Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Woolf’s unique style is often characterized as stream-of-consciousness narrative. She creates a fluid movement that captures a subject’s thought processes as they drift back and forth from a recognition of sensations encountered in the present moment to ones remembered from the past. With this same ease of movement, Woolf is able to jump in and out of the minds of all her characters. This method of narration is certainly in evidence in “A Haunted House,” and serves to explain how the narrator is able to relate details of the lives of people she does not know.

Because detail is presented through the eyes of the characters who notice it, descriptions of ordinary objects often carry a great emotional weight. This gives “A Haunted House,” like much of Woolf’s fiction, a melodramatic tone. When the shadow of a bird crosses the carpet of the house, the reader understands that this is both an intricate physical detail and a symbol of the mysterious presence that visits the narrator in fleeting moments. The bird’s shadow is cast through the window, an object that also takes on great symbolic importance. The pane of glass through which the narrator often gazes comes to represent an invisible barrier to understanding and satisfaction, states of being that are represented by various kinds of light. The glass keeps the light of revelation, a sunbeam, from reaching the narrator, and then becomes a symbol of the death that separated the lovers centuries...

(The entire section is 544 words.)