Virginia Woolf: Assertive or Introspective?

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Virginia Woolf: Assertive or Introspective?

Virginia Woolf begins her memoir Moments of Being with a conscious attempt to write for her readers. While writing her life story, however, she begins to turn inwards and she becomes enmeshed in her writing. By focusing on her thoughts surrounding the incidents in her life instead of the incidents themselves, she unconsciously loses sight of her outward perspective and writes for herself. Her memoir becomes a loose series of declarations of her beliefs connected only by her wandering train of thought. Although Moments of Being deals largely with her conjectures, she is not trying to convince the reader of these beliefs' validity since she is so absorbed in the act of writing. What begins as an outwardly focused memoir evolves into Virginia Woolf's exploration of her thoughts and feelings.

Mrs. Woolf begins her memoir in an easygoing, conversational manner by deliberately reaching out to her audience. She states in her first paragraph that she knows many different ways to write a memoir but for lack of time cannot begin to sift through them all and so she simply begins by relating her first memory. Stating that she is not deciding upon a set method and formalizing that she will be informal demonstrates a frame of mind directed outward; it is her attempt to involve the reader in her work. The sympathetic reader feels as if he and Woolf are chatting about her life over a cup of tea. After narrating her first memory she returns to the structure of her memoir, explaining that she could never really succeed in conveying the feelings represented by her first memory without first describing herself. She notes: "Here I come to one of the memoir writer's difficulties – one of the reason...

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...me; it give me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together. Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me" (p. 72). She explains that it is through writing down her shocks that she both makes them real and takes away their pain. Viewing her memoir in this context, it is no surprise that she writes more to herself than to any audience. The simple act of writing about these shocks is possibly her greatest pleasure.

Although Virginia Woolf s Moments of Being begins with concern for her reader, she eventually gets caught up in her writing and writes on a more personal level. Rather than writing her autobiography to convince the reader of something, she writes a heartfelt, introspective work. In writing her autobiography, she is not searching for reader empathy; instead she is coming to terms with her past.

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