In “The New Dress,” “The Man Who Loved His Kind,” and “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf, the use of consciousness is shown greatly. Stream of Consciousness is the narrator’s ways of helping readers understand the characters thoughts and emotions, in which they pass through their minds. Woolf is well known of her use of Stream of Consciousness and uses the device significantly throughout the three short stories.
In “The New Dress,” readers can quickly identify Stream of Conciseness being used. Some readers might believe that it is easier see the device being used because the story revolves greatly around beauty. In a great amount of Virginia Woolf’s stories, many critics believe Woolf has a “concern for beauty,” since it is such a “recurrent feature” in her writing and is used in such a significant way (Sumner, 1).
Right from the beginning of “The New Dress,” readers can feel the same way the main character, Mabel feels. In the story it seems like each character is portrayed in a Stream of Conciseness narrative and each character has a different example of it being used. Without saying it, the maid Mrs. Barnet coveys a vibe of uncertainty to Mabel and the way she is dressed. Although Mrs. Barnet does not say anything to Mabel, her actions speak louder than words. After Mabel hands Mrs.
Barnet her jacket, the maid then handed her “the mirror and touching the brushes and thus drawing her attention, perhaps rather markedly, to all the appliances for tidying and improving hair, complexion, clothes, which existed on the dressing table, confirmed the suspicion—that it was not right, not quite right” (“The New Dress,” 1). Another way Woolf shows an example of the device being used is through the host of the party, Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa Dalloway makes the visitors feel welcomed at her party and readers only hear her speak once; encouraging Mabel to stay longer. Lastly, Woolf used the device greatly with Mabel.
Multiple times throughout the story, readers can hear the thoughts Mabel is having about herself and others. Woolf portrays Mabel to be on an emotional rollercoaster, battling her issues with self-confidence, the desire to feel wanted and the social struggles through her upbringing. Many readers can distinguish the story, “The New Dress,” as being narrated in third person however, the significance of hearing the thoughts of Mabel, as if it were in the first person, make the message of the story and usage of the Stream of Conciseness much more meaningful.
Likewise, the story “The Man Who Loved His Own Kind,” is narrated in third person as well however, readers are not able to hear the thoughts the characters are feeling but, can sense their emotions instead. From beginning to end readers can sense the feeling that Pricket Ellis is not wanting to be at the party. Critics could describe the character as being hostile and unwanted by the other guest of the party.
Ellis “took the clock and put it on the middle of his mantelpiece, he felt that he wished nobody to see his face” (“The Man Who Loved His Own Kind,” 8). Although readers could not outright hear what Ellis was thinking like readers could in “The New Dress,” it was easy to sense the emotional struggles he was facing at the dinner party. He struggled throughout the story trying to make himself feel as if he felt was wanted there. Throughout the passage, he spoke about his love.
Critics might agree that Woolf portrays the literary device most through the way Ellis talks about his love. Readers feel, imagine, and hear the love he has for his love. At the end of the story Ellis leaves the party, provided, he stands up for himself and love. He states, “I am afraid I am one of those very ordinary people… who love their kind” (“The Man Who Loved His Own Kind,” 17).
In addition to the two stories, the short passage “A Haunted House,” shows many examples of Stream of Conciseness being used throughout a present and a past time era. In “A Haunted House,” a couple is living in a house that is also occupied by ghost. The couple hear the ghost throughout the house walking, opening doors, and moving things around. Little did they know the ghost couple was on a quest to find “treasure” that was hidden in the house.
After living in the house for quite some time the couple passes away and then reconnect at the house as ghost as well. All through the passage the originally ghost give readers an understanding of their life when first living in the house before passing away. “Here we slept,” “Kisses without number,” “Walking in the morning,” “Silver between the trees,” “Upstairs,” “In the garden,” “When summer came,” “In the winter and snow time” (“A Haunted House,” 321).
Reviewers could suggest that their confessions of their past, aids readers in learning about their past experiences and never-ending love for one another. “A focus upon this aspect of Woolf’s work is an indication of our own fascination with the imaginative life, the supernatural” (Wisker, 4). Many of Woolf’s critics could argue if she wrote about supernatural characters or not.
Many believed she did where as many did not. However, throughout all the different articles, they could all still agree that there was more to it than just the idea of supernatural fictions; something more meaningful, that she imagined her readers would be able to grasp and relate to.
In conclusion, Woolf uses the literary device Stream of Conciseness throughout her stories, “The New Dress,” “The Man Who Loved His Own Kind,” and “A Haunted House.” From beginning to end, critics could agree each story used the device effectively but, in a different way. Critics can “speculate about the arguments” that the examples are given “within and by a diverse range..” of meaning that the literary device can be used in numerous ways (Wisker, 4). Not only is this compelling in teaching readers ways to identify when the term is being used but, the diverse ways the term could be used — emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.