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Modernist literature saw a need to challenge the traditional modes of writing and overturn them, subverting literary forms in a desire, according to Ezra Pound's maxim, to "Make it New." This was in part due to the horrors of the Great War, which Modernist thinkers argued had changed life entirely for humans due to the massive loss of life and the widespread sense of disillusionment and grief. Modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf therefore created work that was experimental in the way that it created new modes of narrative perspective, such as stream of consciousness. Part of her style is the use of free indirect speech to challenge the traditional omniscient narrator and to be able to express the thoughts and feelings of characters without introducing them and showing them naturally, as in the following example:
But Lucrezia herself could not help looking at the motor car and the tree pattern on the blinds. Was it the Queen in there--the Queen going shopping?
Instead of announcing what Lucrezia was thinking and alerting the reader to her presence as narrator, Woolf just says what Lucrezia thinks as if it was an act of speech. Linked to such narrative techniques, some critics have commented on linguistic elements that support such a non-traditional approach to novel writing. One such example is the way that Woolf uses "for" far more than she uses "because." These two conjunctions are differed by the way in which "for" is used to introduce a statement that is a reason for what has been said. By contrast, "because" introduces a clause that is based on facts and tangible things that have happened. The Modernist shift in narrative perspective from facts and concrete incidents to the psychological inner workings of the minds of the various characters therefore is shown linguistically in this novel through the high incidence of the conjunction "for," as it places far more focus on the thoughts and feelings of individual characters rather than events that actually occurred. Note the following example:
For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life.
This sentence shows the thoughts and feelings of Clarissa as she goes to the flower shop to buy flowers. Note the length of the sentence, that, with its colons and semi-colons seems to convey her love of life and her happiness of being alive on this particular morning. The quote in particular shows how much she loves and cares for life as being something that she herself creates. The use of the word "For" rather than "because" signals that the focus of this sentence is on her internal thoughts and feelings, her psychology. Linguistically this is just one example therefore of how the language used in this novel supports the basic approach of Modernism in its attempt to overturn existing norms and challenge and subvert literary forms.
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