Updated February 14, 1998
Created January 1998 by UAH graduate students Sheri Stanley and Mary Beth Walker
What is the setting of The Voyage Out?
Setting is crucial to The Voyage Out. It establishes both the structure and the mood of the novel and provides the backdrop for many of Virginia Woolfs issues and ideas. The story begins on crowded London streets in 1905, a real world scene, and progresses to the semi-reality and "perpetual movement" of a sea voyage with stops on the Portuguese and African coasts. Lorna Sage in her introduction to the novel says it is both a "rite of passage" and an "odyssey of sorts" (xii). The destination is the fictional island of Santa Marino in South America. On that island, the characters move in and out of a villa and a hotel and later take another water excursion this time a river voyage. The story ends with the characters preparing to return to England. The Voyage Out is a voyage of exploration (Sage xxviii.) Everything is fluid; everything keeps moving. The reader is continually aware of constant movement, either on a large or small scale.
Woolf creates macrocosms and microcosms with her settings: two islands (England and Santa Marina), two rivers (The Thames and the Amazon), two voyages. Beer says that "the island has seemed the perfect form in English cultural imagining. . . . " (154) and Woolf uses that form in this novel. Another aspect of setting is her use of literary and historical allusions with specific settings to complement the novel at various points in the plot. (For example: allusions to Elizabethan voyages on the river voyage.)
Virginia Stephen herself traveled by sea to Spain in 1905, and to Florence in 1909 where she "encountered an English colony the members of which undoubtedly shaded certain characters in the novel" (Hussey 337).
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