Interrelating the presence of the gramophone and the underlying commentary on fascism in Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, Michele Pridmore-Brown compiles a successful interpretation of the forces functioning in Woolf’s last novel through her article entitled 1939-1940: Of Virginia Woolf, Gramophones, and Fascism. From Pridmore-Brown’s point of view Woolf was an active participant in the fight against Fascism. Although her article mainly discusses the character of Miss La Trobe and the noise of the gramophone, Pridmore-Brown includes numerous references to historical events marking the imperialism of Europe. At the beginning of her article she states that Woolf “uses a gramophone to demonstrate how patriotic messages, inscribed on bodies through rhythm and rhyme, can transform individuals into a herd that can be controlled by a charismatic leader” (408). Immediately, the reader has sense of the forces that are to be discussed in the remaining paragraphs of the article.
Pridmore-Brown continues her ideas by defining the rhythms and rhymes portrayed in Between the Acts. She reiterates Woolf’s ideas of rhymes as male possessiveness or nationalism and rhythm as the marching boots of wartime (411). By doing so, Pridmore-Brown sets the reader up for the interpretation she is going to offer. She examines how the gramophone with its dispersal of rhythm and rhyme is a tool that regulates the audience within the novel. If I understood the main points of the article correctly then I would suggest that Pridmore-Brown suggests that the gramophone both highlights the collective audience and the individual conscious. She seems to imply that audiences are linked to one another through sound waves. In an essence, Pridmore-Brown takes excerpts from Woolf’s personal life, statements quoted in The Three Guineas, and historical commentary from other critics to examine the literary fight that Woolf portrays. In seeing the members of the audience in Between the Acts as members of society prior to World War II, readers can see the need for political implications in literary development. By showing Woolf’s use of the gramophone and Miss La Trobe as her artistic counterpart, Pridmore-Brown is able to show “ the emphasis put on communication and dialogue rather than on the backdrop of violence and degradation” (420).
I found this article particularly interesting and chose to read it because I too questioned the presence of the gramophone and the line, “dispersed are we.” Although my interpretation was strictly limited to the dispersion of individual character and how one should know their true self, I found Pridmore-Brown’s article to be enlightening. I had not thought of sound as a uniting and at the same time dividing force; therefore, I definitely found information to carry away from the article that enlightens tricky portion of Between the Acts. However, at times I found the writing a little dense and would like to read the article a third time just to make sure I have a grasp on the little details briefly mentioned in the article.