Essay on Existential Crisis In Mrs. Dalloway

Essay on Existential Crisis In Mrs. Dalloway

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While she is buying flowers for her party, Mrs. Dalloway has an existential crisis regarding the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. She reflects on the atmosphere of the London streets and her old suitor Peter Walsh as she reads some lines from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Mrs. Dalloway’s existential crisis demonstrates situational irony since the concept of life and death is quite deep and complex, yet she seems to live a shallow life consisting of throwing parties and picking which flowers to buy. Although she is contemplating her own mortality, Woolf’s word choice, such as “consoling,” suggests that death is positive and liberating, applying a light tone to a dark situation, adding to the irony. Mrs. Dalloway describes the trees, the streets, her friends, and the old houses in order to convey her mundane daily routine and to connect her emotions to her physical surroundings. By doing so, she explores the idea of immortality and whether life is worth living. The extensive descriptions of Mrs. Dalloway’s inner thoughts and observations reveals Woolf’s “stream of consciousness” writing style, which emphasizes the complexity of Clarissa’s existential crisis. She also alludes to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, further revealing her preoccupation with death as she quotes lines from a funeral song. She reads these lines while shopping in the commotion and joy of the streets of London, which juxtaposes with her internal conflicts regarding death. Shakespeare, a motif in the book, represents hope and solace for Mrs. Dalloway, as his lines form Cymbeline talk about the comforts found in death. From the beginning of the book, Mrs. Dalloway has shown a fear for death and experiences multiple existential crises, so her connection with Sh...


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...onsciousness” style of writing to a more concise style with a shorter syntactic structure. Her shift in style puts emphasis on the idea expressed, allowing her to communicate Mrs. Dalloway’s opinion on death in a simple, succinct manner. The simple syntax illustrates Mrs. Dalloway’s revelation as she realizes that death is a positive act of communication and defiance, and she does not have to be afraid of it. She is able to realize this because of Septimus, who preserved his purity and dignity through his death. Before this point of the book, Woolf had written in a complex style to highlight Mrs. Dalloway’s unsettling fear of death, whereas her concise style now shows the clarity and appreciation Mrs. Dalloway has for her life. Woolf’s simple writing style contributes to the idea that death is not something to be afraid of since it is just the final step of life.


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