Analysis of “The Mark on the Wall” by Virginia Woolf



          As a modernist writer, Virginia Woolf isn’t interested on describing  the reality as it really is, but she wants to privilege the imagination and the liberty of creation. In her short story “The Mark on the Wall”, a simple element like a mark on the wall is responsible to the narrator’s deeply reflection about life and stimulates the imagination of the reader.

            Although, there are many elements in this short story that are capable of being discussed, this analysis only points out some of them. The first point that can be considered very important is the symbolism of the mark on the wall. During all the story, the narrator imagines what that mark could be, but he/she is never sure about it: “But for that mark, I’m not sure about it; I don’t believe it was made by a nail after all; it’s too big, too round, for that. I might get up, but if I got up and looked at it, ten to one I shouldn’t be able to say for certain; because once a thing’s done, no one ever knows how it happened.”

            This confusion about the identity of the mark on the wall can be interpreted as the confusion that people have in relation to the meaning of life. As in the short story that only in the final the narrator discovers the true identity of the mark, the human beings will probably know what life is only in its end.

            Other important element of this short novel is the criticism to those people that don’t develop their own ideas, although they follow somebody’s thinking: “Everybody follows somebody, such is the philosophy of Whitaker”. However the tougher criticism is taken to the realists that wanted to describe the reality and the human being as they are in fact.

            This literary pattern was very discussed by the modernists, because they defend that the reality and the man are changing all the time and it would be impossible to prove or know something in its totality. Even for a individual, it is difficult to know himself/herself deeply, for the reason that anyone has the certain about his/her attitude in front of  a big problem, for example.

            This point of view of the modernists can be verified in some parts of this story, such as the moment that the narrator questions the reality and even himself/herself: “No, no nothing is proved, nothing is known”, “ Where was I ? What has it all been about? A tree? A river?  The Downs?  Whitaker’s Almanack? The fields of a asphodel? I can´t remember a thing. Everthing’s moving, falling, slipping, vanishing…”

            Finally, the last important aspect of this short story that will be discussed is the criticism to the religion, that always imposes its dogma and people have to follow it, without questioning. This manipulation of ideas is deeply criticized by modernists, because it contradicts the liberty and the power of creation. In fact not only the religion is censured by the modernism, but as it was said before , every person that doesn’t have his/her own ideas and accept opinions and discourses  pre-constructed by someone else.