Sunday, November 4, 2007
Woolf, Jacob's Room
[Posted by Bailey and Kristina]
Woolf’s novel poses a variety of questions and she’s clearly staggered away from the idea of a conventional novel. How does Jacob’s Room immediately differ from what we’ve read thus far? Do you see any similarities?
In the first chapter of this novel, we are thrown into the middle of a scene.
There is no introducing explanation of what is going on, but we
are forced into
the activities and conversations of the characters. What do you think is Woolf’s
purpose for opening the novel in such a way? Do you think it was merely an
indication that the entire novel would be set in a form where there is never any
concrete explanation of what is happening? Or do you think she has a deeper
reason for throwing us into her text?
Often times, the novel seems confusing and difficult to follow. As we said in
class, we are constantly forced to re-read and revert back to previous passages
in order to understand what is happening. How might the idea of time effect
this confusion? Does Woolf use the same technique that Joyce uses; like Joyce,
does she use time to propel her novel forward? Or does her use of time only
confuse the reader more?
Likewise, there are many references to time and clocks in this novel. It is
something that the characters always seem to be concerned with. What do you
think this says about the characters? Why do you think Woolf changes periods
of time so sporadically throughout the novel? What do you think about this
strategy of writing – specifically does this style support
In her essays, Woolf claimed the modern movement was found in the “spirit”.
She criticizes Bennett, because he is not concerned with the “life” of the
characters. Does Woolf seem concerned with the “spirit” of her characters?
Jacob Flanders is presumably her protagonist, but the reader never hears or
directly follows him. Our interpretation of Jacob, along with all of our thoughts
on his character, is relayed to us by other characters. Why does Woolf use
other characters to portray her main character? Is Jacob really the main
character? If he is, is he a strong main character? If he isn’t, who is the main
Because we don’t receive any unbiased opinion of Jacob, we can never really
grasp his true character. For example, in chapter 5 we see Clara writing about
Jacob in her diary. She cannot quite figure out what to truly say about him. This
would seem to imply that we cannot truly know Jacob’s character. However,
Woolf criticizes Arnold Bennett by saying that we never truly know any of
Bennett’s characters. Do you think we ever truly know who Jacob is as a
person? If not, is Woolf being hypocritical by criticizing Bennett?
It’s important to remember whose opinion of Jacob we are receiving. Most
descriptions of Jacob are told to us by women. How might this effect gender
roles in the novel?
Does Woolf apply the traditional feminine and masculine
roles to her characters? Woolf is generally labeled a feminist; do you think this
proves true in Jacob’s Room? How does she, as a female author, differ from
what we’ve read thus far? Do she and Joyce differ in terms of writing styles
because of their sex? Do you see similarities between Woolf and West because
they are both women, or do they contrast in their portrayal of gender?
Finally, what is the basis for Woolf’s novel? In other words, what is her purpose?
Furthermore, why are we concerned with her novel? Some subsidiary questions
to help you answer this might be: Is there a plot? If there is, what is it; if there is
no plot, what is driving her story? What does Woolf seem to focus on? Perhaps
most importantly, is it interesting? Why or why not? Does her novel grab your
attention or do you feel it’s lacking something important?
Posted by Jared at 7:28 AM