(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In her efforts to find or create another narrative mode than the one which she felt exercised a tyranny of demands (e.g. a plot) Woolf suggested that a writer might "Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day." This approach was in direct contrast to the novel in which a protagonist (usually male) has a series of adventures and performs various heroic feats, and it follows Woolfs efforts to write a kind of composite alternative history in which the domestic, the private, and the feminine took precedence. The only character in "The Mark on the Wall" is a person engaged in an act of contemplation. As (presumably) she looks at the mark, the range of her mind expands outward from this initial observation, reaching back into the past when she first noticed it, and then in many directions as association leads to association, thought to further thought, and onward to reflection on these thoughts and on the process of thought itself. The flow of consciousness that Woolf writes to render the character (who is nameless and has no discernible physical features, a specific age, or any background detail) depends for its power to interest a reader on the brilliance of its intellectual deliberations, but since this is not just a philosophic disquisition, the personality of the character is equally important. Woolf subtly builds a recognizable human being by controlling mood and temperament through gradual revelations. The tentative "perhaps" at the start, the phrase "so now I think" and then "Yes, it must have been . . ." show the narrator making an effort to be accurate that induces sympathy as the reader recognizes her sincerity. The comment "I was smoking a cigarette . . ." places her among...

(The entire section is 692 words.)