The title “A Sketch of the Past” is an inadequate representation of the ideas and enlightening concepts put forth in Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical work. To me, a sketch is merely a glance or a surface-level introduction to the concept that one is introducing. In thinking of sketch in accord with that definition, Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical sketch goes beyond the call of duty displaying Woolf’s innermost thoughts and actions. Although I was somewhat surprised at the ever-looming descriptive feeling of despair lurking throughout the entire work, I was shocked at Woolf’s physical reactions to past situations. In reading the first few pages of the sketch, it became obvious that Woolf ‘s immediate connection to the world is through nature. Some of her first memories are of flowers, gardens and waves. She seems to embody certain eloquence when speaking of natural elements.
She seems very detached from anything other than her natural descriptions and although she describes difficult moments in her past (like her mother’s death), she quickly seems to divert her attention back to a natural element, never staying focused on her own feelings regarding tough situations. At one particular point in the text, she begins to talk about the past and it’s role in one’s life. She states, “Nothing remained stable long…that was the past and it is altered.” Because of these two lines, I started to think about Woolf obsession with nature and the feelings she unknowingly displays through the tone of her work. Woolf clearly feels somewhat helpless in her childhood because of instability; therefore, maybe she uses nature as her stability and crutch. Nature is constant; it changes with the season but is always ever-present. For Woolf, it seems like nature is her stability, she can predict what will happen during which season and can watch objects bloom and develop in a way that she as a person cannot.
I immediately thought of this connection when reading through “ A Sketch of the Past” for the first time so I wanted this to be the focus of my blog. I feel that I will encounter many other explanations as to why Woolf embodies natural elements so greatly in her work, but this is a starting point and one I hope to build from.