Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blog Nine: Mrs. Dalloway

Blog Nine: Mrs. Dalloway
MD: For the first time this week, I read the work itself before reading the assigned articles. I think this gave me a better idea what each article was about, and it left everything in the book a surprise. Two things drew attention pretty quickly: World War I and Big Ben. Reference to the War seems to be how time is referenced in the big picture. June 1919 seems to be the day covered in the book. “The War was over…” “For it was the middle of June.” (5) Many events are set either before, during or after the War. Trotter notes the impact of the War on several modern novelists, including VW: “Apocalypse was one of the things modernist writers imagined most fondly.” (77) He discusses VW, DH Lawrence and F. Scott Fitzgerald in terms of “literature of crisis.” (77) Big Ben, striking different hours, is a repeated image.
Grammatically, I noticed a pretty extreme use of semi-colons. I think this is part of her overall strategy of showing how thoughts come, how the mind works. The mind doesn’t always move forward in terms of complete sentences. This book has stories and incidents, but it seemed to be more about characters and how their minds worked than about a plot, at least in the way we usually use the word plot. The main character is Clarissa. Everyone else (except maybe Septimus and Rezia) seems to be moving around her. The most interesting thing about this book to me is that all the characters are likeable. There is no villain, no one that you really hate. Everyone is sympathetic, at least to a degree. I liked Clarissa. I liked Peter, but I also liked Richard. It was so sad that they both couldn’t be with her. Clarissa became more complex as the first half of the novel progressed. When it is revealed that she had a sexual interest in Sally earlier in her life (she called the kiss with Sally “the most exquisite moment of her whole life” (52) ), she becomes a much more complex character. My favorite part of the story was Peter’s remembrances of their adventures at Bourton. This story (which he remembered as the night he knew Clarissa would marry Dalloway) is beautifully related. This is the first time you feel you really know Peter. By the end of the book, I thought the most surprising thing was that it was all one day. I think this shows the level of evaluation, details, memories, etc. The ending, where Dr. Bradshaw relates the Septimus story, reminded me of the Mansfield garden party story.

“Modern Fiction:” Several sections of this article perfectly describe MD. VW first describes what is wrong with outdated fiction. Mainly, it is of “unimportant things” and “often misses than secures the thing we seek.” (3) A better goal is to “look within.” (4) “The mind receives a myriad impressions—trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms…” (4) This seems to me to be about MD; this is what MD does. She admires Joyce, whom she says attempts “to come closer to life, and to preserve more sincerely and exactly what interests and moves them…” (4)

Steinberg: In this article, Steinberg looks at the relationship between Eliot and the Woolfs to support his theory that MD and TWL are connected and that Septimus is based on Eliot. This was a really fascinating idea, and he is able to support it. Three connections really made sense to me. First, the Jean Verdenal episode seems to line up quite well with Evans in MD. Second, Steinberg notes that Eliot married very suddenly after Verdenal’s death; in MD, Septimus marries soon after the end of the War. Evans was killed just before the Armistice. Finally, they were very similar in occupation. (See p. 12.) On top of this, Eliot was on VW’s mind as she was writing MD; they were becoming really close, and her letters often refer to him.

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