Tag Archives: tyrant

The Common Reader.. Woolf

“The writer seems constrained, not by his own free will, but by some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant who has him in thrall, to provide a plot, to provide comedy, tragedy, love interest, and air of probability embalming the whole so impeccable that if all his figures are to come to life they would find themselves dressed down to the last button of their coats in the fashion of the hour. The tyrant is obeyed; the novel is done to a turn. But sometimes, more and more often as time goes by, we suspect a momentary doubt, a spasm of rebellion, as the pages fill themselves in the customary way” (149).

Woolf, Virginia. The Common Reader. New York. Hartcourt Inc. 1925. Print.

This applies to many writers who are constrained by their own free will. I feel like the tyrant(s) is censorship along with publishing companies since it limits them to write what they truly desire. They want to see the writers provide plots, comedy, tragedy, love interest etc. into their writing since people who work for the publishing companies assume that is what everyone wants to read. Writers tend to obey the tyrant by pleasing them with these impeccable novels, short stories and poems. Soon after this period of modernism began and we see authors begin to rebel against the typical love interest/tragic/comedy stories and decides to make something filled with tragedy instead of comedy. Authors want to break free from tradition and start writing at their own free will.

The job of the writer

“The writer seems constrained, not by his own free will but by some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant who has him in thrall, to provide a plot, to provide comedy, tragedy, love interest, and an air of probability embalming the whole so impeccable that if all his figures were to come to life their coats in the fashion of the hour. The tyrant is obeyed; the novel is done to a turn. But sometimes, more and more often as time goes by, we suspect a momentary doubt, a spasm of rebellion, as the pages fill themselves in the customary way. Is life like this? Must novels be like this?”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 149. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

The job of the writer is to write. There should not be a set of rules that an author has to follow. There are two possibilities when it comes to the ‘tyrant’ who Woolf is referring to. Perhaps the tyrant is all of the writers in the past who have stuck with the same structure and conventions throughout the years, leaving writers to feel obligated to follow suit. The reader is another possibility the tyrant. When reading a novel, people expect a plot, love interest, tragedy, etc. This puts a lot of pressure on the writer to fulfill certain expectations. Who are we to influence what the author wants to write about? All novels do not have to be the same; in fact the differences in structure are what make certain novels stand out from the rest.