El Houssaoui Nafissa
English fifth grade
February 5, 2018
Mrs. Dalloway: An Exploration of the Masculine Superficiality and Vulnerability in the Post-Great-War British Society
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is an avant-garde work in the British feminist narratives of twentieth-century. It tells the story of a plain upper-class housewife, Clarissa Dalloway, who despite her pompous lifestyle, feels so empty and unhappy that she frequently thinks of death as a salvation. Yet, the novel is so unique in that it does not only manifest the feminine disillusionment with the British conservatism at the early twentieth-century, but also evenly shifts to explore the men’s minds and their emotional and mental deformity as a result of the radical change in the British traditional social hierarchy, coupled with side-effects of the Great War. Mrs. Dalloway herewith not only deals with women’s societal issues, but also generously reveals the superficiality and the vulnerability of the major male characters, especially in the aftermath of the Great War.
In Mrs. Dalloway, the author explores the minds and the vulnerability of the British males, particularly in the years following the Great War. Woolf manifests how the English upper-class men desperately cling to old, outmoded traditions and feign happiness. This is tragically exhibited through the character of Peter Walsh who fears growing old and vulnerable. Thus, he pretends to be young and invincible by living in fantasies and pursuing younger women while he is actually an ordinary and laughable man who is not even stable financially. Another example is Septimus, an English veteran who suffers from shell shock. Awkwardly, Septimus fought for his country, but now the country claims victory and delectation, implicating that the horrors of war left no lasting traces on its soldiers. Septimus hereby is thrown into a mental facility and left consumed by his inner turmoil till he commits suicide—the response which Woolf offers as an act of defiance and communication to real world that eventually disregards him. Tellingly, Septimus greatly reflects the harm the society can cause when it prefers delusion to reality, refusing to truly uphold that the individual does fester within its varnished parameters. All of which results in the patient’s self-destruction by committing suicide. Overall, men, in particular, cling to their ideas of “greatness” in post-great-war English society, while the reality becomes more sobering and pathetic due to their emotional and mental vulnerability in the aftermath of WWI.
Furthermore, although they evince steadiness and prosperity through their mundane affairs, men in Mrs. Dalloway seem to suffer from loneliness due to their failed attempts at communication with other people, especially with their spouses. For instance, Richard Dalloway, Clarissa’s husband, fails to express his love for Clarissa despite the fact that he is technically a man of speech i.e., a Politian. Hence, he should have felt free to speak his mind and express his devotion for Clarissa appropriately. He instead gives her flowers, a traditional symbol of love and joy that can be found in their everyday life. Still, despite the flowers’ good purpose, Woolf uses them satirically so as to highlight how the twentieth-century failed communication makes it difficult to establish meaningful connections in the modern world. More importantly, Richard is likely suppressed by his own ideals in the conservative party, which reject delicacy and emotional frailty and recommend firmness and cold-heartedness, especially from a male nominee. Yet, Clarissa does not seem disturbed by her husband’s reluctance to marital communication despite her love for socialization and oral interaction over reserve and introversion. In fact, the couple impressively develop mutual understanding due to their respect to each other interests. For instance, Clarissa adores throwing sophisticated parties while Richard graciously affords the expenses as well as attends her unnumbered parties elatedly despite his dislike for clamor and crowdedness. Overall, despite their prosperous mundane affairs, the early twentieth-century British men (such as Richard Dalloway) did suffer from their devotion to their traditional social ideals that rejected openness and explicit liaison, but encouraged firmness and superficiality—the prejudicial notions that the novel implies must be discarded so that England can survive in the modern era.
In short, Mrs. Dalloway takes place in the years following the Great War, and though the United Kingdom was technically victorious, numerous people, particularly men, suffered tragically from the side-effects of the war, not to mention their deficiency to cope with the radical social changes of the modern era. Hence, Woolf reveals the minds and the vulnerability of her major male characters so as to pointedly exhibit their mental and psychological deformity as well as criticize the conservatism and traditionalism of the upper classes at the time, which could have been easily disregarded by society if just the men, who are commonly as the social managers and the heads of their families, decided to give up their traditional ideals for the openness and flexibility of the modern era.
Richard; thence, can assimilate with Virginia’s husband, Leonard Woolf, who never disappointed his wife financially or emotionally; Mr. Woolf founded a house of publication in order for Virginia to publish her writings initially as well as continued to nurse her through her multiple breakdowns until she committed suicide in 1941.
Richard; thence, can assimilate with Virginia’s husband, Leonard Woolf, who—regardless their conservative society—did encourage Virginia to steady and pursue her literary career by founding a house of publication to publish her literary works initially. Besides, like Richard, mr. woolf never disappointed his wife financially or emotionally; he continued to nurse her through her multiple breakdowns until she committed suicide in 1941. Ideally, akin to the Dalloways, the Woolfs’ marriage was a partnership, though their sexual relationship might be nonexistent chiefly because of virginia’s lesbian inclination which she demonstrates it through the intimate relationship between Clair Dalloway and sally saton in Mrs. Dalloway.
Moreover, due to his over susceptibility, Peter becomes critical of his friend, Clarissa’s, typical behavior. He even insults her by suggesting that she would give up her ideals to become a perfect hostess and perhaps a wife to the prime minister. Mrs. Dalloway; on the other hand, does not sound slightly shaken by Peter’s quibble. In effect, being an appearance-loving character, Clarissa may delightedly bond herself to a man who represents the old order of the British Empire and its wide world sovereignty. However, when he arrives at the party, the prime minister ironically appears to be as ordinary and laughable as Peter Walsh. Hence, the prime minister clearly reflects the image of the English traditional values and social hierarchy, which have begun to fade away owing to World War I. additionally, his simple appearance pointedly emphasizes that materialism and classism must be discarded so that England can survive in the modern era.
cling to their ideas of “greatness” in post-great-war English society, while the reality becomes more sobering and pathetic due to their susceptibility
This makes people like peter feeling miserable, lost, introverted and living in fantasies.
- Quote paper
- Nafissa El Houssaoui (Author), 2018, "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf. An Exploration of the Masculine Superficiality and Vulnerability in the Post-Great-War British Society, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/429430