The Modernist Period in English Literaturebegan shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century roughly through1965. The period was marked by sudden and unexpected breaks with traditionalways of viewing and writing about the world. The writers of this period focusedmainly on the life people led after the war and how it left them confused abouthumanity. The books are more slowly paced and heavy as compared to the booksthat get published in the world today. There is more of a personal connectionwith the author themselves within their works and gives an insight into theirlives and perspective on everything they were seeing and experiencing, like thestruggles they faced with their mental health.VirginiaWoolf suffered from a bipolar disorder or manic depressive illness, which is abrain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels.
Shewas sexually abused by her step-brothers and had to cope with the death of hermother, sister and her father which added on and intensified her illness.Woolf used her mental illness and thechallenges she faced, and portrayed it in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. This novel Mrs.Dalloway is a reflection of Woolf’s personal struggles. The story raisedissues of feminism, mental illness and homosexuality in post-World War I in England.
Shegives life and a voice to her inner world by imagining the bipolar disordersand illnesses of her characters. She uses techniques like stream ofconsciousness (narrative method) and indirect interior monologue (charactersthoughts) to represent not only her own illusory world but also thehallucinated world of her characters. Woolf was born and raised in London, herlove for her hometown is greatly shown in her novel Mrs. Dalloway. She talks about the chimes of Big Ben, the busy lifethat the people of London had and how the city functioned as a whole.
Woolf’s mental illness and manicdepressive illness are the important elements that plays a significant role inher novel Mrs. Dalloway. Thecharacter is like a self-reflection of herself. It is like she used writing thenovel as a way of self-healing.
Woolf’s novel, To the Lighthouse, is another revolutionary work of hers which isadmired for its use of stream of consciousness. The novel examines the idea ofhuman relationships through the lives of the Ramsay family as they vacation onthe Isle of Skye in Scotland. Sylvia Plathis another famous modernist writer that suffered from mental illness. She too,used her illness and integrated it into her works which have become famoustexts from that era.
Plath’s The Bell Jar,is a semiautobiographical novel based on her life and the struggles she faced,it also deals with women’s mental breakdowns and illnesses. The novel isdefinitely enriched with Plath’s experiences of the bitter reality of mentalillness. It gives a glimpse of the difficult life that she led filled withdepression and disorganized breakdowns.From the readings I have done, it seemed that Plathhad decided to get help from a psychiatrist who was confident about conductingelectro-convulsive therapy on her. This later convinced Plath that she wasbound to become insane. She then tried to commit suicide multiple times. Plath beganjournaling and putting her thoughts down on paper.
These writings of hers inher diary and journals showed how extreme her mental illness really was andwhat exactly was going through her mind when she was receiving shock therapy.Her experiences and struggles are reflected through her characters in hernovels. She has communicated to her readers about her life which she has betterexplained through the thoughts and actions of her characters rather than byherself. Plath alluded to the idea that her depression isrooted in oppressive social mechanisms and not simply caused by each individualpatient’s unique and unusual histories. Sometimeswhile reading novels like Mrs. Dallowayand The Bell Jar it is easy to miss outon the connection that it has with the author.
We do not necessarily think thatthe main characters in the novel are almost an exact reflection of the authoritself. So I think that the writings of the modernist writers is arepresentation of the mental illnesses they faced and struggled with.