Social System Essay
In her struggle to write her novel, Virginia Woolf pushed close to a recognition that the social order, the ideological relations that bind entire societies together, shape people’s lives. She tried to reject the various forms of dominance, dictatorship, and tyranny that controlled the social order. In the novel, she showed the conflict between those who try to continue the patriarchal order, and those who resist it. Holmes and Bradshow versus Septimus. To a degree, this is a sadly limiting paradigm, in that Septimus could hardly be considered one of the truly downtrodden of England.
Nevertheless, in Woolf;s presentation, he stands as a threat to the Empire, a living reminder of the war and its horrors, while all around him, people try to forget. In remembering the war, he refuses to criticize the values of the social system which encourage the war. To Holmes, this amounts to morbid introspection. After all, Septimus will not “notice real things, go to a music hall, play cricket. ” (Woolf, 21) Sir William Bradshow insists on a more aggressive treatment. In Bradshow, Woolf creates the true picture of the standard bearer of the classical imperial order, a member of the highest orders of English society.
(Woolf, 90-92) Bradshow wants Septimus to “rest” in a lunatic asylum, unable to communicate with the outside world, “rest in solitude; silence and rest; rest without friends, without books, without messages,” until he recovers the manhood he had before he went off to war. (Woolf. 89) It is not at all a matter of making Septimus happy, or even of really curing him. It is in truth a matter of isolating someone who represents a contagion against the ideology of the established order that Bradshow is so determined to uphold.
Throughout Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf shows characters rebelling against the established ideology, and the response of the social order against any such rebellion. Clarissa tries to carve out her “privacy of soul,” her individual space in which she resents any intrusion. She believes that she wants unrestrained freedom from any restraints on her movement or demand on her time. She thus accepts Richard Dalloway, petty prime minister as he is, because he tolerates her clams to independence.
Mrs. Dalloway continually shows a clash between social values and the innate human desire for a better life. This expresses itself in the static identity and an unsettled self of Clarissa Dalloway. Septimus is the double of Clarissa Dalloway sharing a degree of consciousness and fate with him. They are trapped in the ideology of war and the patriarchal social order. They are oppressed by the Victorian code that sent men into the trenches to die, and compelled women to bear their children and wait for their return.
In the end, Clarissa represses her feelings against the social order and gives her party. She comes to understand Septimus’s death and moves on in the hope of bringing people together in harmony and beauty. For Virginia Woolf, this hope stood until the next war, when, depressed at the thought that an invading Germany would target her husband for death, she took her own life, unable to carry on with the party. AUTHORITIES USED: Gunes, Ali. “Virginia Woolf’s View of Social System in Mrs Dalloway. ” AKADEMI. K ARAS,TIRMALAR DERGI. SI undated, accessed February 11, 2007. Available at