How to tell if you’re in a Virginia Woolf novel

(Ripping off Mallory Ortberg’s brilliant series on The Toast.)

You’re in a Virginia Woolf novel if…

  • You have a little spaniel who paws at your feet and looks at you, full of meaning and uncomplicated desire; rushing, whimpering, careening toward the day’s promise.
  • There she was, from the very first, perhaps from all time, an old woman — watching you from her bedroom window. She inhales. You exhale. A streetcar rushes past and the fabric of time falters and wrinkles, and you know that there shall never be a day quite like this one.
  • A man keeps opening and closing a pocketknife in your presence. You feel sexually harassed but can never say so.
  • Women alone stir your imagination.
  • Your husband is well educated and clueless. You exchange many portentous glances with him over your scones and tea.
  • There are flowers in a vase. What do they mean?
  • You are a middle-aged rich woman oppressed by the narrowness of your life and the mediocrity of your marriage.
  • A white gown is draped over a chair; the purple bloom of the passion flower casts a shadow over the windowsill; the bird calls and the day ends.
  • You have many children and you’re not sure what to do with them all.
  • Marriage is an island and husbands and wives are castaways.
  • You shall be like your mother; silent and hands folded in a blue apron, looking up and down the corridors.
  • There is a garden, and there is a river, and there is a vacant parlor.
  • You’re having an argument with an intimate that occurs solely through the exchange of raised eyebrows, meaningful glances, and arms lifted and lowered in evocative ways.
  • Your husband has a mind that runs like keys on a piano, up and down the scales, through an alphabet; ravaging and consuming knowledge; it locks you out; you upbraid it.
  • You throw a party that is a symbol of all of your deepest, unspoken desires, an orchestrated mutiny against the prison you occupy as a wealthy white British woman.
  • That is your mother. Yes, Paul should look at her. Yes, Minta should look at her. That is the thing itself, you feel.
  • You are the mystical doppelganger of a man you have never met.
  • You die in a parenthetical remark.

Anything I’m missing?


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