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Examining Virginia Woolf's“Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid”

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Kyra Wojcik

on 27 October 2013

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Transcript of Examining Virginia Woolf's“Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid”

Examining Virginia Woolf's“Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid”
The Reporter's Job: Consider the author's purpose
What is the author writing (genre, purpose, form, etc.)? How does this impact the message of the text?

Virginia Woolf is writing an essay in the midst of an air raid. She reveals this in the quote,”The Germans were over this house last night and the night before that. Here they are again. It is a queer experience, lying in the dark and listening to the zoom of a hornet which may at any moment sting you to death.” It makes it feel more intuitive because you feel like you are actually there with her during World War 2 air raids in London.
The Historian's Job: Look for historical context
What was happening in the world when the text was written?

At this time World War II was raging on and the men were at war while women were working to make weapons for them at the same time women were having to work outside of the home and they wanted to do more for their country but they weren’t allowed to because they were woman. An example would be “The defenders are men, and the attackers are men. Arms are not given to Englishwomen either to fight the enemy or to defend herself. She must lie weaponless tonight. Yet if she believes that the fight going on up in the sky is a fight by the English to protect freedom, by the Germans to destroy freedom, she must fight, so far as she can, on the side of the English. How far can she fight for freedom without firearms? By making arms, or clothes or food. But there is another way of fighting for freedom without arms; we can fight with the mind. We can make ideas that will help the young Englishman who is fighting up in the sky to defeat the enemy.”
The Wordsmith's Job: Investigate the author’s language, tone, and style.
What words with multiple meanings does the author use to emphasize the message?

One word that emphasizes the message is freedom. It explains how the people are not really free, they are trapped somehow. Another word that emphasizes the message is queer. Queer is not really a common word to use and it makes the message seem different.
How does the message address the audience’s needs, values, and attitudes?

"Thoughts of Peace in an Air Raid" is highly published and discussed by men and women alike. The purpose is served as women get gather together to drink their afternoon tea to share their ideas and opinions. This writing has awaken the sleepy minds of those women who feel they have no contribution to give to the war. Virginia Woolf strongly believed just because men were in the battle field it didn't mean that women had to sit back and do nothing. Woolf's essay helped spread the word that it is possible to feel peace during war. "Unless we can think peace into existence we--not this one body in this one bed but millions of bodies yet to be born--will lie in the same darkness and hear the same death rattle overhead." She wants her audience to come to action from her words and stir the fire within them. "Yet it is a sound--far more than prayers and anthems--that should compel one to think about peace." Her words demanded free thinking, deep thinking, and awakened emotions. "But to make ideas effective, we must be able to fire them off. We must put them into action." Woolf describes feeling helpless as she lay in bed one night while bombs were exploding in the distance. "Let us think what we can do to create the only efficient air-raid shelter while the guns on the hill go pop pop pop....."
Conclusion from the reading
What can you discover about the author from the text?

I can tell that Virginia Woolf was a strong spirited woman who believes in freedom and peace for the world. I can tell a lot about her personality by the following quote. “What is it that prevents us? ‘Hitler!’ the loudspeakers cry with one voice. Who is Hitler? What is he? Aggressiveness, tyranny, the insane love of power made manifest, they reply. Destroy that, and you will be free.” She is really passionate about freedom for all and you can see it in her writing.
What rhetorical techniques does the author use? (Consider ethos, pathos, and logos)

Woolf uses the technique of rhetorical question quite a lot in this writing. The quote “Why not bury the head in the pillow, plug the ears, and cease this futile activity of idea-making?” She is challenging her reader by asking why they should even care to think about things that do not relate to them. She then answers it saying “Because there are other tables besides officer tables and conference tables.” Here she is referencing the war strategist meeting and how they never let any new ideas in.
What response is the author looking to get from the various audiences?

I think that Mrs. Woolf was looking for her audience to realize what needs to be done in order for society to improve. In the quote,” But to make ideas effective, we must be able to fire them off. We must put them into action. And the hornet in the sky rouses another hornet in the mind.” you can tell she wants women and men alike to stand up for peace, freedom, and what they believe in. She wants people and society to change, not stay the same and be stagnant.
Reporter: Kyra Wojcik
Historian: Ivan Alcantara
Where was the text published or heard?

The Thoughts of peace on an Air Raid was written during WWII on August 1940 during an air raid. We know this because of two things; “Written in August 1940, during World War II”; “— will lie in the same darkness and hear the same death rattle overhead. Let us think what we can do to create the only efficient air-raid shelter while the guns on the hill go pop pop pop and the searchlights finger the clouds and now and then, sometimes close at hand, sometimes far away, a bomb drops.”
Why were the events the author refers to in the text important?

In this piece of writing Virginia says that the reason all war starts is for freedom and this is important because she later on says that we will never truly have freedom because of societies machines imposing on us what they want. Some examples that illustrate these ideas are; “Up there in the sky young Englishmen and young German men are fighting each other. The defenders are men, and the attackers are men.” Another is “Arms are not given to Englishwomen either to fight the enemy or to defend herself. She must lie weaponless tonight. Yet if she believes that the fight going on up in the sky is a fight by the English to protect freedom, by the Germans to destroy freedom, she must fight, so far as she can, on the side of the English.” But the strongest quote would be; “That current flows fast and furious. It issues in a spate of words from the loudspeakers and the politicians. Every day they tell us that we are a free people, fighting to defend freedom. That is the current that has whirled the young airman up into the sky and keeps him circling there among the clouds. Down here, with a roof to cover us and a gas mask handy, it is our business to puncture gas bags and discover seeds of truth. It is not true that we are free. We are both prisoners to-night — he boxed up in his machine with a gun handy; we lying in the dark with a gas mask handy. If we were free we should be out in the open, dancing, at the play, or sitting at the window talking together. What is it that prevents us? “Hitler!” the loudspeakers cry with one voice. Who is Hitler? What is he? Aggressiveness, tyranny, the insane love of power made manifest, they reply. Destroy that, and you will be free.”
What influence did the text had on the world and society?

In her own way she was helping the world fight Hitlerism through writing and Ideas she didn’t have much of an impact on the world from what we read but she made strong points an excerpt of this would be; “How far can she fight for freedom without firearms? By making arms, or clothes or food. But there is another way of fighting for freedom without arms; we can fight with the mind. We can make ideas that will help the young Englishman who is fighting up in the sky to defeat the enemy.”

Wordsmith: Emily Blasco
What literary devices does the author use to deliver the message?

The author uses a simile to deliver the message. “The drone of the planes is now like the sawing of a branch overhead” helps people visualize what it was like at the battle field. It helps people hear the sounds and feel the fear that people had.
How does the author use words to evoke a response from the reader?

The author describes what it was like on the battle field. It compares the sounds of the planes to sawing a branch. The author wanted the reader to feel what the people felt at the battle field and have a thought of what it was like to be there.
How does the author organize the words in the text for a maximum impact?

The author organizes the text so it will make people think. Everything was put together so that people could understand what it was like to be there.
Who are the author’s target audiences?

This essay encourages women to start thinking deeply so, they too, can contribute to the war. "But there is another way of fighting for freedom without arms; we can fight with the mind." Women should fight for their right to have a voice even if is of the mind. Virginia Woolf opened the minds of women to make them think, come up with ideas and voice their opinions.
The PR Director's Job: Discover the Audience
PR Director: Ryan Franklin
How might the various audiences interpret the text in different ways?

The essay appeals to women's innate emotions and the writer asks many questions. "Could we switch off the maternal instinct at the command of a table full of politicians?" This could be interpreted that women can not just stop being mothers just because a man of authority tells her to do so. it can also mean that a politician has invited a women to sit around the cabinet table as a member of the board. Women wonder if she can leave her position as a mother and have a career. "Suppose that imperative among the peace terms was: "Child-bearing is to be restricted to a very small class of especially selected women," would we submit?" This statement could be interpreted as a demand from the government telling woman that she must limit the number of children she can bear. Or it could mean there is a comparison between men and women responsibilities.
How does the speech create a desire in the audience to look at the world in another way?

The brilliance of Virginia Woolf's mind has given her readers a feeling of trust toward her. They cling to her wisdom and the goodwill she produces. In turn, her readers have a desire to awaken their own senses and self value. This essay contributes to the change of attitudes of how people see themselves during war or at peacetime. Women should never forget they are individuals who can contribute to the war and to society by their ideas and opinions. "Why not bury the head in the pillow, plug the ears, and cease this futile activity of idea-making? Because there are other tables besides officer tables and conference tables." Women may not hold political positions or allowed to bear arms, but they do have minds of their own and can voice their opinions. Women need not feel they are stuck at home with raising of the children, cooking and cleaning during wartime. "We can make ideas that will help the young Englishman who is fighting up in the sky to defeat the enemy." Women do not need to feel helpless or fear the lack of protection. Women are important and are free because they have their minds to protect them. She created a way for women to be a contributor during the war, but mostly she changed the attitude that freedom and peace were not only achieved by bombs dropping from the sky. Freedom has to be fought for, but not necessarily with arms. Freedom can be achieved by deep thinking minds that create ideas. Ideas that turn to images and images that result in action. The mind can bring peace from the memory of life before the war and thinking of peaceful times. "Since the room is dark it can create only from memory."
Speak up for yourself and let your voice be heard! No matter who you are! You can do big things when you put your mind to it.
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