Nightwood

“Hearing his ‘come in’ she opened the door and for one second hesitated, so incredible was the disorder that met her eyes. The room was so small it was just possible to walk sideways up to the bed; it was as if being condemned to the grave the doctor had decided to occupy it with the utmost abandon.” (84)

Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, 1937. Print

Thinking of the historical change throughout the novels we have read this year, they all seem to have common themes but are presented through different ideas/mediums in the different novels. Starting with Heart of Darkness, we are opened to the inner monologues of our character, but it is all by direct reported speech through his story telling frame. And the theme itself of imperialism and colonization is something else that we see repeated in the course. In A Portrait of the Artist as  Young Man, we again are taken into the inner monologue of a character, but this time in the third person and mainly through free indirect discourse. And in this novel we are introduced to the bildungsroman type of story with the coming of age of Stephen Dedalus. Then in Mrs. Dalloway we again see free indirect discourse to give us thoughts and ideas of different characters, while also coming back to the idea of imperialism and war with the backdrop of World War I a constant theme. And in Their Eyes Were Watching God we still have a type of frame narrative like in Heart of Darkness, but the narrative voice is shifted from first to third, giving us more instances of free indirect discourse. This novel also brings in the ideas of nation building, race, and is a kind of anti-bildungsroman, set in the early 1900s south. And we finally end up with Nightwood, another third person narrative that uses instances of free indirect discourse while also showing this through different characters. The chosen quote I found to shed some light to the doctor, who up until this point we don’t really know too much about his history or past, but he has also been in almost every scene of the novel and given us lots of information through his dialogue and through instances of free indirect discourse.

As I Lay Dying

“Down to the barn,” I say. “Harnessing the team.”

Down there fooling with that horse. He will go on through the barn, into the pasture. The horse will not be in sight: he is up there among the pine seedlings, in the cool. Jewel whistles, once and shrill…” (Faulkner, 11).

Seems to be a switch in narration where Darl imagines, yet also narrates Jewel “fooling with that horse”. Perhaps a suggestion,(similar to Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway) of a connection within the minds of characters.

Septimus’s thoughts on tragedy

“It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s (for she was with him).” (146).

In this sentence Septimus is about to kill himself by jumping out the window as Dr. Holmes was coming upstairs to see him. This is an interesting part of the book because up until a few pages before his suicide Septimus is portrayed as almost entirely insane. It is while helping design a hat moments before his suicide that he is said to be himself for the first time in a while. In the quote Septimus does not think that his suicide will be beautiful poetic or tragic. He believes that in killing himself he is giving everyone else what they want in the form of a tragic death thus him saying “I’ll give it to you!” (146)., right before jumping. This serves to show how his mind was not working properly as he is out of touch with the other characters believing that his death will serve them in a way that he could not in life.

Mrs. Dalloway Mind Reading

“But how lovely, she said, taking his flowers. She understood; she understood without his speaking; his Clarissa. She put them in vases on the mantelpiece.”

Clarissa’s seeming understanding of Richard’s meaning with the gift would suggest that she knows him well enough to make assumptions of his thoughts. However, the following thought isn’t hers, but Richard’s, “his Clarissa”. That their differing understandings follow one after the other, gives the idea that they’re united, that they know each other enough to make these inferences. Yet, Mr. Dalloway’s true meaning behind the flowers is lost in his inability to stay “I love you” to Clarissa, and instead claims her as “his”. His dehumanizing her to a property to be owned, gives reason to suggest that he doesn’t actually love her, but rather the idea of having her, which would exiplain his silence. Mrs. Dalloway’s struggle for identity and agency as seen throughout the novel are a result of Mr. Dalloway’s unspoken possession of her person.

Mrs. Dalloway: Mind-reading

“Hunted out of existence, maimed, frozen, the victims of cruelty and injustice (she had heard Richard say so over and over again)- no, she could feel nothing for the Albanians, or was it the Armenians? but she loved her roses (didn’t that help the Armenians?)- the only flowers she could bear to see cut” (120). 

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

For context, the sentences before are: “And people would say, ‘Clarissa Dalloway is spoilt.’  She cared much more for the roses than for the Armenians.” The initial use of quotation marks suggest that people may have actually said this about Mrs. Dalloway. The absence of quotation marks around the next few sentences suggest free indirect discourse through Mrs. Dalloway; Clarissa thinks about how “people” think about her. Clarissa assumes others criticize her for focusing more on the menial and materialistic, like roses, rather than larger issues, like the Albanians/Armenians as victims of injustice. Parenthesis are used to separate Clarissa’s own thoughts with her thoughts of how others view her. Parenthetical phrases offer access to her self-reflection and highlights her own insecurities. “(She had heard Richard say so over and over again)” is her admission that she would not have known or thought about the cruelties of the Armenians if not for Richard. Clarissa considers, “(didn’t that help the Armenians)” regarding her loving the roses. She asks this rhetorically and ironically, the juxtaposition of the roses and Armenians as victims of cruelty and injustice suggesting that she understands that her opinion of the roses does nothing for the Armenians. Clarissa’s assumption that others view her negatively fits with the rest of the novel, her actions defined by the way in which they affect others’ opinions of her. Clarissa’s representation of others’ calls for the readers skepticism, as her assumptions of how others perceive her are a means to project her own insecurities.

Mrs. Dalloway

“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.” (118)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

In this scene, Clarissa is contemplating the reasons she planned and hosted parties. The narration before this quote says, “what she liked was simply life” and she goes on to say out loud, even though she is alone, “That’s what I do it for”. No one is around to hear her talk through this justification, even though she sounds like she is trying to prove her point to someone. It almost seems like, by saying it out loud, she is trying to prove it to herself. She goes on to think, through free indirect discourse narration, “but suppose Peter said to her”. Attempting to convince herself that having these parties is just something she liked to do, Clarissa shifts to thinking about what Peter would say to her, knowing him well enough that he would question her. This sentence hints at Clarissa possibly being a little insecure, especially regarding Peter’s opinion of her. She not only thinks about his opinion, but also thinks of what everyone else would think in response to his doubt. She thinks, “nobody could be expected to understand” acknowledging the fact that she is aware no one else would back her up when she defended herself. But this is an entirely hypothetical situation, as Peter hasn’t even said anything yet. She even acknowledges that her answer would sound “horribly vague”. This style of thinking is common throughout the novel, as characters tend to get lost in their thoughts.

Mrs. Dalloway – Mind Reading

“She held her hands to her head, waiting for him to say did he like the hat or not, and as she sat there, waiting, looking down, he could feel her mind, like a bird, falling from branch to branch, and always alighting, quite rightly; he could follow her mind, as she sat there in one of those loose lax poses that came to her naturally, and, if he should say anything, at once she smiled, like a bird alighting with all its claws firm upon the bough.” (Woolf 161)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Penguin Group, 1992.

In this sentence, Septimus Warren Smith “follows” his wife’s mind as she sits across from him, sewing a hat. Woolf uses the figure of a bird on a tree to represent how Septimus represents Rezia’s mental processes. It’s reflective of Septimus that he does not understand Rezia’s mind in literal terms but through the image of a bird, because of his struggles to interpret the world simply. By attempting to comprehend the mind of another character, Septimus is in effect trying to comprehend human minds in general, including his own. The world through Septimus’ eyes is greatly intensified and somewhat surreal, so the representation of the mind through a figurative image shows another aspect of his unique perspective. It’s also noteworthy that the image of Rezia’s mind is a “bird,” which carries with it a connotation of lightness (consider how the bird “alights” from branch to branch), as opposed to seriousness, as well being a slang term for a young woman originating as early as 1915. (1)

 

Mrs. Dalloway Mind-Read

“She felt very like him- the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; Thrown it away.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Inc, 1925. Print. 182

This line from Mrs. Dalloway is ironic with the title of the assignment itself, “mindread”, because it is as if she can or had actually read Septimus’ mind. Clarissa put herself in Septimus’ shoes before he died and therefore knew his mindset and feelings. Not only that, but Clarissa could also relate to Septimus because she felt similar emotions. However, this idea of feeling what he felt ultimately desensitizes the death of Septimus and what he went through because at the end of the day, it is all subjective. There is no way she actually read his mind, but it is made to seem that way- that the feelings are shared.

Clarissa Mind-Read of Peter

“They thought, or Peter at any rate thought, that she enjoyed imposing herself; liked to have famous people about her; great names; was simply a snob in short” (121).

    Clarissa speculates on everyone’s thoughts about her, but she becomes aware that she is estimating simply Peter’s, evident as she (focalized) notes this in the very next clause. The indistinct “they,” immediately clarified to mean Peter only, demonstrates that Peter alone is the metric for Clarissa’s sense of scrutiny from everyone in her immediate circle. In other words, Peter is the “they.” Most people are concerned with their reputation or how they come off to people, but the “they” a person senses scrutiny/judgement from is merely a faceless, general group of people. So, it becomes clear that Peter’s judgements of Clarissa are the ones she is concerned with the most, if not the only ones she is genuinely concerned with. The use of semi-colons as a way of listing, very succinctly and determinately, her perspective on what (Peter) thinks of her, shows that she has thought this out before; she has made a very definitive idea of exactly what Peter thinks about her. Clarissa goes on to state a value judgement Richard makes of her: “Richard merely thought it foolish of her to like excitement when she knew it was bad for her heart” (121). But this would be a more clinical, impersonal judgement on Richard’s part that Clarissa doesn’t seem concerned with. It’s stated as a perfunctory afterthought she doesn’t seem too worried about.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

 

Mrs. Dalloway Mind-Read

“She understood; she understood without his speaking; his Clarissa.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. 115.

This sentence assumes that Mrs. Dalloway is capable of reading the mind of her husband, and understanding that by giving her flowers, he was thinking of her as: “his Clarissa.” It implies that the two know each other and understand each other very well. However, Mr. Dalloway brought his wife the flowers with the intention of telling her that he loved her, although he ended up being unable to say it. His lack of ability to come out and say this implies that he does not love her at all, and this mind-read implies that maybe Mrs. Dalloway herself gets that. Her validity in her assumptions about his thoughts are likely accurate, since she did assume that he meant to say “his Clarissa,” not “I love you,” which is a declaration of ownership more than it is one of love. However, since Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway are obviously not very close (not even close enough for him to feel comfortable saying that he loves her) her validity in knowing what he is thinking is somewhat questionable, since she may not know him as well as a typical wife would know her husband. This relates to the rest of the novel because the very title in itself–“Mrs. Dalloway”–implies a sense of ownership of Mr. Dalloway over his wife, since Mrs. Dalloway’s first name is not even given to the readers until further on in the novel. Mrs. Dalloway’s struggle for her own identity and agency is a huge theme in the novel, and this sentence of her knowing that her husband is very possessive and objectifying of her, expresses that theme.

Commonplace and “Mind-read”

“…could Miss Kilman really mind it? Yes, Miss Kilman did mind it.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print. 127

The context of this sentence is the cake that Elizabeth wonders if Miss Kilman had wanted when it is taken from her. Elizabeth is astonished by Miss Kilman’s eating habits and wonders whether she is even hungry at all but simply taking and taking as so many have done to her in the past, leaving her with nothing. Elizabeth acts as the link between the worlds of Miss Kilman and that of her mother and company. Interestingly, Miss Kilman’s feelings toward the two women are the complete opposite. She detests Clarissa and is infatuated with her daughter; feelings that can never be expressed in either regard for fear of unemployment, rejection, or both. So Miss Kilman eats, not out of pleasure, or need, but to finally possess something that no one can take away, and fill herself with something other than feelings of inadequacy and intense emotions.

Mrs. Dalloway

“She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.” (Woolf 11)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Penguin Group, 1992.

This selection is indicative of the feminist undertones to the character of Mrs. Dalloway and helps explain her function in the novel. The sentence also employs Woolf’s technique of run-on sentences, bridged by semicolons, which seems to create a stream of consciousness effect.

Mrs. Dalloway

“…she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores” (32). 

Relationship with Sally a protest against the mundanity of Clarissa’s housewife subordination. Description sounds like conscious attempt to repress her homosexual thoughts; then, possible acceptance.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

Mrs. Dalloway

“As a cloud crosses the sun, silence falls on London; and falls on the mind. Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. Where there is nothing, Peter Walsh said to himself; feeling hollowed out, utterly empty within. Clarissa refused me, he thought. He stood there thinking, Clarissa refused me.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 49.

There’s excellent imagery in this excerpt that emphasizes Peter Walsh’s thoughts. The cloud crossing the sun is a huge metaphor for the way that he is feeling because Clarissa refused him. He feels “hollowed out” and “empty”.

Mrs. Dalloway

“The way she said “Here is my Elizabeth!”— that annoyed him. Why not “Here’s Elizabeth” simply? It was insincere. And Elizabeth didn’t like it either. (Still the last tremors of the great booming voice shook the air round him; the half-hour; still early; only half-past eleven still.) For he understood young people; he liked them. There was always something cold in Clarissa, he thought. She had always, even as a girl, a sort of timidity, which in middle age becomes conventionality, and then it’s all up, it’s all up, he thought, looking rather drearily into the glassy depths, and wondering whether by calling at that hour he had annoyed her; overcome with shame suddenly at having been a fool; wept; been emotional; told her everything, as usual, as usual.”

In this quote, readers are given some outside description of Mrs. Dalloway. Although while reading up until this point, it is clear to me that Mrs. Dalloway is trying just a little too hard to impress people at her party. “Here is my Elizabeth” is almost her way of bragging about her daughter, treating her like a piece of furniture. Peter gives off mixed feelings about Clarissa when he calls her “cold.”

Mrs. Dalloway

“…that was only her dear Peter at his worst; and he could be intolerable; he could be impossible; but adorable to walk with on a morning like this.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. 6.

Describing Peter in negative ways but then following it with how adorable he is to walk with, shows that Mrs. Dalloway still cares about Peter and enjoys his company, regardless of how annoyed she may get by him at times. It also shows her desire to keep up her appearances, and that she does not care how “intolerable” or “impossible” someone is, as long as he helps her appear well in public while they are walking together.

Mrs. Dalloway Commonplace

“She would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. Page 8.

The early 20th century is seemingly marked by this need for an escape from reality, with almost all of the titles we have read so far indicate this separation from time and space at some point. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is no exception, and the most interesting thing is that this feeling, this “perpetual sense” know does not confine itself to race, gender, or class; as it has been exemplified in a myriad of different characters created by very distinct authors.