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These elements of suffering and true friendship contribute to Clarissa's ultimate spiritual survival, despite her society and her own tendency towards flippancy.
Clarissa's illness brings with it a number of results. Her personality and outlook become altogether deeper than might be expected. She for example surprises the reader with her awareness of her own flawed nature. Perhaps her illness has brought her into contact with the flaws of the society around her and consequently the flaws that she has inherited.
She is for example deeply aware of the lack of depth in her regard for societal rank. This is awareness is partly the result of her illness and partly due to the opinions of people she cares about. Peter for example things that she is a snob, while Richard finds her and the parties she enjoys childish. Furthermore it appears to Clarissa that Richard has many worthy causes for which he works. She on the other hand cares more for roses than the human suffering Richard's endless committee meetings are meant to alleviate. Clarissa demonstrates depth of character by being aware of this flaw and feeling bad about it. On the other hand, she seems unable to help caring about apparently shallow things such as social rank and status symbols. It is however ironic that Richard in truth cares no more for the causes he champions than Clarissa does. This is demonstrated by the fact that he cannot remember whether his meeting concerns Armenians or Albanians. What he sees as his duty to society thus carries no more depth than Clarissa's parties.
The party itself also brings to light the contrast between Clarissa's depth and apparent lack thereof. While she adheres to the surface qualities and status she holds in such high regard, this makes her begin to feel hollow as she continues to greet each guest in the same manner. She also realized that the parties that used to fulfill her in the past has become less satisfying as she grows older. This is also indicative of the inner growth Clarissa experiences during her illness. There is however also another side effect that Clarissa becomes aware of after being ill.
There is a hatred inside Clarissa that she had never experienced before falling ill. The main subject of this feeling is Miss Kilman, the above-mentioned history tutor for Elizabeth. Clarissa experiences her hatred as monstrous and frightening. She is fully aware of it, but also unable to change it, like her adherence to the social values of her time. This is also manifest at the party. While finding herself less fulfilled by her social role, she also becomes aware of the burning hatred within herself (Woolf 203). The hatred is again sparked by thinking of Miss Kilman. Clarissa also becomes aware that while parties have become less fulfilling, her negative feelings have become more so.
Nonetheless, Clarissa is capable of kindness, as shown by Miss Pym at the florist's. This change in Clarissa also manifests itself physically. She is no longer happy with her appearance, and Peter imagines her falling to the floor and dying. This phantom death can be viewed as a symbol of the change and growth that Clarissa experiences. Part of her dies to be replaced by something new, which is at times frightening, but also valuable.
The duality that Clarissa discovers within herself is further embodied by her friend, Sally. Sally provides Clarissa with a depth of vision that would otherwise have been lacking. Despite the fact that her parents disapproved of both Peter and Sally, Clarissa nonetheless remains their friend. Part of her growth can then be ascribed to these people. Sally is a free spirit, but surprises all her acquaintances by marrying a rich man. This was a social expectation of the time, and neither Sally's outlook nor her actions during early adulthood adhered to society's norms. She therefore acts as the opposite of Clarissa, whose growth and change entails a movement away from the surface values of society. Sally nonetheless retains her basic spirit and personality, as Clarissa retains many of her socially induced values.
Most indicative of Clarissa's hidden depths is her views of people in general, as well as issues concerning life and death. Beyond her petty dislike of socially unacceptable people and issues, Clarissa nonetheless displays a remarkable tolerance. Because she feels at one with the world and everything in it, Clarissa is inclined (in most cases) not to be judgmental. She tends not to label or define people by age or circumstances. Her duality is once again evident here, as she obviously does label and define people to a great extent. Ellie Henderson and Miss Kilman are examples of this. Her friendship with Peter and Sally in the face of her parents' disapproval on the other hand shows that she does have a more tolerant quality than might at first be expected.
The most profound evidence of Clarissa's depth is perhaps her views on life and death. She appreciates life, and lives it from moment to moment. She takes as much enjoyment from her life, work and environment as possible. Philosophically death does not bother her, as she believes that a part of her remains wherever she goes. Her immortality is thus ensured. Clarissa's vivacity and happiness stems mainly from this basis, even though she is unable to articulate it early in the novel. When Peter questions her motivation for giving parties, she can only respond that it is an "offering." She is aware of the inadequacy of this answer, but is herself not yet quite in touch with the true depth and meaning of what she offers. The joy she derives from her social connections and status is merely a cover for the deeper satisfaction she derives. In view of this then, her earlier angry emotion towards Miss Kilman gives Clarissa satisfaction perhaps because it is sincere. It bothers her because she is not yet aware of the balance provided by her sincerity in another, more positive way.
The polarity in the novel then, like Clarissa's nature, extends beyond the superficial juxtaposition of social status vs. all "lower" forms of appreciation. It is a novel regarding how some have the strength to survive the rigors of socially imposed superficial values and their resulting issues of repression. This juxtaposition is presented in the persons of Clarissa and Septimus, the mentally ill survivor of World War I. The War has damaged him to the extent that he is unable to integrate into a society that does not cater for or even understand his needs. Septimus' illness has made of him an outcast, completely disconnected from society.
Clarissa's party here then takes a deeper meaning than merely a fashionable gathering of the time. It provides its patrons with the very basis of life in the face of death. It provides human connection and companionship against the forces of isolation. This is Clarissa's offering to her world. She wants people to be themselves (even those she reluctantly invites). She wants them, like her, to understand that labels and definitions are flexible and to be used sparingly. She wants everybody, like her, to enjoy life for the beauty it offers in every living moment.
This is the true depth that Clarissa offers her society, although she herself is not always aware of it. Her own socially induced values often override her deeper and more ponderous personality. Yet she does not allow this to detract from her purpose. Her illness and her resultant solitude are elements that she fights in order to derive greater enjoyment of life. This is a fight that Septimus loses and Clarissa wins. Repression, especially in the sense of sexuality, plays an especially significant role in Clarissa's personal war.
Clarissa is repressed in various ways by the society in which she lives. She accepts it readily, as she accepts most of the values imposed upon her. This acceptance is shown in her marriage to Richard. She forsakes her feelings for both Sally and Peter in order to better serve her society. The best way in which she can retain her independence is to marry Richard, himself a somewhat insincere and sterile product of his world. Only through her marriage to Richard is Clarissa able to offer her society the companionship of her party.
Sally, and to a lesser extent Peter, are however the personification of Clarissa's attempt to rebel against the empty values of society. She cares very much about Peter's opinion of her (Woolf 46). Sally again stirs passions in her that are forbidden by society, but that nonetheless contribute to her passionate enjoyment of each moment in life. Her closeness to Sally is thus an anchor in the face of the social repression placed upon her.
The alienation that Clarissa suffers is to a large degree attributed to her illness. It is her illness more than any other element that contributes to Clarissa's preference for solitude. This is also directly related to her…[continue]
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