Dr. Fidel Fajardo-Acosta's

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first published in 1921 in collection of short stories, Monday or Tuesday.

Language & Form

Short story; Modernist, experimental narrative. English original. Interior monologue involving stream of consciousness and alternation of subjective imagination and observation of external reality.


The narrator, while riding in a train, imagines possible characters and plots for a novel, based on her observations of another passenger whom she calls "Minnie Marsh." The narrative alternates between imaginative creation and objective observation, leading the narrator to unexpected discoveries about herself and the nature of art and artistic representation.

Main Issues

Dislocation of chronological time, ambiguity of plot, emphasis on the perceptions and movements of authorial mind: "Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness" (V. Woolf).

Intricate pattern of symbolic themes lends significance and coherence to seemingly disconnected and arbitrary details and characters in the story. Aesthetic impulse to balance many dimensions of reality into one consistent whole.

Concern with the process of composition and the writer's relationship to her work-in-progress; artist's response to the external world through the creation of a fictional world.

Emphasis on the art of writing more than portrayal of external reality; importance of creative imagination and inner, subjective reality.

Concern with the problem of repression: political, gender, sexual, emotional, spiritual, intellectual.

Concern with issues of desire and self-understanding or misunderstanding.

Study Questions

Why does the narrator believe the woman sitting across from her in the train is unhappy? What details of her appearance or demeanor lead her to that conclusion? Is she really unhappy? Do the details of Minnie's life imagined by the narrator correspond to her actual situation? What does the ending of the story suggest in this respect? What is the source of the narrator's perceptions? Who is this story really about?

What is the significance of the newspaper, The Times, which the narrator holds? What kind of information does the newspaper offer? Is it accurate? Is is true? Any relation to the magazine, Truth, James Moggridge reads? What is the source of these publications' ideas and opinions? How do these publications relate to the novel which the narrator is trying to write? How does the story's or the narrator's novel's approach to the truth differ from that of the magazine and the newspaper? Are there aspects of reality which can only be apprehended through imagination? What does the narrator do with the newspaper? Why does she call the newspaper a shield? Why is it said that Minnie's eyes pierced through that shield and gazed into the narrator's eyes? What happens when their eyes meet? Why is it necessary to see beyond what the newspaper says?

What is the significance of characters like Hilda and James Moggridge? What kinds of values and way of life do they represent? What are their main concerns in life? Are they happy or unhappy? What is problematic about them? How do such characters compare to, for example, the bourgeois in Flaubert's Madame Bovary? How do Hilda and Moggridge differ from Minnie? How do they look at Minnie? How does society look at people like Hilda and Moggridge? How does society judge Minnie? Who does the narrator sympathize or identify with? How do characters like Hilda and Moggridge relate to the historical context and social situation relevant to the story? What issues are raised through their presence and role in the story?

What is the significance of Minnie's rubbing of the spot on the train's window? What does the gesture suggest? Is the gesture replicated anywhere else? In whom? What about Minnie's twitching? Are there repressed or unconscious desires at work in the story? What may they be? What are the sources of the oppression or repression? What about the nature of the repressed aspirations and desires? How are they manifested in the details of the story?

What traumatic event does the narrator imagine in Minnie's past? What are the circumstances, details, and consequences of that event? What hidden guilts does Minnie harbor? Was the accident alluded to entirely her fault? What issues are raised by that situation? What roles of women are questioned by the story?

What is the meaning of the eggshells remaining from Minnie's lunch? How about her concern with the price of eggs? Do the narrator and Minnie think similarly? Is the real Minnie more similar to the narrator or to Hilda? What might eggs symbolize? How may eggs relate to the issues raised by the story concerning the accepted roles of women in society? Why are the eggshell fragments like a map or a puzzle? What do they signify?

What is James Moggridge's profession? How does that relate to the concerns of the story? Is he a sympathetic character? How does he treat Minnie? What is the significance of the scenes where he is imagined visiting Hilda and her family? Why is it said that "the fronds of the aspidistra only partly concealed the commercial traveller"? How is he described as he eats his meal? What kind of creature does Moggridge seem to be? What does this suggest? What does he represent? Do any of these details have any connection to the historical context of the story? How does the narrator feel about the dominance of people like Moggridge in real life?

What is Woolf's attitude toward religion and the idea of God as seen in this story? How is God brought up? Through what details? What comments are made regarding Minnie's praying and belief in God? Who is God compared to? Who is Kruger? Who is Prince Albert? How is God similar to or different from them? How is such a God related to other societal forces or values represented in the story? Is this God a liberator or an oppressor? How are God and other social forces and values experienced by people like the narrator and the imagined Minnie?

Why does the arrival of Minnie's son at the train station destroy the narrator's fantasy about Minnie? Is the narrator completely wrong in her assessment of Minnie? Are there things about Minnie which Minnie might not know but which the narrator understands? Does the reader learn more about Minnie or about herself during the course of the story? What does the reader learn about Minnie? About the narrator? Do the two have anything in common?

Who are the "Mysterious figures … Mother and son" that the narrator alludes to? What do they represent? What does the narrator want? What is she seeking? Does she want to be a "mother"? In what sense? Can motherhood have different meanings? What sort of procreation takes place in the story?

Does Woolf envision any solutions to the unhappiness and oppression of people like Minnie and the narrator in the story? What may those solutions be? How may the "adorable world" of imagination be related to those solutions? How does imaginative or artistic creation relate to the variety of social and historical problems alluded to in the story?


to come


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