Repressed Sexuality in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Categories: Mrs Dalloways
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Mrs. Dalloway and repressed sexuality

Throughout Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf different expressions of sexuality are explored. Mrs. Dalloway herself embodies this struggle because as a women in her early fifties she has begun to lose sight of her sexuality. She feels like a “nun withdrawing, or a child exploring a tower” (Woolf 31). This is an allusion to chastity as well as a phallic image of a virgin exploring a male sexual organ for the first time. She has also begun to feel “shriveled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day” (31).

Mrs. Dalloway feels as though she is unable to please her husband, Richard, and feels guilty that she has begun to enjoy solitude more than the company of her husband. She also experiences lesbian feelings and believes that she is still in love with an old friend, Sally. She references Othello in regards to her feelings towards Sally “if it were now to die ’twere now to be the most happy” (35).

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By referencing this, Mrs. Dalloway brings to mind the Shakespearian story of Othello whom ended up committing suicide. This references another major theme that has come up in the first half of the novel–that of the imminent threat of death. Mrs. Dalloway’s repression of her sexuality actually represents the loss of her “fire”, that whichkeeps her young, and her unavoidable march towards death.

By repressing her feeling towards women, Mrs. Dalloway, has chosen the “easy” life by choosing to marry her husband. She once discussed marriage with Sally as a “catastrophe” (34).

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As a result she has lost something of herself—a piece of her womanhood. By also forsaking marrying Peter, she has also taken the easier road as he was not an easy choice. Peter and Mrs. Dalloway find flaws within one another of how each has chosen to live their lives. Mrs. Dalloway recognizes Peter’s failure to establish a holding in society, whilst Peter judges her for choosing to lead an easy “boring” life. After this encounter, however, Peter feels uncomfortable as he contemplates Mrs. Dalloway’s loss of girlhood and innocence. He believes her to have lost her womanly charm (something Mrs. Dalloway also laments of herself). However, this brings about Peter contemplating Mrs. Dalloway’s imminent death as well as his own—something that terrifies him.

Mrs. Dalloway’s sexual repression and decision to take the route of “society” has caused her to lose her sexuality and womanhood and be locked into an unhappy marriage. This has also made death an imminent figure as through her loss of sexuality, Mrs. Dalloway has lost her youth as well. Her choice to marry into society has made her petty and naïve to the “real world”…this is in juxtaposition to Septimus who feels the full weight of the world as a result of his time in World War I. It is interesting to contemplate however, who is more delusional… Septimus who has seen the real world, however is now delusional as a result or Mrs. Dalloway who has not seen the world (which also makes her delusional but in a more “acceptable” way). Repression and death are imminent themes throughout that book that serve to highlight the differing societal fears.

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Repressed Sexuality in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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