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Virginia Woolf’s Social Satire on English Society in Mrs. Dalloway

Author MengXiangJie
Tutor WengDeXiu
School Liaoning Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Big Ben Queen Septimus thinker accessory love
Type Master's thesis
Year 2003
Downloads 676
Quotes 3
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Mrs. Dalloway, written by the English novelist Virginia Woolf, is a significant novel not only for its artistic experiment, but also for its social satire. It criticizes the English Society boldly as well as bitterly, which is seldom discussed by critics. Many critics maintain that the novels depicted by the technique of stream-of-consciousness can not have significant meaning on themes, and can not reflect the serious social problems. This opinion is open to question. In fact, Mrs. Dalloway reflects some serious social problems.  Virginia Woolf’s social satire on English society shows in four aspects. First, Mrs. Dalloway portrays Big Ben by symbolism. The Big Ben is the symbol of the Queen. It controls people’s acts and thinking tightly, and it even disturbs and pries into the private life of people. Besides, as followers of Big Ben, the sounds of other bells also function as forces to control people tightly. Next, the reactionaries leading by the Queen persecute every revolter, Septimus is such a revolter who is conceived by critics as a madman. In fact, he is a thinker and a revolutionist. Septimus was a promising young man, and had a bright future. But the World WarⅠdestroyed him. When the First World War ended, he found himself unable to feel. He begins to reevaluate the world like a thinker. He totally denies the English society and holds that it is full of evil, loath, and agony. Septimus wants to overturn the old society, and build up a new world. But the evil society would not allow revolters <WP=7>like him to live in the world. The controller of the society and his accessories suppress him through such representative figures as Dr Holmes and Sir William. They use the concepts of Proportion and Conversion to persecute Septimus. Instead of giving up, he chooses to commit suicide, and dies a heroic death on their execution ground. Besides Dr Holmes and Sir William, Miss Kilman, who is of humble origin, is another follower of the Queen. She stands for the evil religion. Being persecuted by the evil society, Miss Kilman begins to suppress others through the mask of religion. The "warfare" between her and Mrs. Dalloway is such an example. Miss Kilman also wants to tame Elizabeth, the daughter of Mrs. Dalloway. But she fails. Dr Holmes, Sir William and Miss Kilman are all the accessories of the Queen. What they have done is also what the Queen has done. At last, Virginia Woolf’s satire on English society is reflected in the no-love society. There is no love between people. If there is love, it is an ugly and cruel one. To some extent, the image of Septimus is that of Virginia Woolf. Just as Septimus, Virginia Woolf also wants to overturn the old society and build up an ideal one where there is full of love. By depicting the bloody rule of the Queen and her followers, we can see what Woolf detests the society. The viewpoints that the novel depicted by stream-of-consciousness can not reflect the serious social problems, and that Mrs. Dalloway has no significant meaning on themes turn out inappropriate after our study of Mrs. Dalloway.

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