Nightwood/Historical Line

“—so I looked at Jenny’s possessions with scorn in my eye. It may have been all most ‘unusual,’ but who wants a toe-nail that is thicker than common? And that thought came to me out of the contemplation of the mad strip of the inappropriate that runs through creation, like my girl friend who married some sort of Adriatic bird who had such thick ones that he had to trim them with a horse-file—my mind is so rich that it is always wandering!”

Djuna Barnes. Nightwood (New York: New Directions, 2006), 111.

After taking a look at my old commonplaces, I noticed that pretty much all of the books we’ve read so far pay a lot of attention to inner life or thought, usually expressed through FID or stream of consciousness. And I think often, allowing the reader to access a character’s thoughts often allows for sympathy. For example, in Cane’s “Bona and Paul,” Toomer uses FID to mark Paul’s feelings of exclusion; the reader can then access his back and forth inner conflict with himself, even though he remains silent about it. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf pushes external events further into the background, and as I had noted in my commonplace, movement in and out of spaces gives way to free-flowing thoughts that negotiate past and present.  Alternating narrators in As I Lay Dying, Faulkner allows individual accounts to reveal information about the characters that do not make their way into speech, creating an even wider range of perspective. For example, the reader sees more clearly how strangely perceptive Darl’s character is through the way his narration seems able to access other character’s thoughts and know all the family’s secrets. While these texts certainly don’t treat inner life the same way, I think it’s notable that these thoughts remain just that, as they’re not placed into dialogue. What Barnes does differently in Nightwood is place the doctor’s line of thought into direct reported speech, even though his dialogue borders on stream of consciousness. Instead of privileging inner life and voice, Barnes makes the doctor’s inner monologue get in the way of his story and also carry on in spite of Nora’s crying. When the doctors unfiltered thoughts turn into speech, his words are silly and unnecessary ramblings.  A “wandering” mind for Barnes then is not “so rich,” and she seems to construct a narrative that is often indifferent to inner life or expression of thought.

Mind-read

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

“Peter Walsh!  All three, Lady Burton,Hugh Whitbread, and Richard Dalloway, remembered the same thing how passionately Peter had been in love; been rejected; gone to India, come a cropper; made a mess of things; and Richard Dalloway had a very great liking for the dear old fellow too.”

Peter Walsh is quite the character.  He does some crazy things, such as stalking girls to make himself feel young again.  After his love falls apart he goes to India and marries a girl he meets.  He seems to act reckless due to his emotions.  His friends still love him though, even though he did not act in the most proper way and made a mess of things.  His friends are accepting since they realize that it was his passionate failed love with Clarissa that caused him to act so reckless and crazy.  They all still like him despite his actions.

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.

Mind Read–Mrs. Dalloway

“…Saw him hesitate; consider; which interested her, as Mr. Dalloway always interested her, for what was he thinking, she wondered, about Peter Walsh?

That Peter Walsh had been in love with Clarissa; that he would go back directly after lunch and find Clarissa; that he would tell her in so many words, that he loved her. Yes, he would say that.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Inc, 1925. Print. 104

In this scene, Mr. Whitbread, Lady Bruton and Mr. Dalloway are dining together and Lady Bruton had just mentioned that Peter Walsh is back in town. Lady Bruton’s secretary, Milly Brush, is her thinking about what Mr. Dalloway must be analyzing in his mind about Peter Walsh. What could he be thinking about the man that used/still may love his wife? Actually, the passage intrigued my in many ways because of its reflection of both Milly Brush as a character and also how she perceives Mr. Dalloway. As the reader we see that Mrs. Dalloway is actually unhappy and insecure about her marriage to Richard, however, here Milly is portraying Mr. Dalloway’s full love and affection for his wife in a form of jealousy and assurance in claiming her as his own in love and in a strange way that his love has emerged only in the light of another man’s love for Clarissa. Milly Brush seems to assume a character of Mr. Dalloway that expresses love and care, however as the reader I see the opposite. Her assumption of his thoughts shows to me that her idea of Richard is that of jealousy and insecurity. If she did not think that Richard was insecure about his marriage, would she be so sure in her assumption of his thoughts being that of seeking reassurance of his love with his wife?

Mrs. Dalloway

“She felt somehow 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 is not directly thinking about what someone else thinks mostly because Septimus is dead. However, this sentence puts the reader under the impression that Clarissa knew exactly what Septimus thought and felt before he died. She tries to connect her feelings to his, and in doing that basically creates her own fantasy about what Septimus was feeling. This adds to Carissa as a character as well. It is clear she is not considerate of others feelings and not only assumes about their emotions/thoughts but creates her own to match others with what she is feeling. Yet again in this novel does another character feel they knew what Septimus was feeling and what his emotions were at the time. The feeling of loneliness still resonates long after Septimus is dead.

 

 

Peter Walsh’s mind-read of Clarissa Dalloway

“She would be frightfully sorry for him; she would think what in the world she could do to give him pleasure (short always of the one thing) and he could see her with the tears running down her cheeks going to her writing-table and dashing off that one line which he was to find greeting him…. ‘Heavenly to see you!’”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 152.

In response to receiving Clarissa’s brief note, Peter Walsh imagines what she must have been thinking as she wrote it. Woolf’s use of the conditional tense emphasizes that this is what Peter thinks what happened, and this may not necessarily be what Clarissa was actually thinking. Her use of semi-colons also trace the way in which Peter constructs this imagining. Typically, what follows the semi-colon is a logical follow-up or support of the previous statement. In this case, each sentence leads into the next to form one big, compound sentence, creating a sense of progression that mimics Peter’s step-by-step construction of Clarissa’s thoughts. Woolf breaks the pattern a little when she adds in parenthesis “short always of the one thing,” which may be interpreted as the possibility of a marriage or romantic relationship between Peter and Clarissa. By creating this break in Peter’s thought process, Woolf detracts from the “fantasy” in his head by sneaking in the present tense reality in which they’ll never be together romantically. As a result, Woolf relates to the reader that Peter’s imagining of Clarissa’s thoughts are what he wants to believe to have happened, but likely did not. When Peter quotes Clarissa’s one line at the end, Woolf uses a gruff and sarcastic tone that indicates Peter’s frustration of having been made to think about what Clarissa was thinking when she wrote the note.

 

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.

 

Dalloway

“Health we must have; and health is proportion; so that when a man comes into your room and says he is Christ (a common delusion), and has a message, as they mostly have, and threatens, as they often do, to kill himself, you invoke proportion; order rest in bed; rest in solitude; silence and rest; rest without friends, without books, without messages; six months’ rest; until a man who went in weighing seven stone six comes out weighing twelve.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print. 99

The doctor believes so much in his treatment for mentally ill individuals that people fear him and he is left to do his work without question.  Septimus believes that the doctor will take away his soul and in some sense he might have, if he went to the asylum.  Laying in bed for six months would have changed Septimus and he did not want to change or for his emotions to be stunted.  He did not want to turn into a complacent person without any emotions.  He wanted to be fully human and to feel his emotions fully.

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

“That she held herself well was true; and had nice hands and feet; and dressed well, considering that she spent little. But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at the Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing-nothing at all. 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.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 10-11.

Mrs. Dalloway acknowledges that she lives for others and fantasizes about who she would be if she did not. She then looks at herself through a critical lens, describing her body as something she wore. She feels displaced and contemplates her own identity.

Mrs. Dalloway

“But there could be no doubt that greatness was seated within; greatness was passing, hidden, down Bond Street, removed only by a hand’s-breadth from ordinary people who might now, for the first and last time, be within speaking distance of the majesty of England, of the enduring symbol of the state which will be known to curious antiquaries, sifting the ruins of time, when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth. The face in the motor car will then be known.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 16.

Woolf uses this way of language to show a piece of social order. It is like the voice of the author and main character work together to express a pathway of thoughts that leads to this one point, which is the importance of this figure of “greatness. It is an image of variance between the commoner and those who are “great” in England.

Mrs. Dalloway

“…soft with the glow of rose petals for some, she knew, and felt it, as she paused by the open window which let in blinds flapping, dogs barking, let in, she thought, feeling herself suddenly shrivelled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day, out of doors, out of the windows, out of her body and brain which now failed, since Lady Bruton, whose lunch parties were said to be extraordinarily amusing, had not asked her.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 30.

Woolf pushes free-indirect discourse into stream of consciousness. In this passage, like many moments in the text so far, she aligns a character’s train of thought with literal movement. Here, Mrs. Dalloway passes by an open window that seems to bring out her inner thoughts.  The external “blinds flapping, dogs barking” seem to disturb her internally, so that she feels “shrivelled, aged, breastless.” Her thoughts flow out of her “failed” body and brain, and she’s back to thinking about not being invited to lunch.