In our class discussion for Jacob’s Room we mentioned the fact that Woolf addresses her characters in a very impersonal way throughout the novel. This is a puzzlement to me when she is so intimate with characters in many of her other works. I have been inspired to observe the fourteenth chapter of Jacob’s Room (pages 186 & 187) with this thought in mind to see what I can make of it.
The distant tone that Woolf takes as she describes people is so very different from how she treats people in her other works. No care is taken in describing the characters: “”Bonamy took up a bill for a hunting-crop.” “Mrs. Durrant was taking a party to Greenwich.” These clipped references to the people in the novel cause the reader to take a similar thought towards the characters: clipped and brief. Woolf speaks of monotonous things rather than the emotions, thoughts, and feelings involved in her characters’ day-to-day lives.
The only glimpses of real emotion come from the way the characters act towards Jacob. Bonamy calling “Jacob! Jacob!” implies so many emotions: heartache, fondness, wistfulness. These feelings also come to mind as Betty Flanders holds out Jacob’s old shoes. However, I wonder whether Virginia does this intentionally. Is she trying to convey the emotions but, because this is her first novel, falling short. Perhaps it is one of her experiments to see what does and does not work. Then again, perhaps she is intentionally forming a picture of people who keep it all inside and show very little emotion, even to themselves.