The Modernist Period in English Literature
began shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century roughly through
1965. The period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditional
ways of viewing and writing about the world. The writers of this period focused
mainly on the life people led after the war and how it left them confused about
humanity. The books are more slowly paced and heavy as compared to the books
that get published in the world today. There is more of a personal connection
with the author themselves within their works and gives an insight into their
lives and perspective on everything they were seeing and experiencing, like the
struggles they faced with their mental health.
Woolf suffered from a bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness, which is a
brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. She
was sexually abused by her step-brothers and had to cope with the death of her
mother, sister and her father which added on and intensified her illness.
Woolf used her mental illness and the
challenges she faced, and portrayed it in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. This novel Mrs.
Dalloway is a reflection of Woolf’s personal struggles. The story raised
issues of feminism, mental illness and homosexuality in post-World War I in England.
gives life and a voice to her inner world by imagining the bipolar disorders
and illnesses of her characters. She uses techniques like stream of
consciousness (narrative method) and indirect interior monologue (characters
thoughts) to represent not only her own illusory world but also the
hallucinated world of her characters. Woolf was born and raised in London, her
love for her hometown is greatly shown in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. She talks about the chimes of Big Ben, the busy life
that the people of London had and how the city functioned as a whole.
Woolf’s mental illness and manic
depressive illness are the important elements that plays a significant role in
her novel Mrs. Dalloway. The
character is like a self-reflection of herself. It is like she used writing the
novel as a way of self-healing.
Woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse, is another revolutionary work of hers which is
admired for its use of stream of consciousness. The novel examines the idea of
human relationships through the lives of the Ramsay family as they vacation on
the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
is another famous modernist writer that suffered from mental illness. She too,
used her illness and integrated it into her works which have become famous
texts from that era. Plath’s The Bell Jar,
is a semiautobiographical novel based on her life and the struggles she faced,
it also deals with women’s mental breakdowns and illnesses. The novel is
definitely enriched with Plath’s experiences of the bitter reality of mental
illness. It gives a glimpse of the difficult life that she led filled with
depression and disorganized breakdowns.
From the readings I have done, it seemed that Plath
had decided to get help from a psychiatrist who was confident about conducting
electro-convulsive therapy on her. This later convinced Plath that she was
bound to become insane. She then tried to commit suicide multiple times.
journaling and putting her thoughts down on paper. These writings of hers in
her diary and journals showed how extreme her mental illness really was and
what exactly was going through her mind when she was receiving shock therapy.
Her experiences and struggles are reflected through her characters in her
novels. She has communicated to her readers about her life which she has better
explained through the thoughts and actions of her characters rather than by
Plath alluded to the idea that her depression is
rooted in oppressive social mechanisms and not simply caused by each individual
patient’s unique and unusual histories. Sometimes
while reading novels like Mrs. Dalloway
and The Bell Jar it is easy to miss out
on the connection that it has with the author. We do not necessarily think that
the main characters in the novel are almost an exact reflection of the author
itself. So I think that the writings of the modernist writers is a
representation of the mental illnesses they faced and struggled with.