Monday, September 6, 2010

He loves me, he loves me not

Many ideas popped into my head while observing the way Woolf describes her characters in “Kew Gardens.” I could find several different directions to go with what she was trying to convey but not one over another – it still has me thinking which was, I’m certain, her intent all along.

Very little of the story is dialogue. There is minimal contact between the characters but rather between the characters and their own personal thoughts and feelings. One such “conversation” that I found intriguing is the one on page 162 between Eleanor and Simon. Simon is just walking along and suddenly asks his wife whether or not she minds that he is fantasizing about the chick he had a crush on. Who does that? Or furthermore, who lets their husband say something like that and not jump all over him?

I have two theories on what Woolf is doing here. First, that Simon and Eleanor are in fact the perfect couple. They are completely open and honest about every conceivable thing they have ever done and easily forgive the other for their past. This relationship is also open in that even though they have children together they are so open and confident in their relationship that they have no problem with the other daydreaming of members of the opposite sex. My second theory is that neither Simon nor Eleanor is happy with the marriage. Perhaps they got married too soon before realizing how much they did not like each other or perhaps it was something expected by their families. For whatever reason they are unhappy yet making stabbing remarks at each other in the form of polite conversation for the sake of the children.

I find the second of the two theories to be the most probable but I tend towards sarcasm and underhandedness. This presents two sides of Woolf’s view on marriage. Did she mean to favor one or the other or did she purposely create this duality of relationships to express her mixed feelings towards marriage?

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a Mark on the Wall...

I was intrigued by our discussion in class concerning the rebellion against things being nailed down in “The Mark on the Wall.” Upon rereading the story I was drawn toward Woolf’s possibilities for what she might gain from finding out the true identity of the mark on the wall…

“Knowledge? Matter for further speculation?”

Knowledge, yes – she would then know beyond a shadow of a doubt what the mark is. However, that knowledge would destroy the possibility of further speculation. Once you are certain of a thing’s identity why on Earth would you continue to speculate about it? There would be nothing to speculate at that point.

Does this suggest that knowledge is actually the death of creative thing? Imagine I were to view a glass bowl and then speculate about its creator. I envision a wirey old man laboring beside a blazing furnace. I watch as he slowly heats the glass in order to shape it… I can speculate on all the work and people involved in the creation of that glass. However, if someone were to tell me that the bowl was made by a machine that produced a thousand more identical bowls then all the romance is gone. There is nothing more to be known and therefore nothing more for me to think about. The idea is simple: having all knowledge of something takes away all its possibilities.

The narrator seems to realize that to know for certain the identity of the mark will take all the intrigue away and end her thought process. As it so happens, she was exactly right. The moment the mark is identified as a snail is the final line of the story. She has knowledge of what the mark is and, like this blog entry, there is nothing left to say.