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The Lady in the Looking-Glass:
Transcript of The Lady in the Looking-Glass:
by Virginia Woolf
Annalee Elmore and Hope Hudson
Woolf's Other Works:
Point of View:
Virginia Woolf’s short story The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection (1929) examines the narrator’s own reflection in a mirror from an outsider’s perspective, her thoughts, follies, and realities. It becomes apparent that the woman, Isabella Tyson, is describing herself in the third person because mirrors are not used to look at others, and stream-of-consciousness is rarely employed to describe another person. Woolf explores her character’s reflection, from her facade to her surroundings to her secrets. Eventually the self-realization is made that the facade of Isabella is empty, naked, and alone, despite her plethora of emotions, jewelry, and friends.
Isabella Tyson’s estate, specifically her drawing-room and garden, during a warm season and sunny time of day, probably around 1929
Isabella’s home indirectly shows her character.
single, rich, high in society, and social
later discovers she is “perfectly empty,” with “no friends”
-story begins with her reflection performing everyday activities in the garden, thinking about everyday issues. As the story progresses, Isabella's character is further revealed
since she is seen as a reflection, it can be inferred that the narrator is Isabella; after picking apart herself from an outside perspective, she discovers that the facade she portrays is empty and alone.
more like a plot device
employed to change the narrator's topic
brings in the mail, which makes the narrator start wondering about less superficial aspects of her reflection, like her secrets
following the mailman's entrance, the exploration becomes deeper
narrator is real-life Isabella, describing her reflection
third person omniscient
"split-self" works well with stream-of-consciousness
hook is first sentence:
"People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms..."
no clear plot structure
conflict is internal, a woman battling self-realization
resolution: Isabella is empty
women in society
inside vs. outside
“People should not leave looking glasses hanging in their rooms”
“It was her profounder state of being that one wanted to catch and turn to words, the state that is to the mind what breathing is to the body, what one calls happiness or unhappiness. At the mention of those words it became obvious, surely, that she must be happy. She was rich; she was distinguished; she had many friends; she travel led -- she bought rugs in Turkey and blue pots in Persia. Avenues of pleasure radiated this way and that from where she stood with her scissors raised to cut the trembling branches while the lacy clouds veiled her face.”
“So she stood thinking. Without making any thought precise -- for she was one of those reticent people whose minds hold their thoughts enmeshed in clouds of silence -- she was filled with thoughts. Her mind was like her room, in which lights advanced and retreated, came pirouetting and stepping delicately, spread their tails, pecked their way; and then her whole being was suffused, like the room again, with a cloud of some profound knowledge, some unspoken regret, and then she was full of locked drawers, stuffed with letters, like her cabinets. To talk of 'prizing her open' as if she were an oyster, to use any but the finest and subtlest and most pliable tools upon her was impious and absurd.”
born January 25, 1882 in Kensington, London, England
Family was well off
both parents were well associated with society and artists- perfect for Woolf to experiment with writing
light-hearted/playful as a child
sexually abused by half-brothers at age 6
the early deaths of her mother and sister aided in her emotional damage. leads to an emotional breakdown
Studied at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London, introduced to many radical females who pushed for educational reforms for women
While she was in college, her father passed away (1904); this would lead to her institutionalization
met Leonard Woolf, who took a fancy to Virginia. By 1912, they married
despite her success, Woolf continuously found herself in bouts of depression and mood swings
On March 28,1941, Virginia Woolf committed suicide
Melymbrosia (original title)- Virginia Woolf’s first novel, released in 1915 titled The Voyage Out. Woolf experimented with several literary tools, including atypical and captivating narrative perspectives, dream-states, and free association prose.
Mrs. Dalloway- Woolf’s fourth novel was released in 1925. The story includes interior monologues and raises issues of feminism, mental illness, and homosexuality in post-World War I England.
“A literary technique that presents the thoughts and feelings of a character as they occur.” (The Free Dictionary)
revolutionary style of writing; many people were accustomed to formal styles that were very structured, which is extremely contrasting to the stream of consciousness, in which thoughts are written exactly as they come
In “The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection,” the stream of consciousness writing style gives the reader a more psychological perspective. Since this “self reflection” is taking place in the mind of the narrator, this writing style fits perfectly
the narrator is analyzing Isabella through a mirror; this gives the reader a hint that she is reflecting upon herself and her own character, since mirrors are typically used to look at oneself