Different Viewpoints in “Mrs. Dalloway”
Clarissa is the main character in the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Gina Wisker has a good reason for giving the quote “Clarissa has sacrificed the excitement and love she could have had with Peter Walsh for a ‘narrow bed’ … Her achievements are all social; she gives successful parties… But she has the ability to keep a part of herself for herself”and further will be given examples supporting her statement. Throughout the novel, Clarissa is mostly narrating what actually goes in her mind. She is remembering what happened in the past and telling her reasoning. Not just about the past, she is also telling what she is thinking in the present moment.
Reading what she narrates gives a viewpoint on what is going on, but also the readers get information about her personality. Other people such as Sally Seton and Peter Walsh are telling what they know about her, why they think she is doing something and they compare her the way she used to be and now. That gives the reader different viewpoint about Clarissa. Her personality thorough the novel is complicated to be described for the reason that she goes back in the past and then narrates about present and that makes it harder to figure out what she is actually doing and feeling.
There is another character mentioned in the novel, Septimus. Actually, he presents the other aspect of her personality. Even though they are two different people, she feels the same as him and supports what he had done. What she feels is different from what she is doing and that makes a gap between what she is doing, what she is thinking and what she is feeling.
Couple of examples will be provided in order to support Wisker’s quote.
Clarissa had decided to marry Richard instead of Peter Walsh. Doing that she agreed not to have the excitement in her life and love from Peter. “It was all over for her. The sheet was stretched and the bed narrow.” (p.52) What this actually means is that she does not sleep in the same bed with her husband. The adjective perfectly describes the sheet stretched, which means the same as nobody had been sleeping in that bed. Knowing that Peter is a man full of excitement and used to love her so much a reader gets a picture and can make a comparison of how her life would be if she had married Peter. She did not marry Peter, which is why she sacrificed the excitement and the love she could have had.
About her achievements, there is nothing personal that she had achieved. All she had done was for the society. “Much rather she would have been one of those people like Richard who did things for themselves, whereas, she thought, waiting to cross, half the time she did things not simply, not for themselves; but to make people think this or that;” (p.12) This sentence is a perfect example that she cared a lot what the other think about her and what they will say. She is doing things just because the others think it is right to do not because she wants to do that.
“The obvious thing to say of her was that she was worldly; cared too much for rank and society and getting on in the world- which was true in a sense; she had admitted it to him.” (p.85) She does care about position and rank and that actually is also a reason for sacrificing the love she could have with Peter. She did that for rank and fame. “But suppose Peter said to her, ‘Yes, yes but your parties – what’s the sense of your parties?’ all she could say was (and nobody could be expected to understand): They’re an offering; which sounded horribly vague.” (p.134)
What is the real sense of her parties can be connected to the first words of the quote. She probably feels lonely, misses many things, by giving parties she fills the emptiness, and makes her feel important for that time. On the other hand she has the ability to keep a part of herself for herself. “Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that everyone was unreal in one way; much more real in another.” (p.188) What she is implying is about the other part of herself. That other part of herself is the real she and from the following sentence is obvious that she will never admitted it. “Had tried to do the same always, never showing a sign of all the other sides of her- fault, jealousies, vanities, suspicious, like this of Lady Bruton not asking her to lunch;” (p.42) That is the part of herself that she keeps it and by doing this parties no one can actually find anything of these things.
Moreover, considering all the example sentences in the paragraph above plus some sentences throughout the novel it will be discuss the different viewpoints that we are given about Clarissa. One viewpoint is the way she is telling the things from her experience and what goes in her mind. The other viewpoint is the way that Peter is telling about her. The way Sally describes and talks about Clarissa is also a different viewpoint then the others.
“They were young; that was it. Clarissa was pure-hearted; that was it. Peter would think her sentimental. So, she was. For she had come to feel that it was she only thing worth saying- what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.” (p. 210) From this sentence and the tense that is used can be concluded that Clarissa used to be sentimental. In other words means that she is not sentimental anymore. On one hand, we had an example in the paragraph above explaining why she is giving the parties. “These parties, for example, were all for him, of for her idea of him (to do Richard justice he would have been happier farming in Norfolk.” (p. 86) In this sentence is shown another viewpoint different then hers which makes the reader to think what is actually the truth.
“To get that letter to him by six o’clock she must have sat down and written it directly he felt her; stamped it; sent somebody to the post. It was, as people say, very like her.” (p.171) This is another viewpoint from what people say. It is very non-emotional and almost as a machine is doing that. It gives the impression that she is not thinking a lot, which from the novel itself the conclusion is opposite. She thinks a lot, but acts not much. “For said Sally, Clarissa was at heart a snob- one had to admit it, a snob.” (p.209) This is a viewpoint from Sally. Considering that, she is really a snob gives the reader an explanation of why she is jealous, why she refused to marry Peter, why she is giving parties and all the things she is doing. So, from Clarissa viewpoint she has a reasonable answer on everything but from Peter’s view point and Sally’s viewpoint she is not the woman she used to be she is a snob without emotions.
Her personality is bit complicated for the reason that we are given several viewpoints about Clarissa. Also at the novel parallel goes and the story about Septimus. With other words as was said in the introduction, Clarissa is thinking one thing, she feels something else and she acts in a third way. One thing that can be concluded for sure is the way she feels. “She felt somehow very like him- the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad he had done it; thrown it away while they felt while they went on living.” (p. 204) The young man who killed himself is Septimus. He used to be in the War. Now he is having troubles being normal again, living in the world he is now. He cannot cope with the guilt and the lost of his friend in the war and he commits suicide. Clarissa is in the same situation. She can’t cope with her decisions from the past; she is so lonely that she felt the same as Septimus. In a way it is implied as she wanted to commit a suicide. She is feeling that way.
“Lunching with lady Bruto, it came back to her. He has left me; I am alone forever, she thought, folding her hands upon her knee.” (p.53) This is the sentence that is almost similar with the situation when the doctor comes to take Septimus to mental hospital and separate him from his wife. He feels the same as she, forever alone.
Overall, this novel is a hard one to follow what is going one because it goes back and forth in past then present and jumps from one-character thoughts to another character thoughts. The different viewpoints for Clarissa, from Peter and Sally give another insight about her than hers viewpoint. The different aspect of her personality is a whole thing connecting what she feels, what she thinks and how she acts.