More Than A Woman

May 12, 2019 by Essay Writer

Each individual has an outward part of her personality that is revealed to others and an inward part which is kept solely to herself. Consequently, there is a contrast between the appearance of a person and the reality of whom that person really is. In her novel Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf presents the theme of appearance versus reality through the thoughts and actions of the novel’s protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway. The novel reveals a single day of Mrs. Dalloway’s life, reflecting her memories of the past and her encounters of the present. As the story unravels, it is clear that Clarissa’s appearance and behavior on the surface is not at all consistent with how she feels on the inside. On the surface, Clarissa appears to be of regal countenance and composed. However, in reality, she is unhappy and unsatisfied with many aspects of her life, including physical appearance, social status, and her marriage. As a result of Clarissa’s inability to share herself with others, the people that purport to be her friends do not really know and understand the true Mrs. Dalloway.On the exterior, Clarissa appears to a beautiful, happy and confident 50-year-old woman. Yet on the inside she is really filled with many fears and doubts. She does not like her appearance or the person she has become. While on an outing, Clarissa wishfully imagines she could begin her life over, revealing she would “have looked even differently” (10). When she compares herself to Lady Bexborough, she reveals her true feeling about herself. Clarissa would gladly trade her outward appearance for Lady Bexborough’s looks, claiming, “She would have been, like Lady Bexborough, slow and stately; rather large; interested in politics like a man; with a country house; very dignified, very sincere” (10). Although Clarissa is attractive for a woman of fifty, she has a very low self-esteem. She is even unsatisfied with her body, describing it as, “this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing—nothing at all” (10). In addition to her appearance, Clarissa does not like the person she has become. She is upset that she cannot do things simply for her own personal pleasure. Instead “half the time she did things not simply for themselves; but to make people think this or that” (10). Clarissa’s self worth is so low, she sacrifices her individuality to become liked by others. Yet, Clarissa masks her melancholy well. She always holds herself “light, tall, and very upright”, so she appears on the outside to be a confident woman (12).However, Clarissa is not only unhappy with her looks, but also with her place in society. One of Clarissa’s fears is that she might one day become forgotten and no longer appreciated. Clarissa dreads this is imminent, explaining,”She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (10-11).Clarissa is upset and worried that she will become forgotten and only known as the wife of Richard Dalloway. Yet, she is aware that she gave up all individuality when marrying Richard, and now her identity is procured through her husband. Clarissa dwells on her lack of importance to herself, as well as others. When Clarissa’s husband was invited to lunch with Lady Bruton, omitting herself, it made her feel, “shriveled, aged, breastless…out of her body and brain which now failed” (31). As with anyone’s reaction, Clarissa was hurt she was left out, which served to reduce her low worth even more. She is resentful and unhappy, feeling she has failed her husband socially. Yet, as always, Clarissa hides these feelings. Even her maid Lucy, who is around her more than anyone, cannot detect it, but considers her, “Of all [the ladies], her mistress was loveliest…[and] gave her a sense, as she laid the paper knife on the inlaid table, of something achieved” (38). This is the appearance Clarissa tries to present; yet in reality, she does not feel any sense of achievement.Clarissa is also unhappy in her marriage to Richard. While she may love him, there is definitely something lacking. During her illness, Clarissa would sleep in the attic bedroom to be undisturbed. It was there that Clarissa would read many books. Yet, even as her health improved, Richard still suggested she remain there. When Clarissa admits, “And really she [Clarissa] preferred to read of the retreat from Moscow,” she reveals her preference to be away from Richard at night (31). It is obvious that there is no connection between Richard and Clarissa. However, there is a connection between Clarissa and Peter, her boyfriend when she was a young woman. This becomes obvious because Richard is not notably mentioned until half way through the novel, while Peter is mentioned many times from the onset. When Peter visits Clarissa, after many years of being away in India, he has a hard time concealing his love for Clarissa and begins to cry. Clarissa “leant forward, taken his hand, drawn him to her, kissed him” (46). If Clarissa had no love in her heart for Peter, she never would have responded with such tenderness and affection. Afterwards, it occurred to her, “If I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day” (47). Clarissa realizes it was a mistake to break up with Peter and marry Richard.Clarissa Dalloway is a middle-aged, upper class British woman. Throughout the novel it is apparent that Clarissa puts aside her happiness and devotes herself to assuring her high status in society. In the early 1900’s, British culture emphasized class and judged a person based on social standing. Upper class members were expected to dress, act and speak in a specific manner or risk being outcast. This explains why Clarissa behaved in the way she did. It was more important for her to marry Richard and gain acceptance, than to marry Peter and live happily. Virginia Woolf is trying to portray the difficulties that an upper-class woman faced in British society and how a particular woman reacted to them. She is also criticizing British mores and the rigid social system by exemplifying the struggles and conflicts that one must endure in order to conform to certain expectations and ultimately achieve social acceptance.

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