I will give the passage first followed by the passage analysis.
Virginia Woolf "Ellen Terry"
(1) When she came on to the stage as Lady Cicely in Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, the stage collapsed like a house of cards and all the limelights were extinguished. (2) When she spoke it was as if someone drew a bow over a ripe, richly seasoned ‘cello; it grated, it glowed, and it growled. (3) Then she stopped speaking. (4) She put on her glasses. (5) She gazed intently at the back of the settee. (6) She had forgotten her part. (7) But did it matter? (8) Speaking or silent, she was Lady Cicely—or it was Ellen Terry? (9) At any rate, she filled the stage and all the other actors were put out, as electric lights are put out in the sun.
In her essay “Ellen Terry”, Virginia Woolf lovingly portrays the life and acting career of the late Ellen Terry. In the first paragraph of her essay, Woolf describes the talent that Terry holds and shows that no matter what situations she finds herself in, her talent and grace on the stage will pull her through.
This opening paragraph shows that the essay will describe the faults within the life of Terry, but then will also show how she prevails and lights up the stage with her presence. The first line of this paragraph is the longest sentence, composed of an adverbial dependent clause, two independent clauses, and four prepositional phrases which describe the play she is in and the theaters reaction to her stage presence. The dependent clause shows Terry’s entrance onto the stage, while the two independent clauses describe the set falling apart. The composition of this sentence allows the reader to flow through the sentence, with its long composition and the inclusion of all of the prepositions—which ties in with how Woolf describes her wonderful presence on the stage and how enchanting she was. Going along with the first sentence, the second is also beautifully written in that it is long and contains a lot of grammatical aspects. It is composed of a dependent clause which begins the sentence and describes her speaking, two prepositional phrases that describe her speech as like playing a cello, and an independent clause showing the sounds the cell—and in turn Terry—would make. Woolf uses these long, lyrical sentences and the repetition of the consonant sounds “r” and “g”, such as in “ripe, richly” and “grated”, “glowed” and “growled”, to show Terry’s wonderful speaking voice, which she describes in the second sentence.
The turning point in how Woolf wrote the passage takes place after sentence two, which also coincides with a shift in the tone of the paragraph. At this point, Woolf is describing a moment with which Terry has forgotten her lines and is scrambling to remember them. Woolf makes it a point to shift from the long, beautifully flowing lines of the first two sentences and switches to abruptness and bare bones syntax. These sentences (3-7) are no more than nine words long and are all independent clauses. She loses the prepositional phrases from earlier and uses no descriptive words. The abruptness of the sentences portrays how a reader might imagine Terry, shuffling about and sputtering short sentences.
The tone in the essay shifts back to the previous one with sentence eight and it also returns back to the beginning style of long, descriptive sentences. Woolf begins sentence eight and then leads into two independent clauses which are connected with a dash. This sentence discusses how regardless if she forgot her lines and stood silently on stage, Terry would always be a phenomenal actress—and she stresses this idea by going back to her original sentence structure. Woolf even includes two questions in sentences eight and nine stressing that it didn’t matter if she forgot her lines; she was still submersed in the role she played. Sentence nine, and the passage, end with three prepositional phrases that sandwich two independent clauses between them. Woolf further complicated the paragraph and ended it with the strongest message of all, that Ellen Terry outshines all other performers who are onstage with her. Woolf returned to the idea of long, descriptive passages to bring the reader back to the mental image of Terry graceful strutting across the stage and spilling her lines perfectly to the audience.
Throughout this passage, Woolf also effectively uses three metaphors when discussing Terry. The first being in line one when she describes the stage collapsing as “a house of cards”, the second being in line two when she describes her voice as being like a cello, and the final being in line nine when Woolf compares Terry’s stage presence outshining her fellow actors “as electric lights are put out by the sun”. These metaphors are crucial to the essay in that they give the reader something to imagine and they also compare Terry to huge images. Not only can Terry collapse a stage, but she has the voice of a musical instrument and she shines on stage like the sun.
Virginia Woolf effectively intertwines the story of the passage with her chosen syntax to create a powerful start to her essay. The special effect of varying the sentence length based on where she is in her story helps to paint a more detailed picture for the reader and allows them to feel that they are witnessing Ellen Terry fumbling over her words on stage.
Virginia Woolf "Professions for Women"
(1) But to tell you my story--it is a simple one. (2) You have only got to figure to yourselves a girl in a bedroom with a pen in her hand. (3) She had only to move that pen from left to right--from ten o'clock to one. (4) Then it occurred to her to do what is simple and cheap enough after all--to slip a few of those pages into an envelope, fix a penny stamp in the corner, and drop the envelope into the red box at the corner. (5) It was thus that I became a journalist; and my effort was rewarded on the first day of the following month--a very glorious day it was for me--by a letter from an editor containing a cheque for one pound ten shillings and sixpence. (6) But to show you how little I deserve to be called a professional woman, how little I know of the struggles and difficulties of such lives, I have to admit that instead of spending that sum upon bread and butter, rent, shoes and stockings, or butcher's bills, I went out and bought a cat--a beautiful cat, a Persian cat, which very soon involved me in bitter disputes with my neighbours.
In her essay “Professions for Women”, Virginia Woolf speaks to other women trying to get into writing—a field filled predominately with men. She speaks of the struggles that women had trying to break out of the mold of a pure and quiet woman and gives them encouragement to break into the world of writing. Not only does Woolf use this essay to empower women, but she also showcases her unique style of writing and to intertwine the two together.
This passage is situated near the beginning of the essay, when Woolf was asked to tell her story of getting into the writing industry. She describes a simple story of a woman sending in her writing and becoming a journalist. In telling this story, Woolf frequently used dashes in her sentences to add more detail to her otherwise very simple sentences. She uses this punctuation in sentence one: “—it is a simple one”, in sentence three: “—from ten o’clock to one”, sentence four: “—to slip a few of those pages into an envelope”, and sentence six: “—a beautiful cat”. Not only are these used to add description to the sentences, but Woolf also uses them to show the simplicity and the appeal of having a profession. By describing her writing career in more detail and making it seem like an easier process, Woolf was more likely to convince women of her time to try to join the work force—writing in particular.
The longest sentence of the passage happens to be the last one, sentence six. This is an interesting sentence because after spending the entire passage convincing the reader that women are capable and deserve to hold down professions, she comes out and says that she doesn’t deserve to be called a “professional woman” because she spent her first paycheck on a Persian cat instead of paying off her bills. This sentence is also very interesting because even though it is a very long sentence, Woolf manages to compose it very simply. It contains eight independent clauses that tell the reader how she did not spend her first paycheck like a professional woman would. Other than the independent clauses, the sentence also contains five prepositional phrases that modify the clauses by explaining what she didn’t spend her money on. Finally, two appositives modify the final main clause by describing the Persian cat that she purchased. So, even though this is a very long sentence to end the passage with, Woolf was able to compose it in a very simple structure.
Virginia Woolf wrote her passage “Professions for Women” to show women the possibilities in the work force and also to describe her profession to readers. She composed this passage very simply, mainly using independent clauses and prepositional phrases to get her point across, which speaks to the audience that she was expecting to read this. Regardless of her simple sentence structure, Woolf parallels the use of dashes to add descriptors to her sentences. By writing her essay this way, Woolf is able to convey her message in simple terms but still get her complicated and controversial point across.