Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 366

The Years is a novel by Virginia Woolf. The novel was Woolf's final book to be published during her lifetime. The first major theme of the novel is the concept of time and the usage of seasons to mark the passage of time. The first section of the novel is fragmented into particular years. Each year, which act as chapters, features a significant moment in the narrator's life during a specific season. Seasons are commonly used by poets and artists to depict analogies about the changes in one's life. For example, Autumn and Winter could symbolize death, whilst Spring could represent renewal and resurrection. The entire narrative structure of The Years, as evident in the title, is based on the flow of time. The second part of the book centers on the present-day, which was the 1930s at the time of the novel's publication. There is a tension between past and present, but Woolf did not write the novel as an epic narrative. Instead, the events in each year of the past are self-contained and yet they still affect the present-day events. One could argue that the overall theme of the book is the dynamics of time.

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The other major theme of the novel is death. The novel begins with an exploration of death, specifically with Delia's emotions, or lack thereof, regarding her mother's death. There is an existential element to the first chapter, or year, in the book in which death is seen from a practical perspective rather than an emotional or philosophical one. Delia feels more emotions toward men she likes than toward her own mother's death. The next chapter takes place during Autumn. As stated earlier, Woolf used the poetic symbolism of the seasons to signify elements of the human condition, such as death.

Another major theme in the novel is the connection one makes with others. Throughout the years, the various characters create romantic and familiar connections, and struggle with keeping those bonds intact. The surviving characters gather for a get-together dinner in the present-day to reflect on their shared and individual experiences throughout the years. Their connections remain intact and a sort of closure of "chapters" are signified by their reunion.

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