Virginia Woolf is one of the brightest writers of modernity. Her works are not only unique; they are also psychological, philosophical and very difficult to understand. Her works are usually treated as experimental psychological novels. It is sure to say that one of her brightest novels “Mrs Dalloway” is probably the most difficult one. It is not easy to interpret it at all. It is very difficult to analyze its composition (style, genre, rhythm) and the peculiarities of its content (theme, plot, conflict, characters, idea). Using the principal technique of her woks – the stream of consciousness, Virginia Woolf tries to imprint the process of thinking of her characters, to reproduce their slightest feelings, thoughts, emotions. It stands to reason that the writer is not interested in the real world. What she is really interested in is the interpretation of the real world in the consciousness and subconsciousness. She dismisses the real world with its problems and leaves for a better world, a world of feelings and emotional experience, rich associations and changeable senses. Virginia Woolf makes a reader enter the character’s inner world, but not study the reasons that made the character do in this or that way. That reason results in the impressionistic manner of image and style: there is no clear form, but the text abounds in fragmentary details and features.
The plot of the novel “Mrs Dalloway” seems rather poor at the first sight. The whole novel describes one day of August 1923 from the life of two main characters – a romantic London lady Clarissa Dalloway, who goes to a flower shop in the morning to buy flowers for the evening, and a modest clerk Septimus Smith – a contused veteran of the First World War. They live nearby, but never knew each other and never met.
The story of Septimus Smith is one of the most dramatic ones in the novel. He belongs to the lost generation. Virginia Woolf was not the first one to write about those unfortunate people. Their life was described by Hemingway, Remark and many other writers. Septimus Smith was one of the first volunteers who went to protect his motherland. He did not die, but what is worse, his soul perished. He did not know what to do after the war. His great desire was to become a man of literature, but he was destined to become an ordinary clerk. When Septimus Smith saw the death of his friend at the war, he realized that there were some problems with his mental health – he remained indifferent to his friend’s death. His psyche protected his inner world this way. His life in London becomes a nightmare: he cannot feel; he has no emotions. Virginia Woolf shows the wide range of the consequences of the World War. That is not the miserable life of one person but the tragedy of the whole generation of people with no future.
The character of Septimus Smith is considered to be the double of Clarissa Dalloway. Virginia Woolf herself stated that Clarissa and Septimus are two sides of one personality; they are spiritual mates. The connection between their characters is rather clear. In the morning Clarissa thought that something had to be done with her life. Her parents only gave the life to her, brought her into this world. But she has to live, to suffer, to go to the very end. She is afraid of that life. If she did not have a husband she would probable spend her life sitting like a bird on a perch and making no movements. But she has to pretend that she enjoys her life, she has to entertain all their guests and wait for the death as deliverance. Clarissa Dalloway treats the death of a man she reads about in a newspaper as a heroic deed. He was brave to leave the world of sorrow, but she is left with her grieves. Thereby the suicide of Septimus Smith becomes the symbolic death of Clarissa Dalloway, the liberation from her past. Having felt the affinity of souls with the young man, the senselessness and absurdity of existence, Mrs. Dalloway continues to live. She feels the joy of life when the sun rises and sets. She realizes the pleasure to wait for the next new day.
The idea that Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith are two sides of one personality can be proven by one more fact. Both of them have three places that stir the same feelings: “the large space”, “the place of communication”, “the private place”. London is “the large place” for both: Septimus and Clarissa. In the streets of London they both feel something that resembles agoraphobia – the terror of the huge world that conceals the threat of death. The scenery of the city acquires the features of eternal and posthumous world. Seeing the branches of trees Clarissa thinks about the days after her death and realizes that these branches will not change. Septimus also sees his death in trees whose branches are full with life and energy. “The place of communication” – the place where all social contacts take place stir up the same feelings: the impossibility of communication with other people. Clarissa’s place of communication is her parlor. She has to meet different people there; he has to entertain them, though she does not want it very much. The unexpected visit of Peter Walsh makes her feel very uneasy. He tries to have a heart-to-heart talk with Clarissa, but the conversation is turned into an empty talk. Septimus’ “place of communication” is the cabinet of his psychiatrist. But he cannot find consolation there; no one can help him. Smith cannot understand why he needs that, he cannot stand all the people that gather around him and demand something that Septimus cannot comprehend. Their “private places” is the only place where the characters can be themselves. They remain with their feelings, emotions, and anxieties. They do not fear the external world only when they are alone. They find retirement and desired solitude. They do not feel the terror of the huge world; they do not lose themselves in the closure of their “private places”. Unfortunately these secret places of retirement are parts of the world. The hostile world wants to absorb their only sanctuary and make them, Clarissa and Septimus, belong to the crowd. Both of them make a protest against that. But everyone has his own escape from the situation: Septimus Smith chooses suicide and Clarissa returns to her guests.
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