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Modernism in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway - Essay Example

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This essay examines modernism through Virginia Woolf’s "Mrs. Dalloway". Modernism is the period spanning the commencement of the 20th century to about 1949. Prime traits of modernism include emphases on the stream of consciousness technique, individualism, alienation, unorthodoxy and pessimism. …
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Modernism in Virginia Woolfs Mrs Dalloway
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Download file to see previous pages The essay "Modernism in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway" analyzes modernism through "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf. Woolf stands with 20th century Modernist greats such as her contemporary, T.S. Eliot who also mastered the art of literary stream of consciousness. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, one finds the signature traits of modernism: stream of consciousness, alienation, individuality, unconventionality and pessimism. Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway explores with the stream of consciousness technique in which the flow of language is as incoherent and discursive as human thoughts. There are flashbacks and fast-forwards in time and sometimes the train of ideas never continues. The language of the mind is very critical because during the modernist period, the freedom of the mind and the focus of the lack of structure mirroring the failures of institution. In Mrs. Dalloway, at times the sentences are very long. The confusion of the narrative enhances modernist perception of the disintegration of society and a world in a state of chaos, shaped only by the individual interpretation. As a highly psychological narrative, Mrs. Dalloway is populated by characters undergoing intense mental suffering and struggles between extremes such as Septimus Warren Smith, who experiences shell-shock or post-traumatic stress disorder owing to his WWI service. As a lunatic, he rambles on as he meticulously observes nature one day where “upon them a curious pattern like a tree, Septimus thought. and this gradual drawing together of everything to one centre before his eyes as if some horror had come almost to the surface and was about to burst in flames, terrified him. The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames” (Woolf 2003, p. 18). Here Woolf takes the reader into the inner consciousness of Septimus, revealing the topics on which the mind dwells and to which it erratically transitions. Woolf continually exploits this stream of consciousness method with the protagonist, Mrs. Dalloway and other characters, laying bare their thought patterns and molding the novel to suit. Alienation comes into play in Mrs. Dalloway since one sees the wide disconnect among characters. Septimus’s insanity detaches him from society as he internalizes and in the process estranges himself. Septimus is degraded to an outcast from society who cannot function anymore within it. The theme of alienation rears its head again in Mrs. Dalloway’s own life. She has become estranged from her husband and she continues to pretend before the eyes of her social circle. Her feelings of disconnectedness persist especially at the evening dinner she hosts for her friends and acquaintances. In some moments she experiences keen anguish at her loneliness and she figures that no one is able to understand her except Sally Seton. On the other hand, Sally Seton and Mrs. Dalloway are childhood friends now distant because of time and place. They are not familiar anymore with one another being apart for several years. Another case of alienation portrayed in Mrs. Dalloway is the old woman in the window across from Mrs. Dalloway’s house. The elderly woman lives alone, never has no visitors and remains enclosed in her home. Mrs. Dalloway observes that the aged woman is cut off from society, yet admires that society is not allowed to intrude her space. Lucrezia, Septimus’ wife feels desolate and alienated since she has to support her shell-shocked husband. In the relationship, “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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