The Voyage Out (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Voyage Out (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

by Virginia Woolf, Pagan Harleman

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The Voyage Out, by Virginia Woolf, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


We meet young, free-spirited Rachel Vinrace aboard her father's ship, the Euphrosyne, departing London for South America. Surrounded by a clutch of genteel companions—among them her aunt Helen, who judges Rachel to be "vacillating," "emotional," and "more than normally incompetent for her years"—Rachel displays a startling maturity when she finds her engagement to the writer Terence Hewet listing toward disaster. As she soon discovers, "tragedies come in the hungry hours."

Published in 1915, The Voyage Out is Virginia Woolf's first novel, and it is written in a more traditional narrative style than the one she later perfected. But this maiden voyage predicts Woolf's future triumphs in its elegant delineation of the troubles plaguing modern life and its satire of the upper class. As Rachel's peculiar fellow passengers expand their minds with the ideas of Aristotle and Shelley, they meanwhile suffer from the societal ennui that education and sophistication cannot overcome.

Filled with cutting insights about politics, literature, gender, and modern relationships, The Voyage Out is a finely perceived impression of the overriding confusion that immediately followed World War I.

Pagan Harleman is a freelance writer and filmmaker living in New York City.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411433441
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 863,970
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Virginia Woolf (1882¿1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels. Her best-known books include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando, and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own.

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1882

Date of Death:

March 28, 1941

Place of Birth:


Place of Death:

Sussex, England


Home schooling

Read an Excerpt

From Pagan Harleman’s Introduction to The Voyage Out

At the age of twenty-five Virginia Woolf began work on her first novel, initially titled Melymbrosia. She had just lost her favorite brother, Thoby, to death and her best friend and sister, Vanessa, to marriage, and was feeling lonely and orphaned and angry at the solution people proposed: "I wish everyone didn’t tell me to marry" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol.1: 1888–1912, p. 274; see "For Further Reading"). At the time Woolf had never had a serious relationship with a man and was apprehensive about sex and disdainful of marriage, which she feared would require her to surrender not just her independence but her sense of self. She was also furious about women’s limited choices and their subjugated position in a male-orchestrated society. She poured all of these feelings and fears into her novel.

Woolf had high ambitions for her first novel; in a letter to her brother-in-law Clive Bell she vowed, "I shall re-form the novel and capture multitude of things at present fugitive" (Letters, vol. 1, p. 356). In Woolf’s later work—most notably the masterpieces Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves—she succeeded in her goal of reforming the novel by developing a writing style entirely her own, one that used stream of consciousness and symbolism, not plot, to organize her material. These novels do not build to a climactic conclusion as much as they travel through a series of cascading epiphanies. In The Voyage Out, however, Woolf was still writing under the shadow of E. M. Forster and the traditional novel; she was not yet ready to venture into such new terrain. One can see her experimenting, slowly honing the style that was to become her hallmark, but where later she was fearless, here she is tentative, still depending on plot, not style, to drive the narrative.

On the surface The Voyage Out is structured around the tried-and-true marriage plot perfected by Jane Austen. A young, naive single woman, Rachel Vinrace, leaves on a voyage for South America and is taken under the wing of her more experienced Aunt Helen, who vows to educate Rachel in the ways of the world. Instinctively the reader feels the story will center on the question of whether Rachel will be successfully "educated" and assimilate into society through marriage. The introspective quality of the novel, however, contradicts this assumption; this is a story about not what people do or say but what they feel and how they experience.

The Voyage Out is also a meditation of sorts on three open-ended questions: What is love? Why do people marry? And what choices do women have in the here and now? Interwoven with these questions are several recurring themes, most notably the arrogant hypocrisy of the English middle class and the limits of communication. Woolf displays a light and ironic touch in several sections, particularly when she is satirizing English attitudes, but ultimately this is a contemplative novel about the solitary nature of our experience as human beings. Woolf signals her more serious intentions through an unconventional approach: She displaces the traditional marriage plot with uncertainty, confusion, suffering, and ultimately death.

The story of Woolf’s early life is itself overshadowed by uncertainty, suffering, and death. She was born in 1882 to Leslie and Julia Stephen, an upper-middle-class London couple. Leslie Stephen was an accomplished writer well known for his intellectual honesty, his atheism, and his stubbornness. He first married Minny Thackeray, niece of William Thackeray, and they had a daughter, Laura Stephen, before Minny died young. Julia Stephen, born Julia Jackson, was a relative of the pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron; she had three children—George, Stella, and Gerald—from a previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, before Herbert’s sudden death. Julia and Leslie had four children of their own—Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia, and Adrian.

The house, then, that Virginia grew up in was full and chaotic; there were eight children, two parents, four stories, and seven servants. Leslie worked at home, writing in his library, while Julia tutored the Stephen children in an enthusiastic but somewhat unsystematic fashion. In recollections of her childhood Virginia said she rarely spent more than five minutes alone with her mother, who was always rushing to attend to the needs of Leslie, the house, the children, or her charity projects, and yet Virginia recalled  a relatively happy childhood. Her fondest and indeed her most primal memory was that of the waves breaking outside the family’s summer house in Cornwall, a womblike memory she vividly describes in her autobiographical essay "A Sketch of the Past": "It is of hearing the waves breaking one, two, one, two and . . . feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive" (Moments of Being, pp. 6465). The vision of the sea as nurturing is prominent throughout Woolf’s work, and The Voyage Out is no exception in this regard. Rachel turns to the sea again and again when she is confused or troubled; she endows it with a mysterious but calming power, although water is inextricably linked throughout the narrative to both desire and death.

When Virginia was thirteen her childhood ended suddenly when her mother caught a fever and abruptly died. The whole family was crushed, and Leslie was all but inconsolable, but for Virginia the blow was devastating. She began to exhibit signs of nervous tension and to hallucinate, and then had a full-scale nervous breakdown. There was already a pattern of mental illness in Virginia’s family: Her half sister Laura had been placed in an institution; her cousin J. K. Stephen had gone mad and also been institutionalized; and her father, Leslie, suffered from depression. Clearly there was a possibility that Virginia’s illness was genetic and biochemical, but at the time mental illness was seriously misunderstood and mistreated. The family doctor prescribed outdoor exercise four hours a day, regular glasses of milk, and no unnecessary excitement. Stella, Virginia’s older half sister, who had taken over as matriarch, supervised Virginia’s treatment, and Virginia slowly recovered.

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The Voyage Out 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 122 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Voyage Out' is a very interesting story about the education and growth of a 24 year old girl in the 20th Century. I highly recommended reading it in Barnes & Nobles edition specially to students like me who are beginning the American Classics because it contains very helpful explanations of historical facts or expressions of that time. It includes also a detailed biography of the author and an introductory explanation of the book's context which was great because I was unfamiliar with Virginia Wolf's life or work. Only with this help I could fully understand this extraordinary book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic! I love to read classic novels and this one not only drew me in immediately, but kept me hooked. V.W has a literary style that is unsurpassed by other women of her time, with an ebb and flow that most women fail to possess. It is an accurate portrayl of a woman that is secluded from the rest of society and has a lack of basic social knowledge. Though I didn't agree with the aspects of feminism, I must say that all men would benifit from reading this, as it lends a window into the mind of women. If this don't make you stop and think of your life and mentality every ten pages, then nothing will.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'd wanted to read her novels for years, but wasn't sure I was up for them. This is a great first read, her first novel, in beginner's style, before she got too far out there. The prose is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first Barnes and Noble classic I read, and the story instantly drew me in. I had recently seen 'The Hours' and wondered if Virginia Woolf wrote similarly to the way she was in real life. I was completely wrong. This story is entertaining and refreshing just like a voyage out!!!
Anonymous 5 days ago
Not many reviews here!!! Just a bunch of kids talking about a bunch of nothing!!!!!!!
rcooper3589 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, I tried to finish this book but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't stand it any longer. It's horrid. I found the book so slow and so boring. It doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of drama/love stories about English society in the early 1900's either. I didn't care about any of the characters- they were all whinny brats on vacation. I did, however, appreciate Woolf's forward thinking in regards to women in politics and education. That was nice. That, however, was the only nice thing. After over 200 pages I just couldn't read the next 200. No way. I really tried. Really, I did. Oh well... hopefully the next book is good.
GarySeverance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rachel Vinrace is a character whose life in England is structured by Victorian ideas of the proper development of young women. Her outer life is restricted by her maiden aunts, and her inner life is kept in check by self-discipline in her piano playing and the restraint imposed on her imagination in the kind of literature she is allowed to read. Rachel has an opportunity to take a voyage out of her bonds on a cruise to South America. She begins to loosen her self restrictions as she studies the artificial and real motives of her fellow travelers. While on her father's ship, Rachel's liberation is as slow and determined as her piano playing, staying with the composition but engaging in a few private improvisations. While staying at a hotel in South America, the pace of Rachel's development accelerates. As she accompanies other brave souls on a short guided trip into the wilds of the jungle, Rachel's insight races. But she has no meaningful starting point or signposts to guide her in self exploration. Her emotions become increasingly intense and her behavior more erratic as she falls in love with a fellow passenger. Rachel's ideas take flight with striking visual images and loose emotional associations. A common resolution of her out of control improvisations is the complete peace of immersion in an undersea world, a final reduction of "fever." Virginia Woolf's first novel is an excellent self portrait of budding bipolar disorder. The author sketches this portrait by producing unexpected and "pretty notes" as Louis Armstrong described his jazz. Woolf ultimately found her own underwater peace suggesting the tremendous toll of manic creativity.
DieFledermaus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the first novel of Woolf, which can be seen in the more conventional storyline. It's a coming of age story of Rachel Vinrace, an unformed and cloistered girl. In the opening scenes, she meets her aunt and uncle with whom she's had little contact. Helen has a vibrant and gregarious personality while her husband is a bookish scholar who almost disappears from the novel. Rachel goes through the standard life-changing events - a new companion in Helen, the journey away from home, and love. After arriving in South America, Helen and Rachel fall into a group of other Brits. As in some of her later books - To the Lighthouse, Between the Acts, even The Waves - Woolf follows the thoughts of the whole group. Especially interesting was Susan Warrington, an unmarried girl getting up in age. She's there to help her elderly aunt who thinks of her as almost a servant. Susan dreads a life of insignificance, never free to do what she wants, always part of someone else. Unexceptional and awkward, she doesn't have good prospects for marriage. However, Arthur Venning takes an interest in her and they wind up engaged. Certainly they'll only end up as a middling couple - noted by St John Hirst and Terence Hewet - but it's really the best she can hope for. Hewet and Rachel pair off while Hirst and Helen start spending more time together. Hewet is sensitive, sometimes sentimental, a contrast to his wry, witty friend Hirst but Rachel has almost no personality at all. Her one characteristic is that she is an expert piano player. Under Helen and Hewet, she not so much as develops a personality but has them rub off a bit on her. A trip up the river is her last, as she falls ill. Ironically, after 20 odd years of not doing much, she dies when she'd finally started interacting with the outer world. The book was odd in that the heroine could not at all be said to have a strong or even well-defined personality so much prefer Woolf's later, more experimental fiction and would recommend those.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in lookin around at all the people
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in shyly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sat quietly, drinking another beer
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tiger with a diamond bracelet on pads in. "Finally! Time to paartay!", she says.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A pretty blond haired girl with a double peirced, small gold hoop earing on her left ear walked in. Her hair was up in a braid with a gold ring holding ot together to one side, while her side bangs hung in front of her right eye. Her bright green eyes watched everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[Sorry wrong person]<p>"Give. Me. The. Cat. Now." She growled at Kiriel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walked in, earbuds shoved into her ears and her dark hair pulle into a messy ponytail. She wore a white off the shoulder t-shirt with the words, 'Save Rock and Roll' scrawled across in blocky gold lettering and skinny jeans, plus Roots Canada roll down boots and her purple Roots Canads socks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She padded in and looked around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She smiled quickly, and thanked her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Then I'm leaving, too. I hate these things!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pads in and looks atound
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wolf went to her son sniffing him then leaving to hunt
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If you wanna fu<_>ck go to bbb res one. (;