7.2 Specific Comments
In this section, the comments of certain critics that bear directly on the things examined in this study are discussed. (As before, the critical works referred to by author are the ones originally cited, unless otherwise stated.)
Bennett states that "the six characters, from the nursery to old age, express themselves in the same subtle and imaginative idiom." (p.32). There are two points that need to be addressed here. If by 'idiom' Bennett means a combination of tendencies in vocabulary and/or style, then the idiom is certainly not the same. The differences in pronoun usage, the differences in vocabulary richness, the differences in wordlength, and the differences in sentence length all point to a usage of language that does vary from character to character. It is admitted that the measures converge at some points, and that some of the differences are less pronounced than others, but this does not affect the overall contention. Also, the idiom is not the same from the 'nursery to old age'; all the pronoun aggregate scores show change over time and the graph of vocabulary richness shows increasing richness over time. Word length, sentence length, and soliloquy also show changes over time.
Bennett also states that "differentiation of character is ... confined to a symbolic hall mark" (p. 35). As has been pointed out, there is a good deal of differentiation in measures that are far from being symbolic hallmarks. The differentiation is deeply rooted in the character's use of language.
Bennett feels that this sameness of idiom and use only of an identifying symbol for differentiation enables the reader to attend to the 'human experience', rather than the portrayal of humans. The device was necessary, in her words, for "communicating the gradual unfolding of human consciousness" (pp. 35-6) in a group of similar human beings.
The results of these studies suggest rather that the levelling effect of the literary device is nowhere near as pronounced as Bennett suggests. While the characters' consciousness develops, it is the consciousness of six very different characters, not six similar ones. If 'human experience' as an entity is presented, it is as it is abstracted from the different lives and experiences of the characters, not as providing the rationale for their sameness. It is clear that a stronger emphasis on the individual is needed. Although it may be true that the individual is in some way subsumed into a greater whole on the two occasions of the group meeting, this is certainly not the case for the rest of the book. Whatever 'general' human experience lies in The Waves must be read in the context of the six characters whose lives the book depicts.
Gorsky makes two statements that require some discussion. The first is her contention that the "sentence length and structure vary not from individual to individual, but from one time period to another" (1972 pp. 458-9, and 1978 p.111). In partial refutation of this one need only point to the graph for mean sentence length (figure 28) which shows considerable variation from individual to individual, as well as - to be fair - from one time period to another. Unfortunately, the current study can say nothing about the details of sentence structure.
The second is her belief that "in [the] utterances the word choice and sentence structure are more or less the same. Only the characteristic interests and image patterns of each speaker mark one monologue from the next" (1978, p.111). As far as word choice is concerned, we have already seen significant differences, both in time and by character, in choice of personal pronouns at least. Not only use of personal pronouns, but also richness of vocabulary, word length, sentence length, and soliloquy length serve to mark one monologue from the next.
Gorsky believes that because of the above features the soliloquies become "a kind of mask, increasing the sense of unity among the six and removing their speeches from the realm of everyday language"(1978, p.112). This in turn ties in with her view that the characterization in The Waves has three necessary facets or levels: the individual, the typical and the communal. Admittedly, the speeches could not be called 'everyday language'. The 'speech' of the six characters is in a class of its own, very different to normal speech. But, if one accepts that Virginia Woolf was trying to write in a way that no-one had done before, paring the dead wood from her sentences, making every word count, streamlining her writing to a pure flow, and if one then examines the soliloquies on their own terms, then the differences become quite plain. Gorsky's concept of the 'communal character' may have some basis in the text at certain times - some of the convergences in certain chapters suggest this - but this concept must not be emphasized at the cost of ignoring Woolf's portrayal of the individual. In general, while Gorsky's tri-faceted model of the characterization in The Waves may prove to represent some reality in the text, some of her supporting statements have been shown to be in error.
Graham shares some of Gorsky's views about the book. "The rhythm, sentence structure and vocabulary of any one speaker do not change noticeably between childhood and middle age" (p. 194). As far as rhythm is concerned, it is reasonable to assume that it would be affected by changes in word length, the use of longer words producing a more flowing effect, as opposed to the more staccato sound of shorter words. If this is the case, then the graphs for word length (figures 26 and 27) show quite clearly that the word length, and hence the rhythm of any of the speakers changes over time. With regard to vocabulary, a look at the graphs for pronoun use (figures 1 - 24) shows that at least one section of the vocabulary changes over time. However, the evidence from the correlation analysis points to a general similarity of vocabulary usage for the six characters, probably implying a common vocabulary set. As has already been stated, this study cannot so far say anything about sentence structure, other than to comment on the average length of the sentences. These show gradual change over time, negating at least this aspect of Graham's objection. In general, then, all of the measures change noticeably between chapters I and VII or VIII. This seriously undermines Graham's contention that the similarity of the speakers contributes towards a view of them as facets of a single complete person. Rather, the characters must be seen as complete people in their own right, who grow and develop through the course of the book.
Guiguet takes the view that the voices are indistinguishable, having "the same texture , the same substance, the same tone" (p.283). While these statements are phrased in so 'substantive' a way that it is difficult to apply the evidence of this study directly to them, the view that the voices are 'indistinguishable' needs to addressed. If one looks at the use of pronouns, the vocabulary richness, the word, sentence, and soliloquy length, the differences are quite clearly distinguishable. Guiguet sees this uniformity of tone as contributing towards the characters portrayal as "clearly outline"(p.298) and hence as merely surface aspects of a deeper unity. The Waves in Guiguet's words is about "the unity and multiplicity of personality"(p. 286), with a heavy emphasis on 'unity'. The above evidence seems to suggest that multiplicity should be given far greater weight, and the individuality of the characters more clearly recognized.
Naremore says more that one can disagree with at a formal level. He sees the diversity among the voices as "superficial"(p. 151), with the speeches often seeming like "one pervasive voice" (p. 152). "There is little or no attempt ... to make the prose adapt itself to the growth of the characters ... Their language always remains formal and sophisticated." (p. 157). We have already seen both diversity between the characters, and development in time in the measures used in this study, and there is no need to labour the point. His interpretation of this uniformity is that it is meant to suggest "if anything, ... the underlying equivalence of the various characters ." (p. 160). The evidence so far does not rule out the possibility of an underlying equivalence being the correct interpretation, or at least part of a correct interpretation, but Naremore cannot be said to have argued his point. He has produced no strong evidence, and his statements in support of his contention have been shown to be verifiably false.
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