Finally! I can understand and assimilate a critical essay on Virginia Woolf. I am referring to Jeanne-Marie Zeck’s article “’Shining in the Dark’: Jinny’s Reign as Sun Goddess.” Zeck wrote this article to argue her point that Jinny is at the very least as important as the other characters, if not more important. After reading her essay, Jinny arises as the most important character. I haven’t finished the book yet, so I still keep the right to change my opinion, but Zeck lays out her argument in a logical and methodical way.
She begins her article by giving the reader some other critics’ opinions of Jinny; promiscuous, self-indulgent, one-dimensional, unimportant. Historically speaking, women who enjoy sex and seek it eagerly have been tagged with many a derogatory term. Ironically, in the margins as I read this article I wrote, “Virginia Woolf was a flirt, but I don’t believe she enjoyed sex. Maybe these characters – or the women – all personify an aspect of Woolf’s own character. Jinny has the sexuality that Woolf may have wanted, or at least a bit more of.” Why is that ironic? It’s ironic because in one of her endnotes, Zeck makes a similar statement.
Returning back to the topic of this blog, Zeck purpose in this essay is to assert that Jinny is the Sun Goddess, and Zeck tries to wrangle Jinny out of her usual classification. In that Jinny connects with other people and “relishes communion with others” (126). I just realized by using the word “communion” Zeck brings forth the idea of gods and worship. She contends that Woolf consistently uses sun imagery to describe Jinny and also uses sun colors when describing her. When Jinny attends a party, she always searching for the gilt chair so that she can “both illuminate others and be admired by them” (127). Not all want to be illuminated however. Rhoda yearns for darkness, and illumination reveals Susan’s shabby dress.
Zeck believes that by Woolf putting Jinny on the throne as the sun goddess, she has aligned Jinny with a more powerful position. Women are usually associated with the moon. The most interesting part of this article for me was that by elevating Jinny to the status of a sun goddess, Woolf also elevates woman to a maternal god (129).
Jinny lives in the moment, and when Percival dies, Bernard thinks of suicide. It’s Jinny who teaches him how to continue, to move past death and to live in the moment. Woolf has tied Jinny and Bernard together also in that each is referenced with a motif of circles; they are a union.
And I’ll close this with my favorite line from this essay: "The answer, Woolf suggests, is to replace the sun god with the sun goddess who illuminates a world without illusions, a world made up of drop after drop of heavy, delicate but substantial moments"(130). --- moments of being ---
Zeck, Jeanne-Marie. “’Shining in the Dark’: Jinny’s Reign as Sun Goddess.” Virginia Woolf: Emerging Perspectives. Selected Papers from the 3rd Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf. Eds. Mark Hussey and Vara Neverow. Pace Up, 1994. pp. 126-131. PDF.