The Voyage Out Essay - Critical Evaluation

Virginia Woolf

Critical Evaluation

The Voyage Out is Virginia Woolf’s first novel. It is also one of her more accessible novels, as it employs a fairly traditional structure and narrative style and very little of the sometimes difficult, lyric, and highly idiosyncratic style that marks her other novels. In this work, Woolf explores questions about sex and gender, human relationships, civilization and social convention, class and power, social responsibility, existence, reality, and knowledge. This exploration takes place within the structure of a bildungsroman, a work that recounts the education of a single character, in this case, Rachel. Significantly, Rachel learns her lessons through a series of relationships with and observations of a diverse lot of human beings that includes Clarissa and Richard Dalloway, Helen Ambrose, Terence Hewet, St. John Hirst, Susan Warrington and Arthur Venning, Mr. and Mrs. Flushing, Evelyn Murgatroyd, and Mrs. Thornbury.

Each of these characters represents a type of human being, a point Hirst makes early in the novel. He believes that certain types of people find themselves sharing the same inscribed circles and are therefore capable of enjoying relationships with only those people. Different types find themselves within different circles, inhabiting space with others who are like them. There is no fraternizing among different types, and for this reason, he believes, men and women cannot have real relationships. They are simply too different from each other.

Hewet, in contrast, represents...

(The entire section is 622 words.)