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This is the main course site for Early Twentieth-Century Fiction, Spring 2021, taught by Prof. Andrew Goldstone. It holds the most up-to-date syllabus and the course commonplace book (described on the Commonplacing page). Group A students have last names beginning A–Ma; group B students have last names beginning Mc–Z.

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying – Reflections

“It would be black, the shelf black, the still surface of the water a round orifice in nothingness, where before I stirred it awake with the dipper I could see maybe a star or two before I drank” (11).

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying, 1930. New York: Vintage, 1990.

It’s interesting how Darl pauses to elaborate on this seemingly trivial detail about the reflection on the water barrel. This phrase demonstrates that he is as a highly observant character, one who searches for beauty or meaning in everyday life.

Connections

“For it was very charming and quite ridiculous how easily some girl without a grain of sense could twist him round her finger”

This passage and the proceeding are very indicative of Peter. The way he compares Daisy and Clarrissa is particularly interesting as well. But I found an interesting commonality here between Peter and the protagonist of our recent novel Stephen in this quote specifically. The two seem easily swayed and influenced by the women around them that they find compelling. A lot of their personality is tied up in how they connect with women.

Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway”: Connections

“Poor old woman,” said Rezia Warren Smith, waiting to cross.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Benediction Classics, Oxford, 2017

The three never really “cross paths” here, but Peter sees Rezia and Septimus, and imagines they must be fighting and then Septimus mistakes Peter for his old war buddy Evans. Rezia also pities the same old woman that Peter did.

To add, both Peter and Rezia feel disconnected from the people they love…

Mrs Dalloway: Ways of Living

“Her parties! That was it! Her parties! Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it!

[…]

They thought, or Peter at any rate thought, that she enjoyed imposing herself; liked to have famous people about her; great names; was simply a snob in short. Well, Peter might think so. Richard merely thought it foolish of her to like excitement when she knew it was bad for her heart. It was childish, he thought. And both were wrong. What she liked was simply life” (Woolf 118)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005.

The parties are the only tangible means for Clarissa to experience life—in some sense, it is her drive to live because it is her purpose. The parties are the only instances where Clarissa is seen to be more animate and involved with living—arranging the party, buying flowers, etc. Men like Peter and Richard scoff at her interest in throwing parties when in reality they are responsible for her state of isolation and loneliness; Peter abandoned her and Richard restricts Clarissa from living or getting too excited about life for the sake of her health. In a male dominated society, Peter and Richard try to discourage Clarissa from getting so involved with parties because it is childish and snobbish when it is the only outlet for Clarissa to express her desire for life. The parties are her domain, and she can manage and control them herself without the interference of her husband; it is power even if it’s just a party.

Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Topic: Connections

“Mr. Fletcher, retired, of the Treasury, Mrs. Gorham, widow of the famous K.C., approached Him simply, and having done their praying, leant back, enjoyed the music (the organ pealed sweetly), and saw Miss Kilman at the end of the row, praying, praying, and, being still on the threshold of their underworld, thought of her sympathetically as a soul haunting the same territory; a soul cut out of immaterial substance; not a woman, a soul” (Woolf 130-1).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005.

Connection between church-goers, physically in the same space, spiritually in two separate spaces (with Him, threshold of underworld), relationship is viewed similarly between different parties

Mrs. Dalloway, Connections

“And she felt quite continuously a sense of their
existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if
only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to
combine, to create; but to whom? An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift.” (Woolf, 108).

Clarissa as an older wife cannot have more children and felt as though she had no purpose for existing. In searching for a new purpose as an older married woman, she found that having parties was her calling. It was not simply parties for the sake of parties, but rather creating a way to bring people together. She used her singular connections with each of these people to bring them all together so they can all connect with each other.

jealousy, love, and life after fifty

“A terrible confession it was (he put his hat on again), but now, at the age of fifty-three, one scarcely needed people anymore. Life itself, every moment of it, every drop of it, here, this instant, now, in the sun, in Regent’s Park, was enough. Too much, indeed. A whole lifetime was too short to bring out, now that one had acquired the power, the full flavour; to extract every ounce of pleasure, every shade of meaning; which both were so much more solid than they used to be, so much less personal” (Woolf 59).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Benediction Classics, Oxford, 2017, pp.59

Here, in the park with Peter, Clarrisa admits to herself that she is in love with Peter, but that with age they have both come to realize that life is forever different after fifty, and that love is different, too. She confesses that after all those years of him being in love with her and not reciprocating, it is now she who is falling for Peter.

Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway: Connections

“Ah dear, she remembered — it was Wednesday in Brook Street. Those kind good fellows, Richard Dalloway, Hugh Whitbread, had gone this hot day through the streets whose growl came up to her lying on the sofa. Power was hers, position, income. She had lived in the forefront of her time. She had had good friends; known the ablest men of her day.

[…]

And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider’s thread is blotted with rain- drops, and, burdened, sags down. So she slept.” (Woolf, 91)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Benediction Classics, Oxford, 2017, pp.91.

Clarissa is reflecting on the connections she has in London. Though it is presented in the third party point of view, readers can tell that Clarissa is considering the end of her relationships with her friends and lovers. She reflects on a a beautiful metaphor of the withering connections.

“Worshipping Proportion”, Connection in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

“Worshipping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalised  despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they, too, shared his sense of proportion” (Woolf 99).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Benediction Classics, Oxford, 2017, pp. 99.

Sir William’s intense need for proportion and his abusive treatment methods serves as a comment for English society’s conformist nature and for society as a whole. In treating his patients, Sir William is oppressing them and worsening their conditions, as he alienates them from others, punishes their emotions and regards them as lesser beings. This is a comment for how English society forces conformity amongst its citizens, to display only the best of themselves and to deny any negative or unpleasant feelings they may have, especially those who had returned from WWI. But, it also shows how societies in general expect its peoples to maintain certain ideas and behaviors, and anything less will have them deemed at sick, undesirable, and unfit to participate with others.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“Indeed, his own life was a miracle; let him make no mistake about it; here he was, in the prime of life, walking to his house in Westminster to tell Clarissa that he loved her. Happiness is this, he thought” (Woolf 61).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Benediction Classics, Oxford, 2017, pp. 61.

Dalloway

“‘I’ll give it to you!’…and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings” (Woolf 78).

I read this book back in 2018 for another class, so this second read has been quite a refresher, especially this quote. This moment comes at a turning point in the novel, in which we see the heartbreaking culmination of Septimus’ struggles throughout the story, as we see how the war and his friend’s passing had an effect on him. He was meant to be taken away to a psychiatric home by Sir William, but Septimus clearly had different plans. He was afraid of what his fate would be at the psychiatric home, as he felt that society was out to get him due to his emotional absence. At the same time, though, he didn’t want to die, so it’s more of a “what other choice do I have?”, as in dying is better than whatever he was to face if taken away.

Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway”, A Moment of Connection to Literature

“She could not even get an echo of her old emotion. But she could remember going cold with excitement, and doing her hair in a kind of ecstasy (now the old feeling began to come back to her, as she took out her hairpins, laid them on the dressing-table, began to do her hair), with the rooks flaunting up and down in the pink evening light, and dressing, and going downstairs, and feeling as she crossed the hall “if it were now to die ’twere now to be most happy.” That was her feeling–Othello’s feeling, and she felt it, she was convinced, as strongly as Shakespeare meant Othello to feel it, all because she was coming down to dinner in a white frock to meet Sally Seton!” (Woolf 38).

Woolf, Virginia, and Bonnie Kime Scott. Mrs. Dalloway. A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., 2005.

Clarissa recalls her past affection and feelings for Sally Seton, connecting their strength to Shakespeare’s Othello. She insinuates that her love for Sally was as deep and passionate as Othello’s for Desdemona (at the start of the play), furthering the reader’s understanding of the nature of their relationship.

Mrs. Dalloway; Past

“Far was Italy and the white houses and the room where her sister sat making hats, and the streets crowded every evening with people walking, laughing out loud, not half alive like people here, huddled up in Bath chairs, looking at a few ugly flowers stuck in pots!” (Woolf, 11 -12)

We are taken away from Clarissa’s inner consciousness and transported into Rezia’s memories of home. These thoughts arise when she steps away from her husband Septimus. An expression of nostalgia and frustration of her current life and her closeted secret regarding her husband’s madness. The only escape she can find was of a better life back in her native Italy.

Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf Commonplace Past – Bryant Magdaleno

“And she wasted her pity. For he was quite happy, he assured her — perfectly happy, though he had never done a thing that they talked of; his whole life had been a failure. It made her angry still.” (Woolf 7)

Woolf, Virginia, and Bonnie Kime Scott. Mrs. Dalloway. A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., 2005.

Within this text we can gain glimpse to the mindset of Mrs. Dalloway, where she contemplates her past with Peter Walsh. She speaks of how life had passed them by with her never marrying a Prime Minister and him never marrying her, life as she put it was not done the way they spoke of. He was a failure to her for never really making it, she reflects on this idea of the past and ones place to the future, how they promise and hope for the best but she is angry at the thought of not completing what they set out, it brings to mind if she is angry of her past promise or her future never getting it done.

“Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf Commonplace-Book Entry: Wishing For How Things Were Before The War

“‘That is all,’ she repeated, pausing for a moment at the window of a glove shop where, before the War, you could buy almost perfect gloves. And her old Uncle William used to say a lady is known by her shoes and her gloves. He had turned on his bed one morning in the middle of the War. He had said, ‘I have had enough.’ Gloves and shoes; she had a passion for gloves; but her own daughter, her Elizabeth, cared not a straw for either of them.’’

In this passage, Mrs. Dalloway is reminiscing about times before the War, when her Uncle Williams taught her about gloves and shoes. Perhaps her Uncle taking her to good glove shops inspired her liking for gloves that she still has today, but now it seems like she is comparing that passion that her and her Uncle had shared together with the kind of bond that she has with her own daughter, Elizabeth, which seems like not a very strong one, since they do not seem to care about a lot of the same things. Maybe this passage is about how wars can negatively affect the world, since Mrs. Dalloway implies that this glove store she is looking at does not make their gloves as perfectly as they used to, or it could also be about how she wishes to be as close with her daughter as she used to be with Uncle William.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, Inc., 1925, page 11.