In the section on Between the Acts in her article “A Re-created World: The Years and Between the Acts,” Susan Dick comments on the unique structure of the novel. Her main focus was how Woolf uses techniques of both a play and a novel in order to build her characters. This enables each character to have two identities: the role he or she takes on in the play and the role of his or her true self within the novel. This allows Woolf to use not only play-like devices such as monologues but narrative comments to present her characters and further her story.
Dick finds that the narrator is the most complex role within “this rich medley of interwoven stories.” This narrator uses techniques from several of Woolf’s other novels in order to better tell the story. One such technique being the “intrusive narrator” from Jacob’s Room that speaks of the characters past and of their natures in order to comment on what they do. The other technique refers to when Woolf’s narrator acts from within the characters consciousnesses to get their point of view like in Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Years.
Dick notes that like in Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf does not use the chapter within this novel. Rather, she uses the narrator to cause these breaks in the novel through tone and perception. She also employs the jumps between the play and the novel story frame to assist in such breaks. This is seen in the way that the pageant continually interrupts the stories of the ‘true’ characters in the story.
The consistent silence and emptiness surrounding Miss La Trobe during the novel is another issue that Dick brings up. These moments are brought about especially during the waiting between the scenes or before the play begins. Miss La Trobe feels as though all her influence and her chances at glory are shattered and done with when at one point the stage is fairly empty. She flies into a panic of sorts and seems to unravel before the reader’s eyes. Dick views such moments at risks of “exposure to reality” that the audience is rescued from by weather or cattle.
Dick goes on to explain that the various exchanges within the novel between chaos and creation, harmony and disruption as well as between things that act more to complement each other like silence and sound, emptiness and fullness act to create the rhythm than runs throughout the entire work. She then goes on to compare this revelation to several of Woolf’s other novels. Dick believes that this focus on the “degeneration and discord” gives the novel an impression of predicting disaster and destruction. She explains that Woolf is using this to present a community close to destruction and then having the audience comment on it with things such as needing a center and something to unite them. Dick points out that there is the possibility presented at the end of the novel of a re-created world coming to take the place of the one that is falling apart.
Dick, Susan. “A Re-created World: The Years and Between the Acts.” Virginia Woolf. Edward Arnold, 1989. 70 -81.