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“Mrs. Dalloway” and “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf are two novels that both are impacted by WW1. A common theme displayed between the two novels is the idea of new beginnings and how quickly time passes in our lives. They set many emotions in place allowing a reader to consider new possibilities in their life and not taking any time for granted. Characters in both novels face many events in their life that cause them to understand how precious time really is and how it passes quickly when taken for granted.
The idea of new beginnings comes from this idea of time as the characters in the novels wish to make the most of their life. The idea of friendships, relationships and terror is repeating emotions displayed by characters in both novels; these emotions reflect on the idea of not having enough time and create new beginnings in relationships and friendships.
Peter Walsh in “Mrs. Dalloway” wishes to start a new beginning with Clarissa, due to their past when Clarissa rejected his marriage proposal and they began to be rude to each other.
Peter has always struggled to deal with the terror that the rejection gave him and has truly never got over Clarissa. It often kills Peter to think about the night of this rejection but for some reason he wishes to reconnect with Clarissa. Peter questioned himself as to why he was revisiting the “past” when he knows how emotionally scarred, he truly is (59). Bo Bennett talks about rejection being the “necessary step” to help people come out on top (Rejection Quotes).
The step that Peter needed to take so he could succeed was reconnecting with Clarissa and talking to her once again, even though she is married to Richard reaching out and talking could just be the closure needed so he can get past the rejection she gave him years ago. Peter’s new beginning with Clarissa becomes better then intended and this fear of rejection is able to fade away as the novel goes on and the past comes back.
Mrs. Ramsay in “To the Lighthouse” wishes to create new beginnings for the people in her life. When she host’s a party at her home she tries to arrange two different marriages between the 4 people who have attended. She is hopeful she can create happy and successful marriages for her friends, although the question of why she is so concerned then arises. The possibility of some unhappiness in her own marriage may cause her to wish happy marriages among others. Lily Briscoe, (one of the ladies that Mrs. Ramsay wished to help find marriage), did not wish to find love and marry she preferred to be alone rather then tied down to another individual and did not like that Mrs. Ramsay wanted to change that, she made her promise not to change her. Mrs. Ramsay knew she was an “independent little creature” and had to accept the fact she would not marry (59). She was able to successfully marry the second group at her home, but Lily was not interested in being set up and marrying. Mrs. Ramsay just wished to see new beginnings for people rather than watching them repeats the same days repeatedly.
In relation to the idea of new beginnings in love Mr. Ramsay wishes to enhance the love between him and his wife. As time go on, they often find they aren’t as close and have trouble expressing their emotions to each other. They both fear of the others reaction to ideas or stories they wish to share. The idea of emotion would quickly place fear towards Mr. Ramsay. On a walk they were on Mr. Ramsay intensely grabbed Mrs. Ramsay’s hand and kissed it causing it to “seize” the over powering movement brought instant tears to her eyes (261). Once realizing he was hurting her, he quickly dropped her hand and carried on with the walk, he could see his idea of making her feel loved was not working and in fact his fear of losing her was causing these harsh actions. Jodi Lobozzo suggests that a mix on anxiety, depression and anger can cause these thoughts to occur. Lobozzo also suggest that these emotions make us “blind to the love we have” (Fear of Losing Someone You Love). The idea of creating a new beginning in their love life becomes difficult when his emotions control his actions causing hurt on Mrs. Ramsay.
The same idea is placed in “Mrs. Dalloway” when Richard sees that his love with Clarissa is becoming difficult. The idea of time passing and the two not taking enough time to keep the love they have strong is what causes this difficult stage in their relationship. The two find it very difficult to express the way they feel about each other, they find simple things like saying I love you hard, so in result they never say they do. Clarissa finds that she is starting to fear the idea of love and finds that the whole thing is just cruel. The intensity of life and love makes her feel it is “dangerous to even live one day” (1.15). Richard does not want to lose Clarissa and the love they have so he wishes to show her he loves her without saying it, but Clarissa is so scared and hurt by this idea of love that she ignores his actions. Time has quickly changed the way love is displayed, love becomes more difficult to obtain and the two struggles with these changes causing their love to fall apart.
In “Mrs. Dalloway” the character Septimus is faced with passing time. Septimus was a WW1 Veteran and faced many life changing events in war that have changed him for good, as time is quickly passing, he sees that he is not healing. He suffers with shell shock from trench warfare. It attacks his mind and is not a physical injury that he suffers. He goes to see a Sir William who tries to tell Septimus he needs to be separated from his wife and put in a mental institution. He believes he is creating the beginning that Septimus needs but really it is making him mad as he believes he is a nut case when he is just suffering. Septimus often feels “alone” causing him to sit around well all of this time is passing him by (41). Sir William stops him from being able to create the new beginning he needs by placing thoughts into his head that he belongs in a mental intuition away from his wife.
With Sir William causing Septimus to lose time, Septimus is trying to understand what is wrong with him and wants to do what is best for him. He realizes that he has a serious mental illness and he needs help which sent him to the first step of finding Sir William to help with this. As his days are often quite and he and his wife often are quite he doesn’t want to separate from her. He is stuck in the idea that no one wants him around, he is faced with awful visions of people telling him to “Kill himself, for our sakes” (4.93). He didn’t want to die but these visions caused him to believe it was what was best. He thought he could help everyone by just not being around, so he created a new beginning that he was no longer apart of and killed himself. He believed this was best for everyone and everyone could now be happy without him.
“To the Lighthouse” becomes a very fast changing novel, before you know it Mrs. Ramsay’s daughter is getting married, but just when you think new beginnings are happening you run out of time, the time they thought they would never loose. She wants to start a new beginning and start her own life and family. Mrs. Ramsay has always placed a lot on Prue to be this big success and a beauty. Prue had other plans to possibly live a “Wilder life” (1.9). She begins to fill her mother’s wishes by getting married; she then gets pregnant but dies during the birth of her child. Her idea of having all this time to create a family and a new beginning for herself that he mother wasn’t controlling was quickly taken away showing the reader that we never have as much time to do the things we wish we could.
Time is a huge theme within “To the Lighthouse”, it shows how quickly events can creep up to us and although we feel we have a bunch of time we really don’t. The book its self is displayed over many years, but Woolf’s idea is that events like death may be far but can feel like it was as much time as it took to read her book. WW1 is when time for everyone in the novel starts to speed and people begin to die and run out of the time, they thought they’d always have. Andrew Ramsay was fighting in WW1 and was taken along with 30 other men when a shell exploded. Andrew’s death was “instantaneous” (498). Matt Bennett suggests that human’s waste time because we don’t have a plan, we believe we have all the time in the world but really, we don’t (Why do people waste time?). Things happen way quicker than people think is possible and before people know it the time, we thought we had been gone.
Clarissa wishes to create new friendships and create a more social aspect of her life. She is feeling alone and distant from everyone, so she has a party to help bring in some of her neighbors. Friendship is very important to Clarissa as it gives her a sense of belonging. New life therapy explains that attention from others is a “basic need” that all humans require (Are You Paying Attention?). As time caught up with Clarissa and she began to age she felt as if she was invisible and no one saw her, this caused her to be different. She was now Mrs. Dalloway it was “Not even Clarissa anymore” (1.18). She is beginning to see that time has caught up and she is no longer in her youth stage of life. Having the attention from friends will help to distract her as much as possible, which makes this party so important to Clarissa. She wants to distract herself from the idea that she is no longer known as Clarissa she is now Richards’s wife and that is all. She misses her youth and wishes she could have the time back; the attention from friends gives her a sense of who she used to be.
Time catches up to Mrs. Ramsay when she hosts a dinner with friends just like Clarissa did in “Mrs. Dalloway”. Just like in Clarissa case when the past creeps up on her, Mrs. Ramsay find that during the dinner the past starts to creep in, so she leaves her own dinner. She then meets her husband in the parlor, where Mr. Ramsay becomes insecure. He forces Mrs. Ramsay to tell him that she loves him. He is becoming insecure due to her interaction with the other couples and caring so dearly to make sure they all get married that she isn’t focusing on making her own marriage work. She believed no other women would make him as happy as she did, but she was not allowed to speak allowed as he would become “angered” by this assumption (10.12). Mrs. Ramsay remembers her old marriage before time caught up and changed the way their marriage worked. Setting up new marriages at her dinner trigged these emotions for Mrs. Ramsay causing emotional stress on her about her past marriage.
In conclusion the idea of creating new beginnings and that time is endless is a theme between both novels, when characters quickly realize that you never truly have as much time as it is set out to seem. Both novels written by Virgina Woolf show that it is important to create new possibilities and take advantage as too what you have right in front of you rather then dwelling on the past. Characters from both novels have attempted to create new beginnings wither that be in relationships or friendships. Characters in both novels were forced to face their past and try and create a better future, well some were successful, and some ran out of time. Reader were able to get from examples set by all characters that it is important to always start new and fresh and to never wait for something to happen as you never have as much time as you think you do.
Word Count: 2,139 (before typing word count/ removing quotes)
Word Count after removing quotes: 2,108
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