Mrs Dalloway And Modernism Essay

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Lifting the Victorian Veil and Modernism’s Coming of Age
In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf tests accepted beliefs about gender roles and sexuality in post-WWI London, as she lifts the veil of Victorian culture and revealing the coming age of Modernism and delves into the complex psyches of Clarissa Dalloway and other characters. During the 1920s when Mrs. Dalloway was written, strict Victorian standards about gender identity and sexuality were yielding to Modernist philosophies. Furthermore, Woolf’s work presents some of these evolving ideologies through the introspections of Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith, including revolutionary beliefs (for that time) about gender roles and sexuality. As a result, the content of this paper focuses on Woolf’s reinterpretation of gender identity and sexuality as the culture of post-WWI Great Britain shifted from Victorian to Modernist thinking and practices.
The period following WWI was a time of disillusionment and momentum for social and political change increased. Woolf writes, “The late age of the world’s experience has bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance” (6). It was from this “well of tears” that individualist thinking challenged existing social constructions relating to gender identity and sexuality, and Woolf shares a candid look into these complex issues that are still relevant today.
Woolf’s opening words, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (1) reveal much about female gender identity and the personality of the protagonist Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, an aristocratic woman of privilege in post-WWI London. The foundation of Clarissa’s identity is the socially and financially advantageous position provid...

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...w free to pursue the purity and integrity Woolf spoke of regarding Clarissa and Sally. However, societal issues surrounding gender roles and sexuality remain unresolved even in today’s progressive society; as a result, Mrs. Dalloway endures.

Works Cited

Krouse, Tonya. "Sexual Deviance in "Mrs. Dalloway": The Case of Septimus Smith."
Virginia Woolf Miscellany 70 (2006): 15-16. Literary Reference Center. Web. 15 July 2014.
Schiff, James. “Rewriting Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: Homage, Sexual Identity, and the
Single-Day Novel by Cunningham, Lippincott, and Lanchester.” Critique.
Vol. 45, No. 4. (2004): 364. Web. 11 July 2014.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1925. Kindle file.
Wyatt, Jean M. “Mrs. Dalloway: Literary Allusion as Structural Metaphor.” PMLA. Modern
Language Association. Vol. 88, No. 3 (1973): 440-451. Web. 11 July 2014.
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