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Final Critical Essay Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway

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Final Critical Essay | Mrs. Dalloway: Perceptions of One’s Life | Brittney Davey |

In Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf involves two main characters whose personalities and life styles are on complete opposite’s sides of the spectrum, which do not know one another but are linked through the concept of different ways each person views the world they live in. Clarissa Dalloway is a high-class, wealthy woman who cares about what others think of her so she indulges herself in parties to be commonly liked, yet struggles with her internal thoughts and memories to the outside world. Septimus Warren Smith is a man who survived the war with severe post-traumatic stress from witnessing many tragic events including watching his friend Evans die from an invasion. Through each of these individuals experiences, and what they both have been through – tragic or sane – they have perceived the world differently, therefore, they both have one view of the world. These two characters were most important in the sense of perception of two different worlds because not every life is the same, many people grow up in a terrifying neighbourhood, whereas others grow up in a wealthy secure home, others witness death and others never break a bone in their body. It depends on how and where you were raised, what background you came from, what hobbies interests you, which group of friends you fall into, every step can lead to a different life, but it is the independent persons choice on which path to take. The provided explanation below will discuss how Septimus and Clarissa are two outstanding examples of how people, who have experienced different lives, perceive the world as they know it. When first reading this novel I presumed that Clarissa Dalloway was a typical rich woman who is potentially snobby and judgemental towards anyone less fortunate from her. She has expensive looking clothes, enormous villa, and can throw large parties with invitations to the prime minister and other influential guests. Many people including myself would misjudge Clarissa Dalloway because some lower-class people do not know the life of the wealthy; they perceive the wealthy as their certain stereotype and what people around them say, but not all rich people follow their label. Mrs. Dalloway is an example of a wealthy woman who would not be categorized as a snob; she uses her funds for her successfully planned parties which gets her friends and acquaintances together to mingle and share information. She cares for others over herself and strives to be liked by everyone. Although Mrs. Dalloway is not considered to be selfish, snobby or pretentious; looking back on her memories/flashbacks to her younger self Clarissa is discriminatory towards people less fortunate and different from her because that was her lifestyle back then. She perceived life to be dangerous and wanted a safe living environment which is why throwing elegant parties is an important part of her life; it is safe and secure from the world. The difference between Mrs. Dalloway and Clarissa Dalloway is her attitude towards life. She never wanted the things Peter Walsh wanted, she married Richard Dalloway and got what she wanted for her life. She chose the path she wanted, that best suited her. That is not seen as conceded; that is freedom of speech, freedom to be who you are, and ambition to go after what you want. She also thinks what is best for herself and appropriately uses emotions as she sees fit, for example on page 32 in the novel Lucy (Mr. & Mrs. Dalloway’s maid) told Clarissa Mr. Dalloway would be lunching out that day for an important meeting with Lady Bruton. Mrs. Dalloway’s reaction towards this response was not jealousy but rather anger for not being invited since it is said to be that Lady Brutons lunch parties are “extraordinarily amusing” (32). Mrs. Dalloway uses her emotions appropriately to each situation and her perception on this dilemma is “fear of time itself” and “the dwindling of life” (32) meaning there is not much time for her since she is elderly and wants to live life to the fullest and perceive it with greatness and optimism.
On the other side of the spectrum, Septimus Warren Smith chose a different path when he enlisted into the army. When Septimus came into the story I sympathized with him and perceived his life to be actually as it was but less traumatic and deadly. Outside people will never understand Septimus and what he has been through; the look of apprehension in his eyes makes strangers apprehensive towards him (15). An example is Septimus and his wife sitting on the bench in the park when Septimus starts screaming “Evans” to a man he thinks is his friend but is a complete stranger to him. External people would perceive his life as being a constricted man who has a certain disorder. Septimus sees the world full of regret and is struggling greatly with his illness he jumps out of a window and kills himself because of his multiple personalities and PTSD which make him think different ideas. At the meeting with Sir William Bradshaw, he proclaims “he committed a crime” (105) and should die because he feels he never cared about Evans and that he is the one who killed him. In my opinion, Septimus does not have his own controllable perception of life. He suffers through his illness and has threatened to kill himself multiple times because of his disorder and that will forever be is his view of his life and thinking the world is against him.
The link between Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus is near the end of the novel when Clarissa says “Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate, people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded; one was alone. There was an embrace in death” (202). In my opinion, Clarissa feels that dying would be easier than living; a way to communicate how one felt before the suicide and in Septimus’s case it was not his own decision to kill himself rather the voices in his head controlling his mind. Although Clarissa may think that dying would be easier than living, for Septimus’s sake, she took her own life into consideration and formed her own outlook after listening to Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw, at her party, about Septimus. She did not pity him; she felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away while they went on living (204), but the fact that there was some horrendous part of his life that forced him to kill himself made Clarissa realize she is a living, breathing person who has a fortunate life and should keep living it even if she has to listen to guests talk about men who kill themselves at her sophisticated parties which concludes Clarissa Dalloway’s perception of her world.
Overall, everyone chooses the path they take with the choices they make entailing their perspective on life to be different from one another. Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus are examples of two people who have lived complex and simple lives yet making an impact on one’s life in the end. Septimus lived the dangerous life that Clarissa succeeded at avoiding. She chose the man who would keep her safe and secure aside from the man who wanted to travel and see the world potentially living the ‘dangerous’ life. Septimus chose the army to become a survivor of the war and a hero for his country, although succeeding at survival, the common result in war veterans is post traumatic stress which lead him to meet his death. However, Clarissa perceives her world as cautious, secure and glamorous with nothing to worry about but her parties. How someone perceives their life or the whole world depends on the individuals decisions and choices they make, what they learn from child birth to adulthood, and what they are interested in; the perception of one’s life cannot be defined because there are infinite number of answers to be heard.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Hogarth Press, 1925.…...

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