The Effects of Society in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

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Society is a constant changing idea, whether that change be from region to region or a period of time. People move through it without thinking what they really are doing. Often they do not realize how much pressure society places on one’s being. It is the basis of how a person forms their opinions, beliefs, and morals. The structure of behavior rests in the society one is raised in. People’s acceptance of one another and a desire to conform create a world where people are struggling to fit in. Virginia Woolf sees this.

Woolf views society as a center for conflict for the characters in her novel. They struggle with the internal dilemma of whether they should be who they want to be or what everyone else wants them to be. In the novel Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses stream of consciousness to demonstrate the pressures and effects of society on different characters in the 1920’s. Using both Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith, Woolf reveals how two different realms of society, the upper class and the middle class, can place very similar pressures and produce very similar effects on the people who dwell within each.

Presented as a dynamic character, Septimus Smith is shown as a once idealistic poet who crosses over into a world where his thoughts focus solely on the injustices of humanity. This is evident when Woolf describes him saying, “It was a case of complete breakdown- complete physical and nervous breakdown, with every symptom in an advanced stage.” (Woolf 144) War, in this novel, is shown as the life-altering element of Septimus’s life. This is because of a combination of the lost of his friend Evans and Septimus’s inability to mourn that loss. Evans was Septimus’s closest friend, and his death is al...

... middle of paper ... for the main characters of the novel but for anyone who allows it to be.

Sources Cited

Blackstone, Bernard. Virginia Woolf: A Commentary. London: Hogarth Press, 1949. (An older but excellent essay.)

Daiches, David. Virginia Woolf. New York: New Directions, 1963.

Hafley,James. Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist University of California Press, 1954

Hoff, Molly. Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. The Explicator; June 22, 2002. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

Jensen, Emily. "Clarissa Dalloway's Respectable Suicide." Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1983.

Kane, Julie. Varieties of Mystical Experience in the Writings of Virginia Woolf. Twentieth Century Literature Vol 41 Iss 4 1995.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.
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