What does The Mark On the Wall symbolize?

natmeinard | Student

In the short story, The Mark on the Wall, writer Virginia Woolf weaves an idiosyncratic piece that at first glance reveals what might appear to the reader to be a random stream of consciousness.  Quotes such as “They wanted to leave this house because they wanted to change their style of furniture . . . ”(192), lend to this elucidation.  It is not until one slows down and re-reads the piece being careful to scrutinize these seemingly “eccentric” quotes that they are able peer through Woolf’s lens and ascertain her worldview.  Through careful analyzation, the reader can get a glimpse of Woolf’s cynical impression that people have fixated on the wrong questions, that God never intervenes, and finally, her overarching outlook that life is ultimately meaningless.

To guide her readers into the realization that they have fixated upon the wrong questions, Woolf weaves into her narrative stark contrasts of color such as “ . . . red knights riding p the side of the black rock . . . white powdered curls . . . and lips like red carnations”(192).  Woolf purposely places these contrasts in the beginning of her narrative in order to induce the reader to perceive that they have found a pattern emerging in the text which further compels them to become disgruntled and confused when she gradually wanes in her use of these contrasts and concludes the narrative by saying, “ . . The mark on the wall! It was a snail.”  Using a clever analogy in the middle of the narrative Woolf says, “Why, if one wants to compare life to anything, one must liken it to being blown though Tube at fifty miles an hour . . . shot out at the feet of God entirely naked”(193), to reveal her frustration at what she perceives to be a lack of intervention on God’s part. Finally, quotes such as “ Yes, that seems to express the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair; all so casual, all so haphazard . . .”(193) to communicate her predominant belief that reason is superfluous and that life is ultimately meaningless.


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The Mark on the Wall

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