Virginia Woolf & London’s Influence Virginia Woolf was an acclaimed English essayist and novelist who is regarded as one of the greatest modernist literary writers of the twentieth century. She lived from January 1882- March 1941. Her most famous work Mrs.
Dalloway, which she wrote in 1925,perfectly embodies the sense of London that can be seen prevalent throughout her work.The plot of Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway throughout one day in post-World War I England. Woolf does this by revealing bits and pieces of Clarissa’s life through her thoughts as she prepares to host a party.
Woolf confronts concepts of feminisms, and inter-war social structure while respectively expressing her love of London’s inner city landscape. Clarissa wanders through the streets of London while contemplating her life. The reader is able to get a good glimpse into her personality and desires while at the same time the city is depicted as a character in its own right.For having lived in Westminster–how many years now? over twenty,–one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes.
There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street.
(Woolf, 1925)Here Clarissa meanders through the streets of London. Woolf mentions Westminster and more importantly the mindset of one who has lived in Westminster the majority of their life. This immediately makes the moment authentically relative to London and it residents. While Woolf is descriptive with the moment, it is doubtful this section of her novel would have the same impact on non-London readers.
Westminster is very significant because it is the governmental capital of England where the developing Parliament and law courts resided. Woolf makes another connection to London streets when she says, “Bond Street fascinated her; Bond Street early in the morning in the season; its flags flying; its shops; no splash; no glitter; one roll of tweed in the shop where her father had bought his suits for fifty years; a few pearls; salmon on an iceblock (Woolf).” This line is significant, because Bond Street is a major shopping street in London, that runs through Mayfair from Piccadilly, which Woolf also mentions when she says, “she had reached the Park gates. She stood for a moment, looking at the omnibuses in Piccadilly (Woolf, 1925).
” It has been a fashionable shopping street since the 18th century. Woolf mentions that Clarissa’s father had bought his suits there for the past fifty years which give note to much opf the history inherent in the streets. The streets come to life through her writing, but more importantly they are given relevance within the story through their undeniable influence on the growth of the protagonist.As Clarissa retraces her upbringing from being a young girl to becoming Mrs.
Dalloway. The reader is given insight into the transition of girlhood to womanhood in London. Mrs. Dalloway is an example of a feminist critique on the twentieth century, both based on the way it’s written and it’s commentary on the female experience in London at that time.
The plot scheme used in Mrs. Dalloway is very similar to that used by James Joyce in Ulysses. This can be seen in the fact that everything is drawn out in the sequence of one day, and that the plot skips around through the protagonist’s train of thought. This also classifies Woolf’s work in association with another writer considered one of the greatest of the 20th century.
By Woolf carrying on a feminists tradition through her work, as well as making Mrs. Dalloway authentically a London narrative, she adopts the responsibility of giving her social commentary on the mental health of women during the 20th century in London. The gender roles placed on women are far more harmful than they seem. Women are expected to have communal traits whereas men are expected to be agentic.
Communal traits are things that maintain strong relationships like being nurturing or compassionate, and polite. The story, as well as Woolf’s deserve of praise is undeniable, but there are many different canons of literary critique that debate over what purpose this story serves. Feminist adopt it as one of the main precursors to the Woman’s movement for rights in the west as well as a condemnation of the androcentric hegemony that was prevalent in 19th century London. This is in response to how the protagonist could be dismissed by the men asslightly irrational being so free willed.
. This subtle hypocrisy almost comes off as inherently subconscious sexism.The key factor to Woolf’s writing can be found in her appreciation of London and its significance to her story. She makes the city of London almost like a second protagonist in the plot of Mrs.
Dalloway. Readers not familiar with London, become familiar with its historical streets and large notoriously fashionable market areas; and for those who are familiar with the city, they are given a stroll down memory lane and rejoice in the pride of being acquainted with London lifestyle. This gives Woolf’s work a value that is timeless. Her writing becomes like a time capsule, like a record for the era.
Her respected place in history as a major lyrical novelist of the English language is only further enforced by her inclination to embrace the city of her upbringing. In Mr’s Dalloway when she says “So she would still find herself arguing in St. James’s Park, still making out that she had been right–and she had too–not to marry him. For in marriage a little licence, a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him.
(Woolf, 1925) ”she gives remembrance to the oldest Royal Park of London. If this park were to be mowed down, or reconstructed and given a new name, Woolf’s text would become a remnant of a time forgot. Even still, with the park still functioning today, her work brings the reader back to a moment in time that they may never have been aware. Virginia Woolf’s use of Landscape can be directly connected to ideals of the Romantic Era.
The Romantic era is largely recognized as the period from 1850-1920 C.E. when there was great change and emancipation in Western Europe. The strict laws and restraint designed to maintain balance in classical era were largely rebelled against during this era.
The bulk of this movement gained strength during the Industrial Revolution in response to the aristocratic nature of the enlightenment period and the overly scientific rationalization used in art and literature. Strong emotion was emphasized as the core source of aesthetics and the artistic experience. The label ‘romantic’ comes from the use of romantic and medieval elements in the art. Painters like John Constable, and poets like Wordsworth and Colderidge gained much acclaim for being representatives of this movement.
Remnants of the romantic culture which they established can largely be seen reflected by western society today and can be connected to Virginia Woolf’s writing style in through her descriptions of the London Landscape. It is undeniable that the Romantic poets might very well have taken themselves too seriously, as can be said of most poets and artists. This character trait must be expected of those who are willing to confront all of the political, religious and social turmoil of their era and attempt to calm or provide solutions for societal conflicts. These poets held their own grandiose ideologies pertaining to society, but their views have still found their place in company with the praised sacred remnants of past generations.
The poet to Wordsworth was a social animal who communicated with other individuals, but whose uniqueness lied in his ability to feel. This aspect of super-sensitivity on the behalf of the poet is what leads them to clarify abstract actualizations they make of the outside world and communicate them to the not so gifted individuals. They are the surveyors of underlying truth that can be found in every aspect of daily life. This responsibility is one that the romantic poets took very seriously.
It can be argued that the fight for the sacred honor of poetry has not been fought more devoutly throughout history than by the Romantic poets.In sum, London can be seen as a major contributing factor in the writings of Virginia Woolf. This is most apparent in her work Mrs. Dalloway.
The cities influence can be measured in her mentioning of the fashionable city streets and the landscape of the parks, as well as her commentary on the female experience in 20th century London. All of this gives Mrs. Dalloway historical relevance that garners more value over time On top of being historically valuable and relevant for Woolf’s social commentaries pertaining to feminism during the twentieth century in London, Virginia Woolf’s ability to completely embrace the landscape of the city she was raised in is comparable to that of the Romantics. In Mrs.
Dalloway, she points out significant street sings, mentions historical landmarks and parks all while making the reader feel as though they are right next to her strolling along. Virginia Woolf’s work captured twentieth century London in a bottle for time to cherish.;;;Work Cited”Mrs Dalloway.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
5 Dec 2007, 20:25 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 7 Dec 2007 ;http://en.wikipedia.
org/w/index.php?title=Mrs_Dalloway;oldid=175995510;.Woolf, Virginia. Mrs.
Dalloway. Project Gutenberg of Australia ebook (1925). First posted 2002.; http://www.
m. “Colderidge: Kubla Khan or a VIsion in a Dream.” Introduction to Analysis and Music. 2002.
2 Dec. 2007 ;http://www.englishromantics.com/kublakhan/index.htm;.;;