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Mrs Dalloway. 5/05/2009. Bradshaw.

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mrs dalloway

Mrs Dalloway


  • We are first introduced to Sir William Bradshaw by his car, "low, powerful, grey with plain initials interlocked on the panels, as if the pomps of heraldry were incongruous, this man being the ghostly keeper, the priest of science" (122-3). Sir William gives precisely three quarters of an hour to each of his patients. In his time with the Smiths, he diagnoses Septimus's case as extremely grave, gets a confession from Rezia that her husband has threatened to kill himself, and decides Septimus must be sent to one of his "delightful" homes, away from Rezia, for complete rest.
critique of medical establishment
Critique of medical establishment
  • In her journal, Woolf wrote about some of her intentions for Mrs. Dalloway, "I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work, at its most intense." Sir William Bradshaw is the most repulsive character in the novel and is the prime example of the social system at work. Bradshaw, who “had never had time for reading” (127) represents a corrupt medical establishment. In treating his patients, he invokes all the forces of society to gain their submission. "Naked, defenseless, the exhausted, the friendless received the impress of Sir William's will. He swooped; he devoured. He shut people up".
proportion and conversion
Proportion and conversion
  • Proportion and her sister Conversion are Sir William's goddesses. By worshipping Proportion, he "not only prospered himself, but made England prosper as well, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalized despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views, until they, too, shared his sense of proportion" (129). It is Conversion that instils the desire "to impress, to impose, adoring her own features stamped on the face of the populace" (130). Proportion is conformity and Conversion is imposing said conformity. Sir William and the prosperous England he represents are not hesitant to define reality for others.
forcing the soul
Forcing the soul
  • Independence of the Soul: Woolf exposes the intention of "forcing the soul" as the imposition of structure on the way a person thinks, feels, and reacts to his or her surrounding world. Bradshaw is the sublime example of his culture's preoccupation with "forcing the soul."
pp 135 153
pp. 135-153
  • At 1:00, Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread convene at Lady Bruton's for lunch. Lady Bruton is a shallow, domineering busybody and another representative of the upper-class society Woolf intends to expose. A prominent society hostess who likes being involved with government affairs, she has invited Richard and Hugh for lunch to help her draft a letter to the Times. She enjoys projects of her own invention.At lunch, upon hearing the news of Peter Walsh's return to London, Richard is inspired to tell Clarissa he loves her. On the way home, he buys her roses.
  • “For he would say it in so many words [I love you], when he came into the room. Because it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels, he thought, crossing the Green Park” (151)
  • he liked continuity; and the sense of handing on the traditions of the past. It was a great age in which to have lived. Indeed, his own life was a miracle; let him make no mistake about it; here he was, in the prime of life, walking to his house in Westminster to tell Clarissa that he loved her. Happiness is this he thought. (153)
Big Ben strikes three. Mrs. Dalloway sits at her writing table worried and annoyed. Mrs. Marsham had written imploring her to invite Ellie Hendersen to her party. Ellie Hendersen, a cousin of Clarissa, is representative of the impoverished gentlefolk. Mrs. Dalloway finds her dull.(153)[Mrs. Dalloway's opposition to inviting Ellie Hendersen makes explicit her interest in preserving the existing class structure.]
  • Richard arrives home with the flowers he has bought for his wife. He is, however, unable to say the words "I love you."(154)
emotions husband and wife
Emotions / Husband and wife
  • As a member of the governing class, Richard is unable to express his emotions verbally. Following strictly the words a doctor once imparted him, Richard retires for "an hour's complete rest after luncheon" (156).
  • And there is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect, thought Clarissa, watching him open the door; for one would not part with it oneself, or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect—something, after all, priceless (156)
Mrs. Dalloway has an unpleasant feeling she cannot place. After taking a moment to think, she realizes this feeling is attached to "something Peter had said, combined with her own depression" (158). She realizes it is her parties. Her unpleasant feeling is attached to the criticism she receives from both Richard and Peter about her parties.Clarissa privately defends her parties. She sees them as an offering, a term she is able to recognize as vague and goes on to define. She is offering a connection. She gives meaning to life by feeling the existence of others and offering a way to bring them together, offering them a chance of connection.She creates life through building her parties. Unlike Bradshaw, Holmes, or Lady Bruton, Clarissa does not force a connection; she merely offers it.
party offering gift
Party / offering / gift
  • But suppose Peter said to her, “Yes, yes, but your parties—what’s the sense of your parties?” all she could say was (and nobody could be expected to understand): They’re an offering; which sounded horribly vague. But who was Peter to make out that life was all plain sailing?— Peter always in love, always in love with the wrong woman? What’s your love? she might say to him. And she knew his answer; how it is the most important thing in the world and no woman possibly understood it. Very well. But could any man understand what she meant either? about life? She could not imagine Peter or Richard taking the trouble to give a party for no reason whatever.
  • But to go deeper, beneath what people said (and these judgements, how superficial, how fragmentary they are!) in her own mind now, what did it mean to her, this thing she called life? Oh, it was very queer. Here was So-and-so in South Kensington; some one up in Bayswater; and somebody else, say, in Mayfair. And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom?
  • An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift (159)
Clarissa's daughter Elizabeth enters from her tutoring lesson. "Elizabeth knew her mother was resting. She came in very quietly" (160). What Elizabeth does not know is that she is interrupting her mother's thoughts on life and death. In this action, Clarissa is brought back not only to external reality but also to passion.Miss Doris Kilman, Elizabeth's tutor, is an impoverished, unattractive woman. She is obsessed with Elizabeth, and Mrs. Dalloway despises her. Miss Kilman feels cheated by life and bitter about her work. She finds reward in hating the rich ladies who employ her. "Bitter and burning, Miss Kilman had turned into a church two years three months ago." (162). Now when she thinks of rage she thinks of God. She uses God as her consolation.Miss Kilman enters and stands before Mrs. Dalloway. She considers the ways in which she could humiliate, weaken, and ultimately gain power over Mrs. Dalloway. Her victory would be a "religious" one, in accordance with God's will.Here, Woolf uses a sarcastic tone to describe Miss Kilman's rage and subsequent thoughts of God, suggesting the questionable motives of those who claim religious superiority.
love and religion as destructive forces
Love and religion as destructive forces
  • Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing-room, tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are! For now that the body of Miss Kilman was not before her, it overwhelmed her—the idea. The cruelest things in the world, she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eavesdropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; love and religion. Had she ever tried to convert any one herself? Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves? […] t—but love and religion would destroy that, whatever it was, the privacy of the soul. The odious Kilman would destroy it. Yet it was a sight that made her want to cry.
  • Love destroyed too. Everything that was fine, everything that was true went. Take Peter Walsh now. There was a man, charming, clever, with ideas about everything. If you wanted to know about Pope, say, or Addison, or just to talk nonsense, what people were like, what things meant, Peter knew better than any one. It was Peter who had helped her; Peter who had lent her books. But look at the women he loved—vulgar, trivial, commonplace. Think of Peter in love—he came to see her after all these years, and what did he talk about? Himself. Horrible passion! she thought. Degrading passion! she thought, thinking of Kilman and her Elizabeth walking to the Army and Navy Stores.
  • Big Ben struck the half-hour. (165)
kilman elizabeth
Kilman / Elizabeth
  • On the way to the stores, Miss Kilman is quietly brooding. She knows Mrs. Dalloway laughed at her for being clumsy and ugly. She despises Mrs. Dalloway for being neither serious nor good, for having a life which was "a tissue of vanity and deceit" (168). Miss Kilman is bitter about her own life, in which food and Elizabeth are her only comforts, the only pure pleasures left her. She tries to turn her thoughts to God, but her desire to control Mrs. Dalloway remains foremost in her mind.Miss Kilman and Elizabeth shop in the Army Navy store and sit down for tea. Miss Kilman devours her éclair and, under the guise of a lesson, tries to explain to Elizabeth why she should not go to her mother's party. Miss Kilman wishes to "clasp" Elizabeth; "if she could make her hers absolutely and forever and then die; that was all she wanted" (172).Miss Kilman wants to control Elizabeth in order to triumph over Mrs. Dalloway. Note the undertones of sexual possession in the passage, and contrast the sexualized desire for control with the desire that existed between Clarissa and Sally. Woolf seems to be making a distinction between a masculine sexual desire based on domination and a feminine desire that seeks the exquisite experience of another human being.Elizabeth listens obediently and respectfully, but she wants to get away. Finally, Elizabeth politely leaves. Mrs. Dalloway triumphs, and an embittered Miss Kilman leaves for Westminster Abbey to pray.
  • Elizabeth’s journey (177-82): a pioneer.
at home
At home
  • Septimus is sitting on his couch. While sitting on the couch, Septimus notices a shadow on the wall. "Fear no more the heat o' the sun." He sits up and takes an interest in what Lucrezia is doing. She is making a hat. More significantly, she is creating and building.Metaphors and Imagery: Rezia's creation of the hat, like Clarissa's sewing, symbolizes not only the creation of life, but also more specifically, the female ability to create life.Septimus experiences a moment of clarity when he participates in his wife's art. They laugh about the small size of the hat, and Septimus makes suggestions as to what flowers she might use for ornamentation. It is in this moment that Septimus is drawn away from isolation. Never in her life has Rezia felt so happy.(187)
  • A young child, who stops by their home every night for a treat, arrives to dance and play with Rezia. Septimus feels very happy and very sleepy. He closes his eyes for a moment, and later opens them suddenly. He is alone. Rezia has taken the child back to his mother. He feels alone and exposed and wonders where the visions, the faces and the voices of the dead have gone. He calls out to Evans, but hears no reply (190). Rezia returns, happy and confident that she can say anything on her mind to her husband. It is just like when they first met.(191)
pp 192 194
pp. 192-194
  • Septimus remembers Bradshaw saying he must be separated from Rezia. He is upset that Bradshaw would say "must" to him. He suddenly feels that he is under the doctors' power. He knows that their desire to control is upon him, and he panics, asking for his papers. He requests that Rezia burn them. Instead, she gathers them neatly and ties them with silk, for although some were nonsense, others were quite beautiful (193). Rezia is confident that they cannot be separated against their wills. Septimus envisions Rezia as a flowering tree, a sanctuary. He sees her mounting the staircase, standing up against Holmes and Bradshaw (193-4).
rezia as sanctuary
Rezia as sanctuary
  • Relationships: Septimus married Rezia because he sought sanctuary in her, sanctuary from emotional death. Now he looks to her for sanctuary once again, though this time he seeks sanctuary from human nature - a force he links to the soul's death.
  • As Rezia gets up to pack their things to insure they will be together, Holmes enters the house. She runs downstairs, and like "a little hen with her wings spread," she attempts to prevent him from seeing Septimus. Septimus hears him coming. He feels the onslaught of human nature. He wonders what it is they want and concludes it is life, control over life. As the others approach, Septimus jumps out of the window to his death.Independence of the Soul: As an act of defiance, to preserve the purity and privacy of his soul, Septimus throws himself out the window and plunges to his death.Holmes calls Septimus a coward. Rezia runs to the window and is then quickly ushered away. Her mind floats. Most of her memories are happy. She sees the large dark silhouette of Holmes against the window. She thinks to herself, "So that was Dr. Holmes" (197).Rezia is able to recognize the darkness, the evil of the doctor, of human nature, from which her husband escaped
pp 197 216
pp. 197-216
  • Peter hears the bells of the ambulance pass and thinks to himself, "One of the triumphs of civilization" (197).The irony is, of course, that Septimus Smith is inside the ambulance, dead because the war of civilization has made him insane.Peter goes to his hotel and is bothered by the trivial nature of a note he receives from Clarissa. He dines out, admiring the state of the world and the civilization of London, and then walks to Clarissa's party.Again, there is irony in Peter's position; he despises the governing class, yet admires the triumphs of civilization and maintains a home in India, the crown jewel of the British Empire.
the party
The party
  • We enter the party much as we enter the novel, from behind the scenes. There is great hustle and bustle as the cooks and maids rush about completing final touches before the guests arrive.It is a great gathering - from poor little Ellie Hendersen all the way up to the Prime Minister. As the guests collect, Mrs. Dalloway feels some anxiety about whether or not her party will succeed.All the social frivolousness which Peter despises culminates at the party. Clarissa can feel Peter criticizing her as he stands in the corner. Class boundaries, however, are oddly crossed. Richard, kind by nature, talks to poor Ellie Hendersen who stays in the corner observing all that is around her.Sally Seton arrives at the party, uninvited, but very much welcome. The threads of the past and the present intertwine as Sally and Peter play catch-up. Sally is no longer the wild, daring, romantic rebel of her youth. She is now Lady Rosseter, married to a bald man who owns cotton mills and the proud mother of five boys.Sally has transformed herself from a rebellious youth into a marginally accepted adult member of her class; the difference between her and Peter lies in his incomplete transformation and relatively marginal
septimus clarissa
Septimus / Clarissa
  • The climax of the novel is not the party itself, but the late arrival of the Bradshaws who bring news of an unknown man's (Septimus) death.Mrs. Dalloway is initially appalled that the Bradshaws would speak of death at her party, but when she steps into a room, isolating herself, she finds meaning in Septimus's death. While alone in the room, Clarissa recognizes Septimus's death as defiance. "Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death" (241-2). Here Clarissa sees death as a way of reaching the center of one's soul. Death is the only sure way to communicate the oneness of reality, wholeness.
forcing the soul1
Forcing the soul
  • Clarissa, who has "a gift for knowing people almost by instinct," recognizes in Sir William Bradshaw something abstract which she does not like. In the privacy of the drawing room, she dissects her impression of Bradshaw: "a great doctor yet to her obscurely evil, without sex or lust, extremely polite to women, but capable of some indescribable outrage - forcing your soul, that was it" (242). Clarissa recognizes Bradshaw as one of those men "who make life intolerable" and as someone who "forces the soul."Clarissa sees her neighbor, the old woman, who was established earlier as a symbol of the privacy of the soul, moving about in her room. The woman's movements fascinate Clarissa, as several things come together in her mind. She contemplates the idea of the privacy of the soul and the mystery of human connection and alienation. These ideas merge with her awareness of the activities going on around her at her party. Suddenly she no longer despairs; she no longer pities herself nor the young man who killed himself. The old lady's lights go out and the house stands dark and alone with the bustle of party activity continuing around it.
  • Fear no more the heat of the sun (244)
  • The light's disappearance is symbolic of death, yet it has not stopped the activity of the living. Septimus has made Clarissa feel beauty, and now she must return to her party, returning, in essence, to life.During this epiphany the clock strikes (244)
  • The novel ends with Peter being struck by the "extraordinary excitement," "ecstasy," and "terror" that is generated by Clarissa, "For there she was" (255). (a repetition of Peter’s earlier words).
  • Clarissa has become a great force of life, and Peter recognizes it. But the ending remains ambiguous.