Virginia Woolf’s Work “Mrs. Dalloway”

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Virginia Woolf’s work ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ is a very diverse work which has a lot of ideas and topics to analyse and discuss. So, one of the most important issue in the novel is feminism. A lot of scholars and literalists have debated on that question and is still unclear and does not show a determinate perspective on itself. She analyses the patriarchal English society in her novels, where she characterizes the kind of women in diverse contexts. She opened women’s eyes on their inferior status and provided them with a female tradition to rely on. She struggles to offer women the proper proofs for having a meaning in life. Hence, Woolf holds that such meaning would lead to a target in life, and consequently, it would create a modern and normal life.

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Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ was published in 1925 and she tends to write about a lot of themes and feminism is one of the most underlying topic. The story is about when Clarissa Dalloway threw a party and the novel tells about the preparing and the result of it. During this, she contemplates her life and feels that it is ordinary and petty. Woolf showed through this that the women’s lifestyle at that time is meaningless because of the constraints of them.

A very implied but feminist tone can be perceived right from the beginning, when Clarissa goes out to purchase some flowers for her party and she instantly starts to imagine about Peter Walsh, with who she nearly got married. Taking under consideration her memories of conversation between herself and Peter the conclusion that even tough he loved her, he did not told Clarissa what he was feeling which can be explained with the fact that Peter had a lot of more important stuff to deal with, leaving her in the background. Clarissa remains thinking about the chance to have been married to Peter throughout the day. She is still imagining that her life would have been very different if not marry Richard, nevertheless the most deeply emotional and romantic memories belong to Sally Saton. However, she could not admit having a closeness to a same sex person, that is why it was hopeless to confess what she was feeling because it would have ruined her dignity and rooted her feelings of shame which were inflicted upon her by the social standards of her time. Instead, she married Richard Dalloway which was supposed from her and apparently accepted a life of duty.

At this point, she was a woman who had maintained her appearance and satisfied her social commitments, she was not expected to follow her heart wishes, she just had to be the woman who her man wanted her to be. Perhaps, she could not acknowledge that this life was not the one she was cherishing and was the cause of her deliberations throughout the day. Somehow, she repressed her true feelings and attempted to meet the demands of the age and society to her. It was really hard to hide what she felt but, as a woman, she had not much rights at this time so, she had no other possibility than accepting dependency and not to rebel against the implied social standards.

The sense of a wife’s duty is also indicated in another character, Lucrezia Warren Smith, wife of Septimus Smith who is said to be Clarissa’s parallel character. Even though she loves her husband a lot, she feels the load of having to take care about Septimus who is diagnosed from a mental illness. Lucrezia thinks that she is in the role of continuous caregiver and begins to see her husband as less of a man.

When Septimus dies, the whole story takes a little twist and it has a bit shocking repercussion on everyone, but especially on Clarissa. Firstly, she felt angry and kept rancour towards Lady Bradshaw, who destroyed the good atmosphere with that awful news. She wanted to keep away the hard word “death” from the party because her life felt so petite in comparison to that thought, a mere wife and just a party planner. Most women would have thought in that way.

Eventually, she liked the thought, which made her feel even more alive, and permitted her to desire and feel happy about the feeling of being alive, and the things that she had, though in her current state of mind, her life could be summarized as trivial, barely a wife and party planner.

The character of Clarissa is represented as a suppressed woman, but, in the novel, there are indications that some women were starting to take on roles of power, like Lady Bruton, who sometimes acted as a good leader. she had nobility, and everyone listened to her. She was able to do the kind of things that average people could not. It is very rare in the case of a woman because they are habitually for being led and not leading others, this situation could only occur at that time if the woman was in an influential position. Even though it may have happened in some cases, it was very strange and that is why it is awkward to be subservient to a woman.

There is another character, which is supposedly a trait of the Virgin Mary, Virginity, and she “alone of all her sex” managed to defend, became a goal in the nineteenth-century for all women who were supposed to struggle to achieve. In this age, the woman was identified as a domestic animal, like if she was an angel who is completely unselfish, sympathetic and charming; a woman who has a family with some difficulties, so she has to sacrify herself every day. Besides, this vision of the woman can be related to Virgin Mary’s appearance, behaviour and humble approach to God. People in the nineteenth century believed women seemed to her.

There are spotted two facts concerning Clarissa, however, distance her from the “angel type”, and restrain her from sanctification: her declared agnosticism (she did not believe in God) and the fact that her virginity is rendered an act of conscious choice. Her conscious denial of a male-centred sexuality imposed on her by patriarchal ideology, along with her inability to perform her wifely duties (characterized by Woolf as a “failure” on her part), render Clarissa’s virginity a far more complex issue. [11]

Mrs. Dalloway’s virginity is sharply contrasted to her power to arouse fleshly desire in others. Peter Walsh, once a rejected lover of Clarissa’s, is still deeply attracted by her even though time has passed and many-many years have gone so far they loved each other so intensely. Miss Kilman, dedicated to religion, finds it difficult to control the flesh after her encounter with Mrs. Dalloway. Rather than being a sign of mere modesty, Clarissa’s virginity seems to be related to the ancient Greek and pagan notion of virginity as a sign of power and autonomy.
However, the word “failure” is referring to Clarissa’s continuous fails to meet her husband’s demands and her duties towards him. It may be explained with Clarissa conscious option to reject men, and remain single being unconquered like an ancient pagan goddess or as a negative reflection of her to be normal in the question of sexuality. [12]

The character of Miss Kilman is treated by the writer with exceptional ruthlessness. She describes her as a “monster”, ugly body, hair, no clothes suited her, she wore very simple and green cloth indeed, which made her nasty. Defined by a patriarchal society as a monster-woman, her consolation is not the religion which would keep balance and help to control the desire of flesh, but food. Sometimes it seemed that the only thing she lived for was food (except for Elizabeth). She is adverse of the maternal ideal. A mother offers her breast to her baby, tries to shelter the infant from every danger and rejects all of her wishes, push them back just to meet her child’s demand and valet the baby. As opposed to these, Miss Kilman is adverse in everything. She only wants to feed her hunger physically and mentally as well. She does not give, she takes. Miss Kilman is the “other” Madonna, the reverse side of the Virgin Mary’s image. She tries to achieve a birth in the other way round, as she wants to absorb Elizabeth. She wanted to make Elizabeth hers forever and never let her. [13]

This behaviour rather more relates to a man than a women. She completely turned from the inside out somewhere in her life because it is not normal for a woman. Instead of being smooth and amiable she is wild and ruthless.

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Virginia Woolf’s work "Mrs. Dalloway". (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from

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