Before I continue this, I should make it clear that Virginia Woolf is one of my top 3 favorite authors (the other two being Franz Kafka–the reason I study German and Czech–and Sylvia Plath), and so of course I read a lot of her work anyway and have always been fascinated by her life and her personal writings more so than her novels. This semester however, I was given the opportunity to take a course specifically on Virginia Woolf as part of the credit toward my English minor and I of course jumped at the chance. The reading assignment for the last two weeks was The Voyage Out, a novel about a young woman named Rachel who goes on a journey in South America with relatives and discovers herself. There are these two men in the second part of the book called Hirst and Hewet and they are very close. They share lodgings together and Hirst is reluctant to talk to women because he finds them all to be “stupid”. In fact, Hirst seems only to want to spend time with Hewet (until he meets Rachel, that is). But for a good portion of the book every time I read a scene involving just Hirst and Hewet it just seemed to me like they would have been a really good gay couple. Also, there is something in Hirst and Rachel’s relationship which reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s relationship with Lytton Strachey. (Strachey was a homosexual author and member of the Bloomsbury Group that Woolf also was a member of, and they supposedly got on well and Virginia wanted to marry him because their relationship would have been one of convenience.) But a lot of elements of this relationship just made me think Woolf and Strachey and wonder if this is somehow a bit autobiographically inspired, though my professor completely disagrees with me. Being a writer myself though, I am inclined to think–from my own experiences–that all writing ends up being autobiographical in one way or another, be it a vague reference like this one or the entire book.

Thoughts on Hirst and Rachel in The Voyage Out


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