A Feminist Reading of Mrs. Dalloway

Categories: Mrs Dalloways

Claim/ Thesis statement: Through her novel V. Woolf portraits different characters beyond gender and clearly deviates from the masculine norms of the Victorian literature. She exposes social out-dated stereotypes through her characters of Mrs. Dalloway and offers undisrupted insights of the complex mind of a modern woman. How does V. W. fit into the feminist movement of her time and what innovations she brings through her novel.

Although Virginia Woolf was reluctant to label herself as a feminist, she is nowadays acclaimed to be one of the early feminist pioneers of the 20th century.

Fearful of the backlash of criticism, the prolific writer adopted a more subtle form of feminism, which was firm enough to be heard, relevant enough to be remembered, yet not loud enough to bother. Through her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf brought valuable innovations both in the male dominated literary style and in the patriarchal social norms and roles of the Victorian era.

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For a more competent understanding of the writer’s work, it is necessary to indicate and highlight the context in which her creation took life.

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Virginia Woolf was born in 1882, London, being the seventh and youngest child in a family formed of 3 sisters and 4 brothers. Because of this she realised the injustice of sexual separatism from an early age, while having to witness her brothers receiving an education whereas her gender only allowed for her to be home-schooled in the arts that would only make a lady better suited for marriage. In A Room of One’s Own she passionately refers to this frustrating unfair limitation of women who are excluded from knowledge and dismissed as a “second hand sex” unfit for any intellectual occupation that could trouble their feeble minds: “{…} the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out” (21).

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Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925, soon after the First World War (1914-1918) that left Britain weak and chaotic and it examines one single trivial day of Clarissa Dalloway, a married woman of prestige. The book deals directly with the aftermath of war through Septimus, who was severely damaged, suffering from what was then called “shell shock” (now known as PTSD). Furthermore, Woolf’s clear dissatisfaction with the very shallow roles women were limited to at the time, it is expressed in her novel by a detailed, private presentation of the complex lives of several women who struggle to find their place in a society that offers them so little. This was the very context that favoured the emerge of a few feminist groups.

A very limpid and relevant definition of feminism and its goals is delivered by Isam M. Shihada in her study: “a movement that seeks to enhance the quality of women’s lives by defying the norms of society based on male dominance and subsequent female which implies the emancipation of women from the shackles, restrictions, norms and customs of society. It demands that women should be treated as autonomous subjects, and not as passive objects. It seeks to achieve equality between men and women in moral, social, economic and political fields. The objective of that movement is the creation of a new identity for women and making them aware of their rights” (121). Woolf herself takes the matter into her own hands and attempts to ease women’s sufferings through her work, by opening a path to feminine literature through her legacy.

Woolf avoids the contemporary masculine norms of her precedents and reinvents in Mrs. Dalloway both the Victorian themes and its out-dated style. Many critics argue that this is Woolf’s novel of outmost literary maturity in which she finds her voice as a writer.

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A Feminist Reading of Mrs. Dalloway. (2022, Jan 24). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-feminist-reading-of-mrs-dalloway-essay

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