Thursday, March 10, 2011

Woolf's Biographies... Flush.. pt.1

Woolf’s biographies are very, umm... interesting to say the least. When you think about a biography what do you think about? Usually it’s a life story of a character told from an omniscient view that tells of actions, dealings, and important points in life. I can personally recall having to write a biography that was basically a narrative that summarized important plotted points on a timeline for a character's life. But Woolf does so much more! Woolf’s “biographies” (if you’re so inclined to call them so) are beyond even the categorization of “avant-garde” (or on the front lines). Avant-garde is widely recognized as “pushing boundaries” and Woolf definitely does this in her biographies.. Sow what right? wrong. Woolf pushes new boundaries and opens new doors for future writers to follow.
For those of you who have no idea what it is I am talking about, or who Woolf is, let me give you a brief description (hold all comments until the end please):
 Virginia Woolf is a famous author well renowned for her depiction of gender roles, and unfair treatment to women. In almost all of her novels (at least all the novels I’ve read) she has mention of a lesbian love, and was well known for having a passionate “more than platonic” love for women as well. She wrote two specific, biographies that are quite “redefinining” for the rules of biographies:  Flush, and Orlando. Woolf is widely recognized as a prominent feminist writer, and also a writer who changed writing for many future writers to come!
From first looking at Flush, we are raucously introduced to a new form of biography. Flush is the biography of a dog, about a dog: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog. This is quite unorthodox for a biography already, but what makes it even more so is Woolf’s use of FID (Free Indirect Discourse). FID can only be explained by basically saying that not only does the narrator take on the role of omniscient, but it is also capable of jumping from one character’s thoughts to another! Woolf created a whole new world to explore in biographies, the mind!
Woolf’s exploration of the mind allows us, the reader, to not only view the actions of the characters, but also see their true intents and thoughts behind it! Unlike in other biographies where we are simply told a character’s actions, in Woolf’s biographies we are directly linked to their thinking. By having a direct connection to the thinking of Woolf’s characters we are also vicariously tangled into, not only the main plot, but a mess of emotions, feelings, and thoughts, that cloud the mind of the character. Ergo, we almost become one with the character, and gain a much clearer (or sometimes more confusing) outlook on their actions as they unfold.
What’s more about Woolf’s biography is the sheer “audacity” she has to create a main character as an animal! 
The book Flush is not a children’s book, or a fantastical book, it is meant to be taken as realistic fiction. If we were truly able to see not only from the view of Flush, but also into his thoughts, this is what we are intended to see! So the idea of creating the main character as an animal, especially in her time period, is mind boggling! But, by doing so we are introduced to a whole new perspective; the dog’s.
It’s really interesting to see how a room, or a bed, or a table, or a new person arriving in a door, looks from a dog’s perspective; it gives brand new insight! 
But what’s more is what she accomplishes by doing this. As humans we create a world of classes and “haves” and “have-nots” and so too is it in this world of Flush’s. Even through the eyes of the dog we are able to see this separation of dogs into those with “pedigree” (which is resembled by his pure bred cocker spaniel coat) and those without (the mutts). Throughout the “life-story” of Flush we are constantly shown these concepts and are forced to compare and contrast them to our own views of aristocracy and classism.
Woolf brilliantly uses the medium of the biography to replicate this for us. She shows us and ridicules the dog’s upholding of pedigree only to mirror our own outlook at some of the precious concepts we hold so dear. By putting us into the eyes and mind of a dog in this era, we are able to follow his journey through the pages of Flush, and watch as he realizes (SPOILER ALERT) that the only way he was able to truly find a form of significant acceptance is when he loses his pedigree and becomes a nothing. It is then decided that there is nothing better to be, than a nothing. And thus, as the reader, we are able to directly translate the life and biography of Flush, to our own lives and thoughts on aristocracy.

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