Modernism and consciousness

The focus on the individual consciousness in Modernist texts marks a clear shift from the focus on the exterior social world of characters to the focus on interiority. The extract from To The Lighthouse in ‘The Brown Stocking’ focuses on the inner consiousness of characters rather than their external circumstances. In my opinion, while the novels that preceded the Modernist novels used the social world as a way of getting into the identity of characters, the Modernist novel uses external situations to frame the inner consciousness of characters. For example, we enter into Mrs. Ramsay’s head through the seemingly banal happenings taking place (i.e. The measuring of the stocking) and from there, we read about her preoccupations and thoughts. Therefore, we seem to inhabit the space of her mind, reading her thoughts and gaining a greater insight into her identity then if we were given physical and social descriptions of the character. In addition, the difficulty of getting through the Woolf’s writings is due largely in part to the shifts in focus in passages. For example, we are taken from the stockings to the charm of Lily’s eyes, to Jame’s fidgeting, to the furniture etc. However, this shifts in inner focus reflects the workings of the mind. We are never completely focused on an issue for an extended period of time and we are led on to dwell upon an idea from the preceeding idea. Therefore I feel that Modernism’s focus on consciousness does well to better reflect reality and its focus on interiority proves to be more real than if it preoccupied with the social world of characters.

One thought on “Modernism and consciousness