Rachel Vinrace journeys out to South America on one of her father’s ships. It is her first foray into the world at large and she is overwhelmed by the impressions others leave upon her. As she meets more people with different views, she begins to see that there is more than just one way to look at life and that she mustn’t necessarily stick to the path others would choose for her. Her observations of other people open her eyes to the differences in the way people behave towards both strangers and their family and cause her to reflect on the rights and wrongs of social behaviour and the necessity of being open minded towards the attitudes of others. In short, it’s the journey of a young mind which is awakening to the world as a whole as opposed to a thing outside of one’s own small realm.
The Voyage Out is a psychological work as opposed to a classic novel. There’s less focus on the plot and more on description and thoughts of the characters. Woolf also uses the work to criticize the conventional lifestyle of the time and praise the choice of free thinking. The characters are often tedious and absurd, which Woolf uses to make her point. Offsetting the tedium is Woolf’s excellent writing style which flows along nicely, even through the tedium.
As a teenager or possibly into my early 20s, I would have adored this book. After all, it is about discovery of life and self and new ideas. Not having read it until I was well out of the age where much of life outside my own world was new, it served as a reminder of that time of my life rather than to expand my views. Much of it seemed a repeat of my own experiences and thus the work lost a lot of its shine for me. I found it quite difficult to concentrate on it, although I will admit that it may just not have been the time for me to read this novel. Perhaps I’ll pick it up again at a later date and see if I can’t get more out of it than I did this time. It is possible that I was just in the wrong mood for reading it, which is why I’m not going to rate the book. I’ll just say that if you’re not feeling like a good dose of introspection, you might want to leave it be until you are.