Quotes By The Voyage Out

“I want to write a novel about Silence," he said; “the things people don’t say.”


“It appeared that nobody ever said a thing they meant, or ever talked of a feeling they felt, but that was what music was for.”


“We're all in the dark. We try to find out, but can you imagine anything more ludicrous than one person's opinion of another person? One goes along thinking one knows; but one really doesn't know”


“You’re the only person I’ve ever met who seems to have the faintest conception of what I mean when I say a thing.”


“For some time she observed a great yellow butterfly, which was opening and closing its wings very slowly on a little flat stone.
"What is it to be in love?" she demanded, after a long silence; each word as it came into being seemed to shove itself out into an unknown sea. Hypnotized by the wings of the butterfly, and awed by the discovery of a terrible possibility in life, she sat for some time longer. When the butterfly flew away, she rose, and within, her two books beneath her arm returned again, much as a soldier prepares for battle.”


“That was the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.”


“To feel anything strongly was to create an abyss between oneself and others who feel strongly perhaps but differently.”


“Tragedies come in the hungry hours.”


“The morning was hot, and the exercise of reading left her mind contracting and expanding like the main-spring of a clock, and the small noises of midday, which one can ascribe to no definite cause, in a regular rhythm. It was all very real, very big, very impersonal, and after a moment or two she began to raise her first finger and to let it fall on the arm of her chair so as to bring back to herself some consciousness of her own existence. She was next overcome by the unspeakable queerness of the fact that she should be sitting in an arm-chair, in the morning, in the middle of the world. Who were the people moving in the house--moving things from one place to another? And life, what was that? It was only a light passing over the surface and vanishing, as in time she would vanish, though the furniture in the room would remain. Her dissolution became so complete that she could not raise her finger any more, and sat perfectly still, listening and looking always at the same spot. It became stranger and stranger. She was overcome with awe that things should exist at all. . . She forgot that she had any fingers to raise. . . The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. . . She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.”


“It is impossible for human beings, constituted as they are, both to fight and to have ideals.”


“She fell into a deep pool of sticky water, which eventually closed over her head. She saw nothing and heard nothing but a faint booming sound, which was the sound of the sea rolling over her head. While all her tormentors thought that she was dead, she was not dead, but curled up at the bottom of the sea.”


“My notion's to think of the human beings first and let the abstract ideas take care of themselves.”


“I've cared for heaps of people, but not to marry them' she said. 'I suppose I'm too fastidious. all my life I've wanted somebody I could look up to, somebody great and big and splendid. Most men are so small.'

'What d;you mean by splendid?' Hewet asked. 'People are-nothing more.”


“When two people have been married for years they seem to become unconscious of each other's bodily presence so that they move as if alone, speak aloud things which they do not expect to be answered, and in general seem to experience all the comfort of solitude without its loneliness.”


“The vision of her own personality, of herself as a real everlasting thing, different from anything else, unmergeable, like the sea or the wind, flashed into Rachel's mind, and she became profoundly excited at the thought of living.”


“People are—nothing more.”


“I like observing people. I like looking at things.”


“Books - books - books," said Helen, in her absent-minded way. "More new books - I wonder what you find in them...”


“You’re infinitely simpler than I am… That’s the difficulty.”


“As the streets that lead from the Strand to the Embankment are very narrow, it is better not to walk down them arm-in-arm.”


“It was only by scorning all she met that she kept herself from tears, and the friction of people brushing past her was evidently painful.”


“To speak or to be silent was equally an effort, for when they were silent they were keenly conscious of each other's presence, and yet words were either too trivial or too large.”


“It was long before they moved, and when they moved it was with great reluctance. They stood together in front of the looking-glass, and with a brush tried to make themselves look as if they had been feeling nothing all the morning, neither pain nor happiness. But it chilled them to see themselves in the glass, for instead of being vast and indivisible they were really very small and separate, the size of the glass leaving a large space for the reflection of other things.”


“Early next morning there was a sound as of chains being drawn roughly overhead; the steady heart of the Euphrosyne slowly ceased to beat; and Helen, poking her nose above deck, saw a stationary castle upon a stationary hill. They had dropped anchor in the mouth of the Tagus, and instead of cleaving new waves perpetually, the same waves kept returning and washing against the sides of the ship.”


“Why was it that relations between different people were so unsatisfactory, so fragmentary, so hazardous, and words so dangerous...What had Evelyn really wished to say to him? What was she feeling left alone in the empty hall? The mystery of life and the unreality even of one's own sensations overcame him as he walked down the corridor which led to his room.”


“Rachel read what she chose, reading with the curious literalness of one to whom written sentences are unfamiliar, and handling words as though they were made of wood, separately of great importance, and possessed of shapes like tables or chairs. In this way she came to conclusions, which had to be remodelled according to the adventures of the day, and were indeed recast as liberally as any one could desire, leaving always a small grain of belief behind them.”


“Thank God, Helen, I'm not like you! I sometimes think you don't think or feel or care to do anything but exist! You're like Mr. Hirst. You see that things are bad, and you pride yourself on saying so. It's what you call being honest; as a matter of fact it's being lazy, being dull, being nothing. You don't help; you put an end to things.”


“They were now moving steadily down the river, passing the dark shapes of ships at anchor, and London was a swarm of lights with a pale yellow canopy drooping above it. There were the lights of the great theatres, the lights of the long streets, lights that indicated huge squares of domestic comfort, lights that hung high in air. No darkness would ever settle upon those lamps, as no darkness had settled upon them for hundreds of years. It seemed dreadful that the town should blaze for ever in the same spot; dreadful at least to people going away to adventure upon the sea, and beholding it as a circumscribed mound, eternally burnt, eternally scarred. From the deck of the ship the great city appeared a crouched and cowardly figure, a sedentary miser.”