Forster, Woolf Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2658 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

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Plumer could only be in a condition to cling tight to her eminence, peer down at the ground, and goad her two plain daughters to climb the rungs of the ladder (23).

At the Plumbers' house, Jacob frets that his status makes it necessary to meet certain unwanted expectations. He feels as if he, too, were barred within a room from which he can not escape. Jacob is thus thrilled when he is finally free to leave the gathering and have his freedom.

Woolf also shows Jacob's blatant disdain of women, as he compares them to dogs and being "ugly as sin." Woolf uses references to Greek culture where men were adulated to depict the differences between the male and female's place in Jacob's present-day social strata. According to Jacob, women are mere distractions and only "vouched for by the theology, mathematics, Latin, and Greek of their husbands."

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In one instance, Jacob is writing an essay "Does History Consist of the Biographies of Great Men?" And the Jane Austen novels on his shelves are only "in deference, perhaps, to someone else's standard." In another situation, he is reading Marlowe in the British Museum. A female student questions, "Why didn't they leave room for an Eliot or a Bronte?" As she looks up on the circle of male authors and thinkers inscribed in the ceiling of the reading room. Naturally, according to Jacob's beliefs, there is no room for women in this room that symbolizes the gentrified masculine society. In fact, even after being entranced by the beautiful Florinda in chapter six, he stresses her "brainless" efforts and mentally returns to "male society, cloistered rooms, and the works of the classics."

As in other books, Woolf, who was a pacifist, uses scenes such as these to show how Jacob's patriarchal and sexist culture value anything to do with the war and the military, where men believe they can prove their masculinity and superiority. Ironically, however, it is war that kills Jacob. It seems that war is too "manly" for him.

Term Paper on Forster, Woolf at the Beginning Assignment

Woolf once said regarding war, "We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods." In fact, Woolf wrote Jacob's Room as a response to her own life's experiences. Two of her husband Leonard's brothers were hit by the same shell at Cambrai. One died and the other was seriously wounded. Virginia and Leonard visited the surviving brother in the hospital. First-hand contact with the effects of war on young men confirmed her disdain for it and made her want to write about its horrible impact.

Later, in London, the distinct socio-economic differences of the classes are depicted by Woolf's comparing such grand places for those with money such as the Royal Opera House with the poor trying to make a living on the city's streets. When Jacob returns home "very brown and lean" after a visit to Greece in Chapter 13 he notes:

The motor cars passed incessantly over the bridge of the Serpentine; the upper classes walked upright, or bent themselves gracefully over the palings; the lower classes lay with their knees cocked up, flat on their backs; the sheep grazed on pointed wooden legs; small children ran down the sloping grass, stretched their arms, and fell.

'Very urbane," Jacob brought out.

Jacob goes on a trip, like Lucy, but comes back the same if not in worse shape mentally than before. He apparently uses his travels to break away from the world that is making him so unhappy. However, it only emphasizes how bleak things are at home when he returns. Traveling does not make him more worldly and open to other people and events. Rather, it confirms that he is better than others and has more to offer than they do in the future. "You ought to have been in Athens," he would say pretentiously to Bonamy when he got back. "Standing on the Parthenon," he would say, or "The ruins of the Coliseum suggest some fairly sublime reflections," which he would write out at length in letters. It might turn to an essay upon civilization."

Everyone tries to break down Jacob's walls. Even the narrator seems to want to give Jacob some help in escaping his burdensome room. However, it is too late, and Jacob is too removed. Florinda sums it up when saying to him, "You're like one of those statues" in the British Museum. He is "composed, commanding, contemptuous" (145).

However, Jacob's identity is far from stable, as the narrator admits when she despairs of ever pinning him down. There always remains something which can never be conveyed to another person except by Jacob himself that remains in a constant state of movement. The unsettled character of his room, as noted in the book, corresponds both to the shifting of his identity's walls and boundaries. He is always searching, looking, for other ways out of his room.

In fact, the women who love Jacob are already trying to forget him, get him out of their mind, when they are together -- realizing that even when he is with them in body, he is not with them in mind or spirit. He will soon discard one woman and go on to someone else. Thus, Clara Durrant greets Lionel Parry in the park, believing him Jacob (167); Florinda notes that a man in the restaurant looks in a way that reminds her of Jacob (169); Sandra Wentworth Williams decides that Jacob is like someone in Moliere (169); and Fanny Elmer visits the British Museum because the statue of Ulysses gives her a "fresh shock of Jacob's presence, enough to last her half a day. But this was wearing thin" (170).

Perhaps Jacob would have proved himself distinctive from others. However, he never has the opportunity to do so. His life comes to a very early end, among a multitude of nameless others, during World War I. Neither his background nor his education make him any more resilient: War is blind to rank and privilege. The last chapter's description of the houses' "distinction" remain, but Jacob is gone. The novel ends with Mrs. Flanders and Mr. Bonamy standing in Jacob's college room, where he has left everything in place, as if he would soon be back in his same social role of attending parties. All that Jacob's mother has left is an empty pair of shoes, which he, like his father before him, will never fill. "What am I to do with these, Mr. Bonamy?'" questions Mrs. Flanders. Jacob's next and last room is the earth around him.

Resources

Forester, EM. Room with a View. New York: Bantom, 1988.

Woolf, Virginia. The… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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