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Virginia Woolf's Feminist Views in the Novel 'Mrs. Dalloway'

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“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world” – quotes author, Virginia Woolf. In her novel, “Mrs. Dalloway” she focuses on the real world and interrogating her interests of feminist. Woolf informs her audience by displaying key words in the text of her views as a feminist and her beliefs. Woolf effectively appeals to her audience by past history on the social problem of women’s suffrage, using examples of characters in the novel in order to present how women were at the time, and symbolizing feminism.

Virginia Woolf is one of the most inspiring feminist in literature. She has inspired many audiences to unexpected opportunities and life changing experiences in the modern world. She focuses on social aspects of women’s lives of dealing with emotions, loneliness, and the daily experiences that occurs. During 1918, women’s rights were distant from having equality. Feminism articles were becoming more essential in the promotion of equality. Woolf also experienced World War 1 and the trauma has became unforgettable. It was all that was thought about in the past, war and feminism, according to Woolf’s novel. In Mrs. Dalloway, post-war life was engraved in every part of anxieties. She questions her interest in feminist, finds meaning to life, and experiences women’s position in society. Woolf argues for women’s individual, freedom, and peace. Accepting that she is a feminist, Woolf allows her to be herself citing from her theme of love in the novel. She believes women should be treated equally and treated well.

As Woolf begins explaining the 20 century with feminism, she expresses the abilities of real life of post-war in England. They were shocking moments where Woolf calls reality back in the day. One of the characters, Sally Seton was the most supporting feminist in the novel. Sally states, “Did it make any real difference to one’s feelings to know that before they’d married she had a baby?”(In those days, in mixed company, it was a bold thing to say) and then Peter Walsh states, “He hadn’t blamed her for minding the fact, since in those days a girl brought up as she was, knew nothing, but it was her manner that annoyed him; timid; hard; something arrogant; unimaginative; prudish. The death of the soul” (Woolf, 59). An argument had occurred between Sally and Peter because Sally wanted to stand up and support independence for women right’s but she remained unreasonable at that time. This displays that men control women and correct them for everything they do, since they are the “men.”

The narration displayed that women are restricted from their gender because of how women’s rights were still limited. Even though, Clarissa wanted to be loved she wanted her privacy. Clarissa had to force herself to do the demands of what society chose and it was unacceptable. Which later led to, Woolf explaining, “Here he was walking across London to say to Clarissa in so many words that he loved her. Which one never does say, he thought. Partly one’s lazy; partly one’s shy. And Clarissa-it was difficult to think of her; except in starts, as at luncheon, when he saw her quite distinctly; their whole life” (Woolf, 113). Clarissa’s husband doesn’t even provide for her needs. She searches for privacy and someone to understand her emotions. This is an example of women’s existence in the real world, the expectations. Clarissa couldn’t stop admiring Sally’s beauty and intelligence. Nevertheless, Clarissa was always reminded of Sally despite differences. She was an inspiration and wanted equal rights.

Woolf uses symbolism as a way to present how the flowers were very important in Clarissa’s life. It represented her way of feminism by love of life and nature. When flowers are presented around Clarissa, Woolf states, “…how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls” and also states, “…as she began to go with Miss Pym from jar to jar, choosing, nonsense, nonsense, she said to herself, more and more gently, as if this beauty, this scent, this colour, and Miss pym liking her, trusting her’. Woolf contributes to femininity by expressing the means of flowers and reminisce of other characters.

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In the beginning, Clarissa has thoughts about society. This relates to post-war because everyday she would be worried about life and how dangerous it is in London. “I am going to walk to the fountain and back,” she said. For she could stand it no longer. Dr. Holmes might say there was nothing the matter. Far rather would she that he were dead! She could not sit beside him when he starred so and did not see her and made everything terrible; sky and tree, children playing, dragging carts, blowing whistles, falling down; all were terrible’ (Woolf, 22). This explains that Rezia deals with trauma because of WW1. She is horrified but her husbands opposes on her reaction and forces her to forget. When Clarissa reflects back to the flowers (Woolf, 13) it was the best day of her life, which lead to a flashback when Sally gave her a kiss.

Peter is heartbroken because he can’t get over his love for Clarissa so he moves away to rethink life. Septimus has flashbacks of war control his mind. He has a hard time focusing on life because of trauma vision. Clarissa(Mrs. Dalloway) also deals with sentimental because the characters rely on what is going on around them but not finding any reasoning. Depending more on thoughts and not on the reality. What she takes in and what she expresses out are different in her being and in their world, it is better to hold things in then let the truth go.

Recall, society was strict on heterosexual perspectives. The novel discusses and displays that both heterosexual relationship has failed from Clarissa. It was impossible for Clarissa to have a successful relationship between a man when all she thought about was others besides her man. “No decent man ought to read Shakespeare’s sonnets because it was like listening at keyholes (besides the relationship was not one that he approved). No decent man ought to let his wife visit a deceased wife’s sister” (Woolf, 75). This demonstrates male control. The great difference between men and women embody different attributes. Clarissa wanted to protect her virginity with her relationship between Richard and Peter because she fought for freedom despite women were ignored.

The novel showed complexities throughout the characters especially during the 1920s. Understanding that men were always in control of women for what they do. Clarissa thought Peter would give her what she wants, which is happiness. But he didn’t understand, he mainly focused on what was happening around the world. This signifies that if they got married she would have been controlled. Her feminist thinking has made her change. She was different and not like the other modern women, such as, Miss Killan. She is the “opposite” and disagrees with Clarissa. Woolf remains to keep Clarissa who she is and wants to be but Clarissa doesn’t express her feelings and she just holds it in. Miss Killan was based on powers of men, masculinity. She was bitter and her life went downhill. While Clarissa talked to her about feminism, she would deny the fact and go for masculine advantages. Another character is Lady Burton, she had strength who showed great strengths towards the women’s movement. She gave ideas at Clarissa’s party about social constraints on women and what could possibly improve. Clarissa always relied on her appearance wherever she goes to attract many people.

Woolf explained from time to time women have become stronger and began to take roles of power. From the start, she would keep things to herself. She was confused with life. Woolf displays to her audience, women’s experiences in daily life. Women had restrictions and she shows how one can build from it. She demonstrated that women have lack of comfort, privacy, and suffrage.

Overall, Woolf effectively appeals to her audience by past history on the social problem of women’s suffrage, using examples of characters in the novel in order to present how women were at the time, and symbolizing feminism. This novel establishes understanding gender inequality. Woolf portrays the effects of World War 1, which leads to women’s loneliness and bad emotions towards men due to being powerless. She shares her love stories between Richard and Peter, which still remain the same and she was unhappy. Sally and Clarissa’s relationship was an example of the perspectives women faced during the 1920s century. Looking back to the past is what the new generations can do now and can make a change and a better future. Woolf gives a strong, angry, and sad expression throughout this novel because she wants to bring out conflicts of feminist and explaining other controversial issues through characters.

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Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Views in the Novel ‘Mrs. Dalloway’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/virginia-woolfs-feminist-views-in-the-novel-mrs-dalloway/
“Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Views in the Novel ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/virginia-woolfs-feminist-views-in-the-novel-mrs-dalloway/
Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Views in the Novel ‘Mrs. Dalloway’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/virginia-woolfs-feminist-views-in-the-novel-mrs-dalloway/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Views in the Novel ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/virginia-woolfs-feminist-views-in-the-novel-mrs-dalloway/
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