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Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

Human beings are social beings who always want to connect with each other through communication. But at the same time, humans also desire to maintain their privacy so that their inner feelings remain to themselves. In their struggle to achieve both their aims, humans find it difficult to satisfy both their needs. They find themselves in dilemma where they are confused and discontented with their lives. The novel “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf depicts the feelings of such individuals who are struggling to maintain to attain both their needs of communicating with others and upholding their privacy at the same time.

Although the novel depicts only a day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway, the protagonist, it presents the past lives of all the characters in the course of the accounts of the day’s happenings. The thoughts and experiences of Mrs. Dalloway, a married woman belonging to an upper middle class and Septimus, a war veteran are similar, as both of them are disconnected from the society they living in. Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway belongs to an upper middle class, and as is the norm in the upper middle class, she frequently throws parties.

On the day depicted in the novel, she is preparing for a party that is about to take place in the evening in her house. She decides to pick flowers for the evening party herself and so ventures out for shopping. When she returns, she finds an expected guest waiting for her in her house. The guest was Peter Walsh, an individual who had proposed Mrs. Dalloway years before she was married to her present husband, Richard Dalloway. Although Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway refused to marry Peter, she is never able to stop herself from thinking about him.

The thoughts of Peter keep coming back to her even though she is leading her life with Richard. “For they might be parted for hundred of years, she and Peter, she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks, but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say? ” (Woolf 6). It is when Mrs. Dalloway dwells on her past and her relation with Peter, that her desire to maintain her privacy in her life is revealed. Clarissa desired to connect with other people but at the same time she intended to keep some of her feelings and experiences to herself.

While interacting with Peter, she realized that Peter expected her to share everything with him and it was this attitude of Peter that compelled her to refuse his marriage proposal. Married to Richard and leading her life according to her will, Clarissa comforts herself and tries to justify her decision to not to marry Peter. “But with Peter everything had to be shared; everything gone into. And it was intolerable, and when it come to that scene in the little garden by the fountain, she had to break with him or they would have been destroyed, both of them ruined, she was convinced. ” (Woolf 6).

To save herself from a married life where she would have lost her individual freedom, Clarissa prefers to refuse to marry Peter even though she liked him. Clarissa thought that in a relation between wife and husband, one should respect each other’s need for privacy. “And there is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect, thought Clarissa….. or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect –something, after all, priceless. ” (Woolf 81). Clarissa’s attitude towards life points towards the significance given by her to solitude.

Even when she is among people, she thinks about how one has to face his/her life alone. During her shopping trip, she is walking in the streets which are filled with people; her mind is filled with thoughts of loneliness. “She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. ” (Woolf 6). As she feels that humans have to face their problems alone, she tries to hide her worries and apprehensions from other people. She always portrays herself before the society as a woman who is in control of her life and feelings.

Clarissa never likes to share her innermost feelings with anybody, for she valued her privacy and aloneness as far as her true feelings are concerned. Her married life with Richard is also influenced by her attitude regarding the need of privacy in one’s life. “For in marriage a little license, a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her and she him. ” (Woolf 6). Her desire to retain her solitude is so intense that all her actions are directed towards the fulfillment of this desire.

Clarissa aims to hide her true self from people but she also wants to communicate and connect with them. Holding parties was one of her ways through which Clarissa attempted to communicate with people. But she was so engrossed with her aim of maintaining her image as a composed woman of upper middle class that she failed to connect with people. Clarissa wants to present herself before the people in a manner which is expected from a woman like her. Being an upper middle class woman, Clarissa tries to repress her real feelings and act like other members of her class.

Although she is conversing with the guests who have arrived at her party, she refrains from expressing her true feelings to them. It is only when is alone that Clarissa reveals her true identity. While gazing at her reflection in the mirror, Clarissa thinks about herself as a woman who differs from the image of herself known to the world. “She pursued her lips when she looked in the glass….. when some effort, some call on her to be herself, drew the parts together, she alone knew how different, how incompatible and composed so far the world only into one centre, one diamond, one woman. ” (Woolf 37). Leading her life as Mrs.

Dalloway, Clarissa fails to communicate with people in a manner where people could understand her feelings. Septimus Septimus is a war veteran who is affected by his experiences at the war. He is not related to Clarissa in anyway but still he resembles her in thoughts and attitude towards life. Septimus belonged to the working class and his physical appearance suggested that he was in constant fear. “Septimus Warren Smith aged about thirty, pale-faced, beak-nosed, wearing brown shoes and a shabby overcoat, with hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension in them which makes complete strangers apprehensive too.

” (pg 11). Septimus is so affected by his experiences at war that he views all the things in the world from a different perspective. Even a motor car appears to him as a dangerous thing. “And there the motor car stood, with drawn blinds, and upon them a curious pattern like a tree, Septimus thought……. of everything to one center before his eyes, as if some horror had come almost to the surface and was about to burst into flames terrified him. ” (Woolf 12). Owing to his war experiences Septimus has lost the ability to feel sorrow and pain.

Even the death of his friend, Evans during the war fails to stir his sorrow. After surviving the war and returning to the society, for which he had fought in the war, he found it difficult to fit within the society. He was immersed in his own world which differed from the real world. Lucrezia, his wife makes him to look at things in the park as suggested by Dr, Holmes. “Look, she implored him, for Dr. Holmes had told her to make him notice real things, go to a music hall, play cricket-that was the very game, Dr. Holmes said, a nice out-of-door game, the very game for her husband.

” (Woolf 19). But Septimus views those things differently. His mind is filled with thoughts of loneliness and suffering. He desires to free himself from the trap of loneliness and suffering, which has been developed within himself owing to the horrors that he had experienced during the war. “Look the unseen bade him, the voice which now communicated with him who was the greatest of mankind, Septimus…. the scapegoat, the eternal sufferer, but he did not want it, he moaned, putting from him with a wave of his hand that eternal suffering, that eternal loneliness. ” (Woolf 19).

The brutalities of war have affected his ability to connect with the world he is living in. He is haunted by the memories of his dead friend, Evans. The war experiences have led him to his insanity, as he saw and imagined things which were not existent in the real word. He came to regard human beings as ruthless animals, “For the truth is (let her ignore it) that human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasures of the moment. They hunt in packs. Their packs scour the desert and vanish screaming into the wilderness. ” (Woolf 78).

The same English society, for which he had fought in the war, now seems unworthy to be preserved. Like Clarissa, he also wanted to communicate with people but when he tried to express his feelings he was termed as an insane man. His wife and his doctor failed to understand the feelings that have gripped Septimus. Holmes thinks that Septimus should aim to come out of his imagined world. Another famous psychiatrist whom Lucrezia consults regarding her husband’s mental condition is Sir William Bradshaw, but he is also unable to provide a remedy to Septimus’ troubled state of mind.

He believes that Septimus should be admitted in a sanatorium so that he can take complete rest. But when Dr. Holmes arrives at Septimus’ house to take him to a sanatorium, Septimus refuses to give in to the intentions of Dr. Holmes. Instead of behaving according to the will of Holmes, he kills himself by jumping to his death. Septimus is not ready to part with his soul, so he parts with his life and retains his control over his soul. Although Septimus loved his life, he prefers to end his life instead of succumbing to the forces of oppressions which have entered his life in form of his doctors.

“He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings? ” (Woolf 132). Through his suicide, Septimus communicates to the world regarding his refusal to yield in to the demands of his society to part with his soul. Although Clarissa has not met or heard about Septimus before, she feels that she is connected to Septimus when she hears about his suicide from one of her guests at the party. When she reflects on his suicide in the small room, where she gone to find some solitude after hearing the news of Septimus’ suicide at her party, Clarissa realizes her situation was similar to that of Septimus.

“She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. ” (Woolf 139). Clarissa’s loneliness even when she is amidst people is similar to Septimus’ tendency of living in his imaginary world which differed from the real world. Clarissa withheld her true feelings from the society which she belonged to; she acted and behaved in manner which was acceptable in her society. The real Clarissa differed in many ways from the Clarissa who appeared before the people.

Clarissa and Septimus lived in a society where they had to repress their feelings. Clarissa was attracted to a woman and Septimus also experienced feelings of attraction towards his friend, Evans but both were compelled to give up their feelings of love, for their society would never approve of their love. Septimus’ insane world was similar to the sane world of Clarissa, as both these worlds were different from the real world. Septimus prefers to die than to lead his life in a society where he is forced to part with his soul.

Clarissa admires Septimus for the courage he displays by refusing to give in to the demands of his oppressive doctors. The death of Septimus makes her to realize the compromises she had made in her life to gain privacy in her marriage. Although she achieved her aim of retaining her privacy by her marriage to Richard, she harbored doubts in her mind regarding her decision to refuse Peter and marry Richard. Clarissa continued with her life whereas Septimus ends his life and liberates himself from a repressed life.

Both of them are living in a society but are disconnected from it to such an extent that they regard themselves as lonely beings. Conclusion In the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, the characters of Clarissa and Septimus are not known to each other but their experiences are connected. Clarissa and Septimus struggle to retain their privacy, and at the same they attempt to communicate with the people around them. Clarissa’s communication fails to present her true self whereas Septimus is considered as an insane person when he tries to express his feelings.

Both of them are immersed in their internal world which differs from the real world they are living in. Clarissa is engrossed in her world where she values her privacy over all other things in her life. Septimus lives in his imaginary world where he perceives things and people which are not extant in the real world. Clarissa accepts her situation and continues with her life while Septimus refuses to yield before the will of his doctors and kills himself.

Works Cited

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Wordsworth Editions. 1996.

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