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A Study of Self-actualization in Mrs. Dalloway from the Perspective of Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy of Needs

Author WangBaoZhen
Tutor WangJuLi
School Lu Tung University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Mrs. Dalloway theory of hierarchy of needs self-actualization identitycrisis
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Because of the special historical background at the beginning of twentieth century,“self”becomes one of main questions which attract amount of attentions among writers,philosophers and psychologists.A. H. Maslow, the famous psychologist proposes a theory: Hierarchy of Needs in his1943paper A Theory of Human Motivation. Maslow uses the terms Physiological, Safety,Belongingness and Love, Esteem, and Self-actualization needs to describe the pattern thathuman motivations generally move through.As one of the most influential women writers in the west of twentieth century, VirginiaWoolf expresses her deep concentration on this question of “true self” in her works. Woolfwants to show us her complicated knowledge from the consciousness of loss of self, to theencouragement of self-exploration, and to the suspicion of uncertainty on this topic. Based onMaslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs and the self-actualization, together with theconsideration of the social and cultural environment, this thesis attempts to trace the journeyof self-actualization about Clarissa Dalloway, Septimus and Sally. Mrs. Dalloway mainlydepicts two characters: Clarissa Dalloway, an upper class housewife whose body is in a goodcondition; Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran who returns from the battlefield in the FirstWorld War and he is a metal patient who suffers from shell-shock during the war, he is livinga poor life. Virginia Woolf purposely plans to arrange them in the same scenes at someparticular moments in the novel, although the two characters don’t know their existence ofeach other. Clarissa Dalloway owns a complete family and leads a rich life, but her life iswithout love and meaning; otherwise, she is lack of courage to realize her self-actualization;thus, owing to the cultural and social environment for female intellectuals, her belongingnessis deprived gradually during she fails in her self-actualization need. On the contrary, althoughthe cruelty and ruthlessness in the battlefield makes him mad, the inconsistency between hisimagination on war and the conversion of a national hero into a mental patient are the causesfor his maladjustment. Septimus is lack of basic needs, but he can end his own life to realizeself-actualization. Sally, another character in this novel, is leading a better life than it was. She transforms herself from an impulsive girl into a confident lady. She experiences a seriesof changes during her life.In conclusion, although the experience and basis of the three people are different, theytry their best to achieve their self-actualization. The results are different according to theanalysis. It will be a challenge for all these classes to achieve self-actualization under thecapitalist system.

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