonua
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Re: Part 1: The Window

I think the control fever has definitely has infected everyone in this book.I mentioned the theme of resentment in another thread and I guess it's the kind of resentment resulting from a struggle for control or dominance particularly between the Ramsays. "The Window" begins with the psychological arm wrestling match on the subject of the following day's weather being fine or not fine. This section ends with Mrs. Ramsay feeling that she had "triumphed again".
I had also mentioned entrapment, isolation, or claustrophobia as possible themes. The idea of being on an island surrounded by water. Mrs. Ramsay seems to "lock" her husband out of her room of private thoughts as does he. The rising tide which will soon flood the shore of the island and submerge Minta's pearl brooch.
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Re: Part 1: The Window

Nice comment. Yes--I'd like to hear what people have to say about that "psychological arm wrestle" (nice phrase!) that starts the chapter. Mr. Ramsay wants control and respect in his weather prediction.
How do people read Mrs. Ramsay's response? Do you see her as mainly submissive or strong in her flexibility?



piihonua wrote:
I think the control fever has definitely has infected everyone in this book.I mentioned the theme of resentment in another thread and I guess it's the kind of resentment resulting from a struggle for control or dominance particularly between the Ramsays. "The Window" begins with the psychological arm wrestling match on the subject of the following day's weather being fine or not fine. This section ends with Mrs. Ramsay feeling that she had "triumphed again".
I had also mentioned entrapment, isolation, or claustrophobia as possible themes. The idea of being on an island surrounded by water. Mrs. Ramsay seems to "lock" her husband out of her room of private thoughts as does he. The rising tide which will soon flood the shore of the island and submerge Minta's pearl brooch.





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Re: Part 1: The Window

“There’ll be no landing at the Lighthouse tomorrow,” said Charles Tansley, clapping his hands together as he stood at the window with her husband. Surely, he had said enough. [Mrs. Ramsay] wished they would both leave her and James alone and go on talking.

But what people "say" in the book is not as important as what's implied between the lines. Characters express as much by what's left out as by what they make explicit.
Characters read emotions and needs, not just words.
Any comments on this?



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Re: Part 1: The Window

Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it. Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr Ramsay excited in his children’s breasts by his mere presence; standing, as now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought)...

James is so angry at Dad in this first scene. He seems to sense hypocrisy (that we all say one thing and actually want another). Dad wants power, but talks about the rain instead. This gap between what we really mean and claim to mean upsets James.

His mom also knows this truth in human communication--that we can't quite speak our emotional needs. We speak in code. But…she's more mature about it. Although her husband's hypocrisy sometimes upsets her too, she knows how to play the game, to feed everyone’s ego so that the family stays afloat.

Does anyone else feel that James is touchingly green about humanity here?



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Re: Part 1: The Window: Lily and Tansley

Lily and Tansley each feel so special--so different from everyone around them. But Woolf also shows communality in the dinner scene, moving between Lily and Tansely’s heads, showing how their alienation links them.
Anyone have thoughts on these two characters?



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Re: Part 1: The Window

[ Edited ]
Love (all different kinds) and need stand out as themes for me, and its object being Mrs. Ramsey. And I think there is a theme of impermanence that recurs symbolized by water -- the sea with its deceptive beauty and tranquility, a sea that devours and chips away and encroaches on life -- nature as a powerful force.

I think the group has a sense of community despite some tensions because they comes across as a band of misfits joined together in their dependency on the Ramseys, and on Mrs. Ramsey's kindness and care in particular. Mr. Ramsey himself acts a bit "weird" going off on his strange rants and even Mrs. Ramsey might be perceived as "odd" by taking them all under her wing.

Message Edited by CallMeLeo on 04-06-200708:12 AM

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Re: Part 1: The Window

Mrs. Ramsay's non-comments have a more powerful effect on Mr. Ramsay than any verbal argument. I would say definitely strong in her inflexibility.

The story of "The Fisherman and his Wife" is a fascinating accompaniment where Mrs. Ramsay reads from the story: "Well," said the wife, "if you won't be King, I will: go to the Flounder, for I will be King." Then the fisherman says to the flounder : "...For my wife, good Ilsabil, wills not as I'd have her will."
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Re: Part 1: The Window



CallMeLeo wrote:
Love (all different kinds) and need stand out as themes for me, and its object being Mrs. Ramsey. And I think there is a theme of impermanence that recurs symbolized by water -- the sea with its deceptive beauty and tranquility, a sea that devours and chips away and encroaches on life -- nature as a powerful force.





Great comment, CallMeLeo.
Yes--I agree that there's a tension between permanence and impermanence, or immortality and mortality. Everyone seems to sense that sea--the fact that things will pass away. Mr. Ramsay struggles for immortality in fame and books. Mrs. Ramsay also wants a bit of immortality--by marrying other people off, by perpetuating her family, by making a dinner party so memorable that it will have the same rippling effect as some philosopher's big book.
Nice comments.



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Re: Part 1: The Window

[ Edited ]

CallMeLeo wrote:
Mrs. Ramsay's non-comments have a more powerful effect on Mr. Ramsay than any verbal argument. I would say definitely strong in her inflexibility.




Sorry, need to correct myself. Meant to say strong in her FLEXibility.

Message Edited by CallMeLeo on 04-06-200712:35 PM

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Re: Part 1: The Window - The Sexes: Who wants attention?

Men in this book demand attention in obvious ways. Mr. Ramsay wants fame through his writing. At the dinner party, he's upset when Carmichael orders a second soup. He doesn't want other men setting the pace for the table.

But what do you think about the way women in this book need attention? Lily and Mrs. Ramsay certainly do want others to admire them. Mrs. Ramsay is vain; Lily wishes she were better understood by anyone.
Does anyone want to talk about the different form that egoism takes in men and women in this book?



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Re: Part 1: The Window - Mrs. Ramsay as a ship's mast

The first section of the book begins and ends with Mrs. Ramsay comforting men in her life. As the novel opens, she says to James, “Yes, of course [you will go sailing], if it’s fine tomorrow…. But you’ll have to be up with the lark.” Then the section ends as she says to her husband, “Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet tomorrow. You won’t be able to go.”

Mrs. Ramsay gives the chapter a structural hug. She’s its central support, like the mast of a ship or lighthouse on shore. And throughout this section, Lily is watching her intently, painting her portrait.
Does anyone want comment on Mrs. Ramsay’s role as the central support in this book?



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Re: Part 1: The Window

I am really enjoying this book. I have read and reread several sections and have gotten a much better feel for the 'flow' of the story this way. One really must read this slowly to clearly see the picture VW is painting of the characters and setting.

As for the feel of community - I haven't yet received the feeling that this group of lives that are intertwined in the first chapter really fit into the definition of community. Besides the common thread ("flashing her needles") of Mrs. Ramsey who has brought them all together - the 'shared element' that I suppose can define them as 'community' - I haven't yet viewed them as such.

I do love the way VW moves from one character's perspective into another. For example, the end of Chapter 3 the incident of what happened to Lily and her painting is told from the perspective of Mrs. Ramsey and the beginning of Chapter 4, the incident is viewed (with a slight back track in time to replay the incident) from Lily's perspective... "Indeed, he almost knocked her easel over, coming down upon her with his hands waving shouting out 'Boldly we rode and well,'..."

VW also does this with the scene that plays out between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey in Chapter 6 regarding the trip to the lighthouse - and the struggle between the pursuit of truth or consideration for James' feelings. Chapter 7 then rewinds the incident in order to convey the perspective of the child, James - and what he sees (which is more of the female and male energy behind the struggle).

Ch. 6 ends with Mr. Ramsey's description, "...and bending his magnificent head before her - who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?" And at the beginning of Ch. 7, from James, "...he hated him for the exaltation and sublimity of his gestures; for the magnificence of his head..." I like how VW is so vivid in her descriptions, and yet repeats the description of things - like Mr. Ramsey's head being 'magnificient'. Or the 'beak of brass, the arid scimitar' from James' description of his father.
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Re: Part 1: The Window

[ Edited ]
SumayyaA,
Those are really fantastic observations: That we'll often slightly rewind a scene as we head into the next, so that we see the same moments from another character's perspective.
But doesn't that effect leave you with a sense of community...if only of a community that the members don't always consciously appreciate, themselves? The characters are all working through the same stuff--their lives together. They might not always appreciate their roles in this community. Lily often thinks no one understands her. So does Mr. Ramsay. So does Tansley. But we see and value their connections. The narrative thread--which flies like God in knowing these minds--shows how dependent and loving they are.



SumayyaA wrote:
I am really enjoying this book. I have read and reread several sections and have gotten a much better feel for the 'flow' of the story this way. One really must read this slowly to clearly see the picture VW is painting of the characters and setting.

As for the feel of community - I haven't yet received the feeling that this group of lives that are intertwined in the first chapter really fit into the definition of community. Besides the common thread ("flashing her needles") of Mrs. Ramsey who has brought them all together - the 'shared element' that I suppose can define them as 'community' - I haven't yet viewed them as such.

I do love the way VW moves from one character's perspective into another. For example, the end of Chapter 3 the incident of what happened to Lily and her painting is told from the perspective of Mrs. Ramsey and the beginning of Chapter 4, the incident is viewed (with a slight back track in time to replay the incident) from Lily's perspective... "Indeed, he almost knocked her easel over, coming down upon her with his hands waving shouting out 'Boldly we rode and well,'..."

VW also does this with the scene that plays out between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey in Chapter 6 regarding the trip to the lighthouse - and the struggle between the pursuit of truth or consideration for James' feelings. Chapter 7 then rewinds the incident in order to convey the perspective of the child, James - and what he sees (which is more of the female and male energy behind the struggle).

Ch. 6 ends with Mr. Ramsey's description, "...and bending his magnificent head before her - who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?" And at the beginning of Ch. 7, from James, "...he hated him for the exaltation and sublimity of his gestures; for the magnificence of his head..." I like how VW is so vivid in her descriptions, and yet repeats the description of things - like Mr. Ramsey's head being 'magnificient'. Or the 'beak of brass, the arid scimitar' from James' description of his father.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 04-07-200711:53 PM




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Re: Part 1: The Window

IlanaSimons wrote:

"But doesn't that effect leave you with a sense of community...if only of a community that the members don't always consciously appreciate, themselves? The characters are all working through the same stuff--their lives together. They might not always appreciate their roles in this community. Lily often thinks no one understands her. So does Mr. Ramsay. So does Tansley. But we see and value their connections. The narrative thread--which flies like God in knowing these minds--shows how dependent and loving they are."

I do get that - to a degree - but not completely yet. Perhaps I haven't read far enough to really feel this yet. Maybe when I reach the dinner scene this will put things in better perspective - having them all sitting before me.
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Re: Part 1: The Window



SumayyaA wrote:
IlanaSimons wrote:

"But doesn't that effect leave you with a sense of community...if only of a community that the members don't always consciously appreciate, themselves? The characters are all working through the same stuff--their lives together. They might not always appreciate their roles in this community. Lily often thinks no one understands her. So does Mr. Ramsay. So does Tansley. But we see and value their connections. The narrative thread--which flies like God in knowing these minds--shows how dependent and loving they are."

I do get that - to a degree - but not completely yet. Perhaps I haven't read far enough to really feel this yet. Maybe when I reach the dinner scene this will put things in better perspective - having them all sitting before me.


Despite posting my own thoughts on community earlier I couldn't help thinking more about it. VW's writing, the bombardment of thought and feeling from each character, leaves my head in a whirl. But I had a thought - if we take away all the inner dialogue that is so disconcerting, we might be left with a picture of a group (a community) of mostly creative individuals, made up of adults and children, enjoying their vacation, getting along just fine, doing their own thing, sometimes alone, sometimes pairing off. It's in their thoughts that they are truly isolated, alone, apart from everyone; and it's the access we have to these thoughts that cause the dissonance in the community, and therefore, in our own minds and make us, the reader, get the impression the group has no sense of community when in reality they do.
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Re: Part 1: The Window



SumayyaA wrote:
I am really enjoying this book. I have read and reread several sections and have gotten a much better feel for the 'flow' of the story this way. One really must read this slowly to clearly see the picture VW is painting of the characters and setting.





I couldn't agree with you more, SumayyaA. The thoughts and feelings that flash so startlingly make it a far richer read. I, too, find there are parts I must slow down or read again. Also, it's a book I will enjoy reading again and again and always come away with something new.

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Re: Part 1: The Window



CallMeLeo wrote:

Despite posting my own thoughts on community earlier I couldn't help thinking more about it. VW's writing, the bombardment of thought and feeling from each character, leaves my head in a whirl. But I had a thought - if we take away all the inner dialogue that is so disconcerting, we might be left with a picture of a group (a community) of mostly creative individuals, made up of adults and children, enjoying their vacation, getting along just fine, doing their own thing, sometimes alone, sometimes pairing off. It's in their thoughts that they are truly isolated, alone, apart from everyone; and it's the access we have to these thoughts that cause the dissonance in the community, and therefore, in our own minds and make us, the reader, get the impression the group has no sense of community when in reality they do.




Neat observation: You're saying that the exterior picture of these people shows community, and their interiors show discord.
I like what you're saying--I can hear the inner voice of frustration against the surface silence.

But I also think that the interior shows some community, even when characters aren't conscious or appreciative of it. Mr. Ramsay wants fame and thinks he'll get it through books. Mrs. Ramsay just wants her family to enjoy the dinner party. But we as readers see that this seeming difference in their mindsets is also a similarity: these people both want some slice of immortality, to be appreciated and remembered through time. A lot of characters have inner frustrations--thinking they're alone, hungry for attention--but we see the similarities in all their needs, which link them.



Ilana
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