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Mrs. Dalloway: The Self-characterization and Introspection of Virginia Woolf

It is neither exclusive nor uncommon for great authors to weave themselves into the fabric of their own performs it is a method that adds realism and believability to otherwise complex fictional characters. D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are examples of this occurrence in which the primary character is a literarily-conscious version of the author himself. Oftentimes authors will imbue their characters with aspects of their own personalities because such familiar characteristics offer depth and insight to a figure’s improvement. Nonetheless, it is distinctly significantly less common for an author to generate a comprehensive portrait of herself spread among many characters, rather than taking on the role of a single central figure. In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf accomplishes such a feat by separating her personal character amongst the two characters Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith. These counterparts serve to illustrate the devastating polar extremes triggered by Woolf’s manic depression, yet nonetheless remain faithful to the less than 24-hour timeframe of the story.

The character of Mrs. Dalloway was not new at the time that she wrote the novel. Both Clarissa and her husband Richard had been introduced in The Voyage Out, published following Woolf’s third mental breakdown, and about the same time as the declaration of Planet War I (Cameron, About Mrs. Dalloway par. two & Bloom par. 9). Rather than the sympathetic, deeper and created characters portrayed in her later novel, the Dalloways were characterized as a pretentious and overbearing husband and his submissive, superficial wife, initially modeled by Woolf’s socialite pal Kitty Maxse. However, soon after the war ended, Woolf published a series of brief stories which explored Clarissa’s character, like Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street, molding her into a a lot more introspective lady with hints of hidden depressed tendencies (Cameron, About Mrs. Dalloway par. 2-three). Hence, it appears that Woolf’s own mental instability and the finish of the war played important roles in the improvement of Mrs. Dalloway’s character and Woolf’s choice to take her on as component of her personal persona.

From the quite first page, we are thrown into the action of the day – Clarissa stating she will acquire flowers and fretting over her party. Each actions are seemingly superficial, but with the first sound of the morning, the unhinging of a door, she is drawn practically reclusively into memory of happy instances in her youth (Woolf three). This behavior is repeated throughout the novel over the course of 24 hours, she can concentrate on tiny but her party, despite getting frequently and severely interrupted by her personal mind’s recollections and her reflections on them. Although it may appear that this behavior is merely “normal focus” more than the day long period, Clarissa’s intense concentration is a behavior known as hypomania, a single of the manic extremes of bipolar disorder, and 1 that Clarissa and Woolf share (Purse, par. five-6). Woolf herself was identified to operate on literature for unremitting day-extended periods (Ingram par. 16). These hypomanic episodes are usually accompanied by feelings of added creativity and innovation, self-assurance, and the ability to shirk off main and minor problems that would otherwise be crippling throughout depressive periods (Purse, par. 5-six). Whilst Woolf employed her hypomanic periods to create, Clarissa uses hers to program for the evening’s events. We see her carefully and deliberately arrange the world about her for the festivities. Right after a moment of feeling rejected more than her lack of an invitation to Lady Bruton’s luncheon, she isolates herself and then decides to mend her dress, an indirect instance of creativity employed to cope with a feeling that might otherwise lead to a devastating episode (Woolf 29-30).

Nevertheless, depressive tendencies are by no means fully absent in the course of these periods, and sufferers could still knowledge feelings of helplessness, regret, and uninhibited behavior, all of which Clarissa displays (Purse, par. five-six). We understand that she no longer requires pleasure in the things she once enjoyed. She is also profoundly lacking in the self-confidence of her personal education, however she is considerably more capable than she believes: “How she had got by means of life on the handful of twigs of knowledge Fr?¤ulein Daniels gave them she could not believe. She knew practically nothing no language, no history she scarcely study a book now, except memoirs in bed (Woolf eight).” Similarly, Woolf was an extremely vibrant kid who benefited from her distinguished father’s library, but she herself was denied the education provided to her brothers (Cameron, About Virginia Woolf par. 1).

We start to see more depth in the feelings that Clarissa experiences right after she isolates herself from the planet in the “tower” of her remote bedroom (Woolf 31). We find out that the connection between her and her husband is not a single of passion or physical romance, much like the reported partnership among Virginia Woolf and her husband. There is certainly adore and cooperation, but not a passionate romance. Clarissa is ill and sleeps alone, but has no cold feelings toward him. She at times feels distanced by his conservative politics and social status, but there is nonetheless a sort of partnership. In addition, her need to have to temporarily rest that afternoon is partially due to a heart situation, which was, according to Woolf’s diaries, one shared by the author who suffered from palpitations and migraines, amongst other maladies (Ingram par. 8). In her area, Clarissa instead recalls a time in her past when her childhood friend Sally Seton kissed her, and it was the 1st (and possibly only) moment of passionate physical get in touch with for Clarissa. She thinks back, “The strange thing, on hunting back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man (Woolf 34)” and “Sally stopped picked a flower kissed her on the lips. The entire world may well have turned upside down! (Woolf 35)” This is clearly a parallel among the protagonist and Woolf, who might have had romantic relationships with Madge Vaughan (on whom Sally is primarily based) and later her publisher Vita Sackville-West (Cameron, About Mrs. Dalloway par. 3 & Bloom par. 17). Clarissa is drawn to the brash and free-spirited Sally, and offered that Clarissa and Virginia each grew up in Victorian England, such a partnership was taboo, and as a result could be (inside that social context) categorized as impulsive, manic-depressive behavior (Purse par. 7).

But Clarissa offers only partial insight sum psyche of the author. She is offset by Septimus Warren Smith, who also undergoes dramatic adjustments in the post-war era. Septimus, like Woolf, held excellent appreciation for literary operates. Prior to the war he was a scholar of Shakespeare and other classics (as we find via his and Rezia’s memories), and represents the intellectual side of the author before becoming destroyed by mental illness (Woolf 85). When he goes to war, however, he is faced with the death of his dear friend, Evans, and believes he merely does not feel the pain of the loss. In reality, he has lost his capacity to really feel something, and starts his decent into madness. Similarly, the death of Julia Stephen marked Woolf’s 1st mental breakdown, followed by an additional breakdown and suicide attempt (by jumping out a window) after the death of her father (Bloom par. 2 & 5). Although Septimus only makes a handful of appearances in the book, his role is essential to filling in the darker depressive and insane spaces of Woolf’s personality that are not covered by the hypomanic and functional side portrayed by Clarissa Dalloway.

The first thoughts of his wife Rezia are that of a deeply saddened and overwhelmingly frustrated and embarrassed lady whose husband has been taken away by madness. She steps away from her delusional husband who is babbling to the dead Evans, and becomes bitter. “Lucrezia Warren Smith was saying to herself, It is wicked why should I suffer? she was asking, as she walked down the broad path. No I cannot stand it any longer, she was saying, getting left Septimus, who wasn’t Septimus any longer, to say difficult, cruel, wicked issues, to speak to himself, to speak to a dead man, on the seat more than there (Woolf 65).” The feelings projected on Rezia are most likely the exact same feelings that Woolf believed her husband might have experienced when she suffered a breakdown (characterized as well, by depression, delusions and hearing voices) shortly right after their marriage (Bloom par. 9). A lot of the Warren Smith marriage in truth parallels that of Woolf and her husband, beginning with each Septimus and Woolf marrying out of a require for stability throughout wartime. Clearly the war played a central role in each marriages: Septimus married an Italian woman (not his love) in order to restore normalcy to his life, whereas Woolf and her husband married shortly prior to the war, but were deeply impacted by it and later swore a suicide pact prior to WWII that they would each kill themselves if the Nazis invaded England (Cameron, About Virginia Woolf par. six).

Like Septimus, Woolf also suffered from disturbing mental neuroses, none of which have been effectively diagnosed by any doctors (Ingram par. 8). In the novel, the doctors tell Rezia that there is no diagnosis for his behavior – that he merely requirements to be kept busy. Faithfully, Rezia does just that by taking him for walks, and trying to maintain his thoughts and body occupied despite her desperate desire to get out of the marriage. Like Rezia, Woolf’s husband tried to deal with his wife’s madness in the exact same way her doctors suggested, and in 1917, they bought a second-hand printing press and started the Hogarth Press (Bloom par. ten). Like her literary counterparts though, the press only temporarily presented relief, and typically fostered manic episodes of mental occupation followed by intense depressive swings, a lot like Septimus’s final episode prior to his death. It is this final episode that starts to draw Clarissa and Septimus with each other. In an instant of clarity, Septimus becomes functional. Like the more characteristic behavior of Clarissa, he displays joyful, inventive abilities: “For the 1st time for days he was speaking as he used to do! … He took it out of her hands. He mentioned it was an organ grinder’s monkey’s hat. How it rejoiced her that! Not for weeks had they laughed like this together, poking entertaining privately like married men and women (Woolf 143).” Such an episode is described as the old, standard self for Septimus, though shortly thereafter he jumps out a window to his death. Even although he did not want to die, his “normal” or functional period was obviously followed by a state of decreased inhibition. Therefore, this episode could be another manifestation of the manic state, denoted by short-term clarity and elation, shared by the author (Purse, par. 7).

What is specifically important to each Septimus’s and Clarissa’s characters is that Woolf had originally planned to have Clarissa commit suicide in the finish, but decided rather to generate an additional character, Septimus Warren Smith to take the fall as an alternative (Cameron, About Mrs. Dalloway par. 4). This splitting is important since it serves to enable the story to believably take spot over the course of 24 hours, as properly as give Woolf an opportunity to have the central character reflect upon the death and learn from it, rather than just experience it. Septimus realizes there is no escape from madness the physicians can't assist him, and all that is left is a future of private torture and agonizing pain for his beloved caretaker, his wife. He pauses at the windowsill, “But he would wait until the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good (Woolf 149).” As a result Septimus’s end is not meant to be noticed as a release, but as the only unfortunate resolution to incurable madness. When Woolf herself ultimately ended her life, she wrote in her suicide note:

I feel specific that I am going mad once again: I feel we cannot go by means of an additional of these terrible occasions. And I shan’t recover this time. I commence to hear voices, and can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the ideal issue to do. You have offered me the greatest possible happiness… I can’t fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could operate (Grohol par. 4).

For Clarissa, the final pages of the story enable her to comprehend the significance of her parties by means of the loss of life. Her parties are not superficial socialite activities, but some thing much deeper, one thing the author herself wishes to have: togetherness. Even in his most deranged states, Septimus cries out for communion and companionship: “Communication is health communication is happiness, communication – he muttered (Woolf 93).” Woolf wrote in her diaries that insanity was full and total isolation (Grohol par. two), and isolation, according to her essay Death of a Moth, was death. Consequently, Clarissa’s parties represent the bringing with each other of lives, as a result producing life via togetherness and combating the isolation of insanity. In a single sense, Woolf departs from both Septimus and Clarissa at this point, due to the fact the period among when Septimus commits suicide and when Clarissa realizes the value of her social gatherings is a fork in the road for Woolf. One particular character lives and accepts the deeper hidden pain in her life, even though the other ends it all simply because there is no option escape from the madness.



Functions Cited

Woolf, Virginia S. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1981

“What is Bipolar Disorder?” About.com. 2005. About by Yahoo!. 23 April 2005

< http://bipolar.about.com/cs/bpbasics/a/0210_whatisbp.htm>

Peterson, Cameron. “ClassicNotes: About Mrs. Dalloway” GradeSaver.com. 4 July 2001. GradeSaver. 23 April 2005 <http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/dalloway/about.html>.

Bloom, Harold. “Virginia Woolf Chronology” VWW.com. 2005. Virginia Woolf Internet. 23 April 2005

<http://orlando.jp.org/VWWARC/vwlife.html>

Ingram, Malcom. “Virginia Woolf’s Psychiatric History” Ourworld.com. March 2005. Malcom Ingram’s Homepage. 23 April 2005

< http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/malcolmi/VWFRAME.HTM>

Peterson, Cameron. “About Virginia Woolf.” GradeSaver.com. 4 July 2001. GradeSaver. 24 April 2005

< http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Authors/about_virginia_woolf.html>.

Grohol, John M. “Virginia Woolf.” Psychcentral.com. 2005. Psych Central. 24 April 2005

< http://psychcentral.com/psypsych/Virginia_Woolf>
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