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Alicia DiMatteo

ENG 383

Professor Stephen Barber

Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

In the novel Mrs.Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith, are both struggling to achieve a balance between communication and privacy in their lives through their interactions with others. Clarissa and Septimus are traveling separate roads on their walk through life, and yet inevitably they turn out to be very similar people. They are both of different classes in British society which means that their social interactions would be limited or almost nothing.

Communication enables individuals to relate to others on a deeper level, but it can also result in a loss of privacy. The reader is taken on a journey into the lives and thoughts of many people. The novel gives you the ability to hear and see what may seem like ordinary conversations and interactions between characters, but if looked at with a deeper scope of vision, the opportunity to take a glimpse into their lives is obtained.

Woolf uses this novel to show the reader how time passes on and there is no turning back. No one can change the simple fact that each moment will pass. Memory is such an important thing for this reason because in a sense memory brings us back to reality. Memory can bring sadness or happiness, and then we float back to the present. Memory can also lead to insanity, especially a traumatic memory such as warfare. In the novel windows, curtains, and doors are symbolic, and can enable people to control the amount of privacy and communication in their everyday lives.

In the novel, Septimus and Clarissa are actually similar characters despite their many differences, but Septimus is a confused man who is unable to communicate. Septimus is a man who, because of the war and the death of his friend Evans, lost his ability to feel. With the inability to feel it is not possible for Septimus to be able to communicate normally.

Septimus is depressed and therefore is within a "plane of organization". He is unable to function happily in society. He does not care about his day to day life after the war. Due to his inability to communicate, Septimus bottles up all of his emotions inside of him until he finds himself at a precipice. Jumping out of a window and ending his life enables us to see how the window acts as his form of communication. Since the doctors would not let him keep his privacy and dignity, he must do the one thing he can to preserve those two crucial aspects of life. Before his death he shouts "I'll give it you" (149). This is Septimus' last desperate attempt to still be in control of his own life. He is bitter that he lost control over his life.

So he took the only option he felt he had and used the window as his tool of communication, his internal struggle ends only after he dies. The suicide also makes Clarissa envious of something she is to afraid to do. He lands on the fence, which represents the barriers of civilization he was incapable of overcoming. Septimus landing on the fence is extremely significant because he trapped between two different worlds. The pressure of conforming to societal boundaries and living a normal life was what he was supposed to do.

Septimus could not get his mind away from the war and in turn could not function in society. His inability to mesh back into residential life was why he killed himself. When a person feels like they are not part of society, regardless of their class orientation, it is almost impossible for them to continue without going insane.

The novel opens our eyes to how the ability to communicate could have saved Septimus' life. While Septimus and his wife Lucrezia are making the hat for the woman next door, the possibility of happiness in Septimus' life seems to be attainable. Lucrezia states, "They were perfectly happy now, she said, suddenly, putting the hat down. For she could say anything to him now" (146). The ability of the two of them to communicate normally made them both happy.

Septimus and Lucrezia were not always an unhappy married couple, When Septimus met Lucrezia in Italy during the war they were madly in love and contented. Septimus however was mentally ill and his doctors were unable to diagnose his illness.This gives us a notion of what could have happened if Septimus was treated properly for his disorder (which we now know was shellshock), his happiness would have been attainable and his suicide unnecessary.

Clarissa loves her parties, but what she is really yearning for inside is the chance to communicate with others. Mrs.Dalloway is set in one day in London, England, leading up to Clarissa's party. Clarissa Dalloway is an upper-class, fifty year old woman, looking back on her life. A person who is afraid of what others might think of her. She is known for her parties and adores throwing them. Her parties add a little bit of sparkle to her lack-luster life. She enjoys throwing these parties because it makes her the center of attention.

She tries to achieve her desire of communication by throwing these parties. The only difference is that Clarissa is constantly questioning the legitimacy of this "happiness". It seems as though she is always wondering if all of the conversations and small talk are really what this life is all about. This is how she differs from Septimus, she has happiness right in front of her. Clarissa feels some sort of fulfillment when everyone is together and conversing happily.

As the hostess, Clarissa is nervous that the party will not go well. All of her worrying seems to disappear when Ralph Lyon hit the blowing curtain back so it would not interrupt his conversation with another party guest. "And Clarissa saw - she saw Ralph Lyon beat it back, and go on talking. So it wasn't a failure after all!" (170).

It was as if the curtain, usually a symbol of privacy, was a wall that was torn down so that people can converse and be brought together. Immediately after, a swarm of people rush into the party. She greets her guests, and then once again reassures herself that since the wall had been torn down everything would now



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