Mrs Dalloway Emotional Themes Virginia Term Paper

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" Both Clarissa and Septimus think about the same quotes. "Fear no more the heat o' the sun / Nor the furious winter rages." This phrase first comes to Clarissa's mind when she sees it in a book. It "appears twice before it becomes a part of Septimus's thought, where it ironically reassures him just before his death."

Clarissa and Septimus are both sensitive individuals with deep emotional issues. While Clarissa is a "perfect hostess" who shows great creativity and social warmth in her parties, she is essentially a cold person. Peter recognizes this coldness as something "mortally dangerous" to Clarissa and says it is "the death of her soul"(Woolf, 77). Clarissa knows that she is cold: "She could see what she lacked. It was not beauty; it was not mind"(40). This coldness keeps her from the love and the openness with people that should otherwise come naturally to someone with her social skills.

Septimus lost the ability to feel when he came home from the war. His experiences destroyed him emotionally and he could no longer relate to other people and the world around him. Septimus is so sensitive that he could not accept a life without feeling. Afraid and confused by his emotional isolation, he retreats into a private world of madness. While Clarissa's ability to accept and live with her emotional voids gives her sanity, Septimus is pushed to insanity. Clarissa is able to interrupt her wandering thoughts, in order to escape negative thinking. Septimus has no such escape nor does he want interruptions. When his wife attempts to distract him, he thinks, "Interrupted again! She was always interrupting (Woolf, 82)."

Septimus and Clarissa are both overwhelmed by life (CliffNotes, 2004). When Clarissa hears of Septimus' suicide, she withdraws to consider the party's greater meaning for her. She considers his suicide and recalls that "she had thrown a shilling into the Serpentine, never anything more. But he had flung it away." Clarissa shares Spetimus' suicidal tendencies: "But this young man who had killed himself - had he plunged holding his treasure? 'If it were now to die, 'twere now to be most happy, she had said to herself once.." However, she only needs to die in her imagination to identify with Septimus. She is able to survive her suicidal instinct as she acknowledges that her subsistence is dependent on the death of Septimus, the darker side of herself, so she sacrifices it happily and recognizes the value in life, which was something that Septimus could never do.

Woolf had a history of mental illness on both sides of her family. It is widely believed that she suffered from manic depression, also called bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, little treatment was available to her at the time, and she eventually committed suicide at the age of 59.

The novel's emotional themes, including those relating to sanity and death, were close to Woolf's past and present. Woolf's husband and close friends compared her periods of insanity to a manic depression quite similar to the emotional episodes experienced by Septimus. Woolf also included frustratingly impersonal doctor characters that reflected doctors she had visited throughout the years.

Woolf attempted suicide three times in her life and was eventually successful (Bell, 1990). This perspective of Woolf is paralleled in Septimus, who suffers from mental illness and depression as a post-war effect. Similarly, Septimus has two mental breakdowns and commits suicide during his last one. Because there are so many similarities between Woolf and her characters, some believe that Woolf was preparing for her suicide when she wrote the novel.

In her novels, Woolf aimed to address the problems of her generation as social criticism, while addressing the issue of oneliness of each character and their reason to find themselves and a companion (Bell, 1990). In this light, Woolf addressed the feminism of the society, her personal relationships, her homosexual partner, and her mental disorder through her characters and the setting. In conclusion, Woolf's society, her family members, and her personal beliefs and happenings are paralleled in her novel's emotional themes and characters.


Bell, A. (1990). Virginia Woolf; a biography. Quentin.Publication: New York .

CliffNotes. (2004). Mrs. Dalloway. Retrieved from the Internet at:,pageNum-20.html.

Jensen, Emily. "Clarissa Dalloway's Respectable Suicide." Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983. 162-179.

Kostkowska, Justyna: Book Reviews: Woolf & Feminism. English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 42:1 [1999] p.96-99.

Love, Jean O. Worlds in Consciousness: Mythopoetic Thought in the Novels of Virginia Woolf, pages 145-160. Berkely, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. 1970.

Maze, John. Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious. Westport: Greenwood Press 1997.…[continue]

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