Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, Tuesday

Though I was already familiar with one of Virginia Woolf’s short stories (“Kew Gardens”), I mainly noticed with Monday, Tuesday how the stories reflected her domestic, in addition to artistic, concerns. I sometimes lost track of exactly what Woolf was going for due to her experimental efforts, but a few stories stuck out. “A Society” seemed to be the story that most reflected the concerns she discusses in A Room of One’s Own (by dealing more directly with the issue of women’s disconnect from the goals of much of the art of her time), which I could also see to some degree in “An Unwritten Novel” (though I wondered more with this story if there were more specific works she was responding to, while the former story seemed a more generalized response), while “A Haunted House” and “The Mark on the Wall” appeared to be intended more as responses to other kinds of writing in Woolf’s time, reinterpreted to fit in with the Bloomsbury lifestyle, as Kempe noted with Woolf’s approaches to houses and rooms (76-77). I again couldn’t tell if they were meant as responses to any specific works, but the former reminded me a bit of The Turn of the Screw (as a more psychological reimagining of the idea of the haunted house concept), which I guess Roger Fry may have also noticed when he made the Henry James comparison with “A Mark on the Wall,” if he had seen this story yet as well (Kempe 81). The latter, meanwhile came across as perhaps a counterpoint to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by featuring a narrator who can take some comfort in finding something so out of the ordinary that reflects “how very little control of our possessions we have” (48).

I wasn’t as sure what to make at first of the revelation that the mark was a snail. Going along with “Kew Gardens,” I could see the symbolism of the snail as reflecting the natural world in contrast to society’s often more materialistic concerns, though I was surprised that it would come up in more than one story. It made me wonder if this story’s position at the end of collection reflected how this symbol was the ultimate point that Woolf wanted readers to get from her stories, though I hadn’t always associated each story so much as I was reading them, since they sometimes seemed to have rather different interests and approaches, and so I hadn’t thought so much of their arrangements as part of the collection as a whole. I mainly just wasn’t quite sure how to tie this idea in with my impression of this story as related to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” since Gilman didn’t seem at first like the kind of writer Woolf would be so interested in responding to (even that story also responded in some way to the issues of modern art and women’s rights in relation to writing), though I guess their interests were just similar enough that Woolf felt she needed to emphasize the main point with which they differed, since her work seemed to try to and avoid dealing so much with the issue of madness, I guess because she was trying to keep a more optimistic outlook (with protagonists who can learn something from these concepts rather than be destroyed by them), or not let it distract from her other artistic interests (so that in Mrs. Dalloway, for example, these concerns are explored with Septimus rather than more overtly with Clarissa). As part of Monday, Tuesday, I could see this story as meant as a kind of bookend with “A Haunted House,” maybe to show the progress of Woolf’s ideas of nature and art as they develop through the collection, from the relatively straightforward concerns of the first two stories to the philosophies of the last ones, with the narrator of “The Mark on the Wall” showing more awareness of these ideas than previous ones did.

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