Masculinity in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Essay by yinyangCollege, UndergraduateA-, April 2009

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Mrs. Dalloway is a complex and compelling modernist novel by Virginia Woolf. In the novel, published in 1925, Woolf comes up with a new literary form using which she reveals her views of political, economical and social issues artistically in her work. Virginia Woolf's short stories, essays, letters, diaries and novels are full of criticism of the social structure. For example, in her first novel, Night and Day (1919), she criticizes the patriarchal dividend in the family that enslaves women. In her novels ranging from the first one to the last, she works towards exploring the relation between the household and public effect of the patriarchal society and between male predominance and female subservience. In her diary entry of 19 June 1923, Woolf writes:'In this book, I have almost too many ideas. I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity. I want to criticise the social system, and show it at work, at its most intense.'Critics

have continually overlooked her intentions in writing Mrs. Dalloway. According to them, she has been concerned with private consciousness, which incorporates the personal and individual world of her characters in the novel. They are somewhat correct in their explanation, as it cannot be ignored that the characters are engaged in their own private consciousness, for they desire to make their own space in the stark reality of the external world.

Woolf presents conventional male characters like Richard Dalloway, Dr. Holmes and Sir William Bradshaw, who indicate the cultural values and preserve the authority of patriarchy in the society. They are the sustainers of what Richard Dalloway describes as "our detestable social system", which manifests itself in the power of patriarchy as possession and order. Contradictorily, Richard Dalloway, Dr. Holmes, and Sir Bradshaw demand on retaining the "continuity" of this "detestable social...