New Criticism approach to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf, was set in a time period shortly after World War I. An omniscient narrator narrates the novel and it gives the reader response full access of what is happening in the minds of the characters from different points of views. In the close reading of a particular excerpt, it shows the relationship of a husband, a WW I veteran, and his wife. The text can be found on page 23 of the novel. “For she could no longer stand it. Dr. Holmes might say there was nothing the matter…It was she who suffered – but she had nobody to tell. This short paragraph tells a world about how Rezia, the wife of Septimus, is feeling about her husband and their marriage. This close reading will bring out the meaning of what is written and what can be obtained from the language and style of the text. Woolf attempts to take the reader into the mind of Rezia. The words of the passage are worth more than what is written. The emotions that can be felt through the words change the tone of the novel. By introducing such emotions into the husband – wife relation through the use of certain language, it makes the reader response wonder whether there is love in the relationship.
The discovery of new tensions gives the novel a new prospective, revealing the thoughts of Rezia towards Septimus. Woolf writes that Rezia cannot stand their marriage any longer, but she loves him and cannot live life without him. This brings conflict into her life. Dr. Holmes states that there is “nothing the matter”, implying medically. At one point in the passage Rezia even goes to think that it would be better if Septimus were dead. This causes the reader response to wonder if love is even in the “picture”. Could it have been dependency for Rezia? Later on in the reading, it is stated that Rezia cannot be happy without him.
It is also evident that she is miserable with him and he does not pay her any attention. Although the thoughts of Septimus have not been revealed, it can be inferred that he does not show his wife much affection. Maybe without him, she would be happier. The reader response is faced with many unanswered questions in this passage. This ultimate goal of this passage seems to be to project the feelings of Rezia. Woolf lets all of what she is feeling in this short paragraph. One aspect is to always keep in mind is that the novel is set over the course of a day.
It is very necessary to adjust to how fast these thoughts are actually taking place. The tone of the text is grim and depressing,. This passage changes the tone of the entire novel. It goes from a day at the park to something much deeper; it gives the reader a reason to suspect and make a prediction of the outcome of a relationship. The main idea of this passage is the relationship of Rezia and Septimus. The reader response to these details might even allude to say, “What relationship? ” The lack of communication has left Rezia feeling worse day by day.
Woolf uses the word “terrible” to describe what Rezia was feeling. It is stated that Rezia feels terrible about everything when she is with Septimus due to his attitude towards everything. She describes children playing in the park as terrible. This also could be inferring to the fact that Septimus and Rezia had no children of their own. The usage of the word terrible changes the mood and tone of the text. When reading further, “terrible” starts to describe their relationship. In the eyes of Rezia, she feels like she is suffering. She feels alone and her husband is not showing the slightest effort towards her.
She even imagines the idea of Septimus taking his own life. Woolf is attempting to relay a message that can be foreshadowed to be very critical for this novel in this simple paragraph. At one point of the passage, Rezia is hostile towards Septimus and later on in the same paragraph she states that Rezia cannot live without him, this alludes to the idea of Rezia being very insecure and confused about her relationship. In the passage, Woolf makes the reader response believe that Rezia is making excuses for the way Septimus has been acting lately. Rezia calls him a coward, but then talks about his bravery.
In this part of the passage, Woolf gives a little background information about Septimus. She writes, “Septimus had fought” (23). This could mean many things but taking the times into consideration, it is most likely that he had been involved in the World War I. Rezia is convinced that Septimus is not Septimus anymore. In the times of the novel, it was very unclear for physicians and scientists to come to this conclusion. She even goes as far as blaming all men and their portrayal in society as selfish. Rezia is looking for explanations that are not clear. The passage tells how insecure Rezia feels about her marriage.
The last few lines might foreshadow the outcome of the following events in the novel. Rezia does not wear her wedding ring anymore. She makes the excuse that her fingers have gotten too thin and is afraid that the ring might fall off. This element makes the reader wonder about the outcome of her marriage to Septimus. In the last line, the fact that Rezia has no one to talk to reveals everything about her loneliness. Even though she is married and living with Septimus, she is alone. Many unanswered questions rise as the reader response begins to cultivate the passage piece by piece.
Reading the face value of the passage indicated that their marriage is headed for disaster, but the emotions attached to those words tell can tell a different story. Without the thoughts of Septimus, the thoughts of Rezia are incomplete. For this though to be complete, Rezia will have to find out what goes through Septimus’ head and how he truly feels about her. Closely examining this passage will not reveal certain truths about this marriage but it gives the reader response a general idea of how Rezia feels about the marriage. Works Cited Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, 1925. 23. Print.