Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

One of Woolf’s early novels, Jacob’s Room reveals the writer’s early efforts to experiment with stylistic and thematic concerns that characterize her later, more sophisticated books, such as Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). Unfinished sentences, seemingly disjointed scenes, stream of consciousness: these techniques suit the ideas of time passing and individuals observing that passage from their unique vantage points. If truth is thus subjective, then the writer’s job is to suggest, not to announce, and that is Woolf’s mode, which her narrator in Jacob’s Room implies in a pair of sentences repeated, word for word, near the beginning and near the end of the novel: “It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not exactly what is said nor yet entirely what is done.” This is Virginia Woolf’s novelistic technique and her philosophical orientation. She whispers hints; she never shouts proclamations.