The significance of time as a thematic device in the novels of Virginia Woolf



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Virginia Woolf has long been recognized and acclaimed as a stream-of-consciousness writer; her highly-developed technique which shows the fluid and unceasing activity of the human mind is, however, but one outgrowth of her preoccupation with time. This same preoccupation, evidenced in her progressive awareness of the psychological aspects of time, precipitates her experiment with time as a thematic device as well, an experiment which proves to be most successful in Mrs. Palloway. This study examines the use of time in her novels in order to trace the development of this experiment in her early work, to illustrate its success in Mrs. Palloway, and to indicate the decline of her artistic achievement in her later novels as a result of her abandonment of time (in the image of Big Ben) as a thematic device. Mrs. Palloway is considered primarily as an experiment in time, an attempt which is so effective that it results in her most finely-constructed work of art. In addition, an investigation of the nature of the themes developed through her use of time reveals a thoroughly subjective and sensitively- conveyed philosophy of life,, as well as her philosophy of writing. This analysis attempts to give a clearer understanding of her principles of composition, as well as the view of life which she constantly strove to impart in her work.