The concept of time The philosophy of time is a topic that has been discussed amongst
philosophers, scholars, and critics alike for centuries.
reminiscing all the time
back in present day
World War I
understanding people “by instinct”
Time is for free, but it is priceless. You cannot own it, but you can kihasználhatod. You cannot turn back time. Waste time
Septimus Warren Smith
presence of greatness, they do not know who is in the car. We just feel that this moment will never repeat itself, we should appreciate the particular moment of our lives, mindfulness, every moment is utánozhatatlan és egyedi, nem megismételhet?.
Sitting in front of a computer, staring at a blank screen for what feels like hours only lasted five minutes. A three-week holiday seemed to pass in a couple of days. It does not always matter what time it is according to the clock. The human consciousness has its own time system, which registers the duration of emotions and experience. It does not rely on segmentation of time into minutes and hours. The time system of the mind is subjective and personal, whereas the clock represents time that is objective and public.
Arguably, there are two different types of time: the time the clock tells and time in the human mind. These two types of time have distinct characteristics, which clearly separate one from the other. Clock time governs the relentless progress of life, ordering events in a chronological, linear sequence according to when they happened in time. It is what history is made of. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and centuries are all indicators of clock time.
The other type of time is the temporal experience in the human mind: it is flexible; it is constantly in flux and can be compressed or extended. A period that is compressed in the mind seems to pass very quickly in comparison to clock time: an event took more clock time than the human mind perceived. When time is extended, the actual time span of an event was much shorter that experienced. Time on the mind is also referred to as psychological time by thinkers such as the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Questions such as why the human consciousness is able to create an individual time-system and whether it can be influenced by external factors remain beyond the scope of this discussion. It is interesting, however, to discover what influence of psychological time has had on Modernist and contemporary literature and how it is represented by selected authors from those periods.
As Big Ben’s leaden strokes fix outer time, inner time or the stream of consciousness,
—-indifferent to the clock, expands or contracts according to the intensity of experience
. Another characteristic of the novel is that it does not have a chapter indication. It is presented as one large chapter entitled Mrs Dalloway. Although the novel does not have chapters, the narrative is divided into units as Big Ben strikes the hours. Clock time divides the narrative into pieces. The lack of a chapter division in the novel also creates a continuous flow of psychological time.
Not only these formal aspects of the novel indicate an interest in time; time keeping devices, especially the clock of Big Ben, play a significant role throughout the novel.
According to Jörg Hasler, “a mere glance at her bibliography reveals her deep and constant preoccupation with the phenomenon of time” (145).
Virginia Woolf gives an explanation in Orlando:
An hour, once it lodges in the queer elements of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented by the timepiece of the mind by one second. (qtd. in Hasler 147)
The immeasurable flux of psychological time can also be represented by the seemingly random associations of the mind. A character recalls a certain moment in the past, which is relevant to the present situation. The character’s memory is represented in the narrative when the author feels the recollection to be most relevant to the present moment. The function of recollection is not merely to reflect on the past. Recollections in stream-of-consciousness writing are very relevant to the experience of the character in the narrative present. Memories can have such a significant role
James Naremore in The World Without Self mentions, “there is no evidence that Mrs. Woolf ever actually read Bergson” (21). Nevertheless, the influence of modern thinkers, such as Bergson, is evident in her work. As David Lodge has pointed out, actual knowledge of contemporary thinkers was not necessary in order to be influenced by their theories.
In her biographical novel Orlando, published in 1928, Virginia Woolf voices her fascination with the contrast between clock time and psychological time:
The time of man works with strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer elements of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented by the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation. (qtd. in Hasler 147)
Besides the web-like structure, Woolf used an abundance of different techniques to convey the characters’ connectedness, their thoughts and their experiences. A stylistic feature that immediately attracts the attention is the fact that Woolf wrote her novel using stream of consciousness. Another device present in Mrs Dalloway is what Woolf herself referred to as tunnelling. Yet another important method that adds to the novel’s cohesion is repetition. Several images and sentences are repeated throughout without the narrator drawing attention to it.
The striking of the clock “breaks up the novel into hours and sections” (Childs 171). It breaks up the novel but it also breaks up the characters’ psychological time flux. The chiming of Big Ben forms an intrusion into the thoughts and the lives of the characters, as they are reminded of reality. Anna Benjamin indicates why Virginia Woolf uses clock time:
When time is stated exactly by Woolf, it is 1) to indicate the simultaneity of certain acts; 2) to provide a transition from one character to another; 3) to provide a transition from the present to past; 4) to suggest the fact that characters are bound together by time. (217)
indicates REALITY!!! Big Ben is an image that repeatedly reminds the characters, and the reader alike, that reality keeps running according to clock time. It reminds us of the real time
Peter Childs argues that Woolf uses the striking of Big Ben to contrasts private with public time, which is essentially the same divide as psychological and clock time. Childs gives an example with which he illustrates the contrast between the public and the private.
Virginia Woolf may start to describe a character’s thoughts when a clock begins striking the hour, report those thoughts for several pages and then return to the character’s awareness of the clock finishing striking. In public time only a few seconds have passed, but in the character’s mind it may be nearer to several minutes. (171)
Death and transience (the inevitability of ending or dying) are also important themes in Woolf’s novel. Death forms the inevitable end. Death is the moment when clock time has run out.