NEH Grant EX-20049-01


The Years



     Woolf’s eighth novel, published in 1931, is divided into eleven chapters, the first ten designated by a year from “1880” to  “1918,” and the final chapter called “Present Day.”  The story follows the lives of the Pargiter family, opening with the imminent death of the matriarch, Rose Pargiter, and the unfaithfulness of the patriarch, Colonel Abel Pargiter, with his mistress, Mira. Their children, Eleanor, Edward, Morris, Milly, Delia, Martin, and Rose and subsequent descendants are followed a little beyond the end of World War I.  Originally to be called “Here & Now,” Woolf said this book was to be “about the sexual lives of women,” although she means it in a comprehensive way, to include political and social aspects of women’s role.  The novel was popular both in England and the United States, but received negative criticism for being too diffuse, lacking in one central character.

It ends with a typical Woofian party scene, in which the thoughts of various family members interweave to show the patterns of their lives.

Essay Questions & Paper Topics

1.      Examine Rose Pargiter’s feelings about her mother’s death, her nightmares, and her frightening encounter with the exhibitionist.  Explore the autobiographical aspects.

2.      Explore Eleanor Pargiter’s sacrifices for her family, her adventurous nature, and the ultimate results of her life choices.

3.      Describe Abel Pargiter’s character and the parallels with Leslie Stephen.

4.      Discuss North Pargiter’s experiences in the war, and the evolution of his political sensibilities.

5.      Identify the unique qualities of Sara Pargiter, her poetic use of language, and the values which allow her to go beyond the usual female role and become a doctor.


Bradshaw, David. “’History in the raw’: searchlights and Anglo-German rivalry in ‘The Years.’” Critical survey. Sept 1998 v.10:3

Diemert, Brian. “Tennessee Williams’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’: a possible source in Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Years.’” English Language Notes. June 1992 v.29:4

Hanson, Clare. “Virginia Woolf in the house of love: compulsory heterosexuality in ‘The Years.’” Journal of gender studies. Mar 1997 v.6:1

Lucey, M. “Voice to voice: self-affirmation in ‘The Years.’” Novel: a forum on fiction. Spring 1991, v.24:3

Moore, Madeleine. “Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Years’ and years of adverse male reviewers.” Women’s Studies. 1977:4

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