Repressed Sexuality And FeminismJune 5, 2012 No Comments
Mrs. Dalloway is yet another feminist classic that I had to grow into. Wrapped up in Woolf’s instantly recognizable prose and the claustrophobia of post-WWI middle class life, the themes of repressed sexuality, mental illness and class division didn’t fully resonate with me until a second or third reading, and quite a few dinner parties of my own.
Clarissa’s love for Sally Seton is, to me, more that a comment on sexuality. The erotic appeal of Sally is indiscernible at times from her importance as a rebel. She behaves badly and breaks rules that Clarissa doesn’t; Sally’s eventual appearance as a domesticated woman was as devastating as the lack of consummation between the women.
The complex emotions between Septimus and Evans deepens the theme of love and eroticism which broke the taboo and the law of the day. It was Woolf’s treatment of Septimus’ mental health and eventual suicide that impressed me the most, however. Woolf takes a simultaneously furious and humane look at mental ill-health, from the medical practices of the post-war period to the tangible hurt Septimus and Rezia suffer.
There are several angles from which a reader could observe this story. The suffocation of middle class life, the readjustment of a country after war, the everyday war on women or the tyranny of sexual repression. Whichever vantage point you read this novel from, you’ll never be too far from your own life.
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