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Politics, Warfare and Politeness

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1 Politics, Warfare and Politeness
Mrs. Dalloway

2 Focus: There are numerous references to politics and warfare, mainly through the eyes of Septimus and Peter.  What is their function in the novel?  How do these references connect to the mental journey that Clarissa is on?

3 Break into pairs… Find specific references to politics and warfare.
Explore how they integrate with the other themes in the novel.

4 A General Perspective:
Clarissa has a class snobbishness about her when she shows annoyance over the fact that "her own daughter, her Elizabeth, cared not a straw for neither [gloves nor shoes]." Clarissa obviously cares for gloves and shoes, and considers them very important: she has funneled her emotions into material objects like gloves and shoes instead of people.

5 A General Perspective:
Clarissa also describes Miss Kilman, a poor woman who has been cheated by the world, and whom she despises. Kilman was dismissed from a school during the war because she would not renounce the Germans; and she is of low social class and hasn't many other chances. Clarissa hates the character of Miss Kilman for complaining about the injury to her reputation during the war, which shows a lot about Clarissa’s own character as well. Clarissa seems much less empathetic than she did during the early part of her stroll through the city.

6 Themes to Explore: The Individual Social Life London Empire Loneliness

7 The Individual… In Mrs Dalloway, we are given views of Clarissa from many different viewpoints. We understand that her identity is not fixed, but changes when she is with Peter, Miss Kilman, Elizabeth, and her husband. Peter best summarizes the paradox that is Mrs Dalloway: "She had a sense of comedy that was really exquisite, but she needed people, always people, to bring it out, with the inevitable result that she frittered her time away, lunching, dining, giving these incessant parties of hers, talking nonsense, saying things she doesn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her discrimination."

8 The Individual… We agree with Peter that Clarissa is indeed a social chameleon, twisting and turning so as to catch the light of her admirers’ glances in the most flattering way. When she is alone and looking in the mirror, she compares herself to a diamond, solid and valuable (pp34-35). Compbook Personal connection notes: With this example in mind, explain how Peter is there to cast light on Richard Dalloway. Mrs. Dalloway works as a novel through holding a mirror up to its characters and asking them to scrutinize themselves. We, the readers, are then invited to scrutinize this scrutinizing.

9 Social Life... The novel attacks the values of bourgeois society in the post-war world. Woolf is holding up a mirror to the upper middle classes in the guise of Septimus and asking whether they can carry on attending the same old frivolous parties and social functions when the whole fabric of existence has shifted so radically. Peter and Sally appear in the novel to remind us that Clarissa once cared for things other than dinner dates and lunch parties – that she too once had a social conscience. Clarissa’s rejection of the values of her youth is exemplified by her refusal to let the story of Septimus’ suicide ruin her party: "What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? A young man had killed himself. And they talked of it at her party – the Bradshaws talked of death."

10 Social Life... Clarissa’s snobbishness is exaggerated by Woolf to show the instability and lack of profundity inherent in the British upper classes after the war. Clarissa looks down upon her cousin, Ellie Henderson, because she lacks the sufficient social airs and graces (and wealth) to allow her to mix in the society that Clarissa keeps. Similarly Clarissa despises the lesbian Miss Kilman (note the name) because Elizabeth accepts her despite her working-class status. Sally complains that Clarissa has never come to visit her in Manchester because she married a miner’s son. Woolf’s main point here is that in the new post-war world, where the sons of lords fought alongside the sons of greengrocers, there is no place for this type of snobbery.

11 London… The city is a lonely place; whose random acts of tragic consequence are only heightened by the attention that Woolf pays to geographical detail in this novel. Each of the characters is tied to a specific part of London, and this locational characterization helps us to understand and relate to the characters better. The Dalloways are linked to affluent and political Westminster, and Woolf’s indictment of the frivolous life of Clarissa is by association an indictment of the Westminster politicians.

12 London... We get a distinct sense of Clarissa living within a world whose limits are very distinct – she lives in Westminster, shops in Bond Street and Piccadilly, she rarely leaves the world of comfortable affluence. The Smiths, on the other hand, live in Bloomsbury, the place which Woolf made her home, but an area which was associated with bohemian poverty. One of the most striking measures of the inadequacy of Clarissa’s world is Elizabeth’s trip into the City. She is appalled by the open respect for money and trade, which is something that she has never encountered. It is here that we realize that the Dalloways are a true anachronism and will not survive in the new World of market capitalism

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