Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Emerging Image of Women in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and to the Lighthouse

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Emerging Image of Women in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and to the Lighthouse

Article excerpt

Introduction

The woman has alw ays be e n the sub al ter n ac ro s s cul tura l bo undari es. Man needs her, loves her, adores her and writes about her, but he does so in relation to his own life. In this respect, the woman has always been the 'second sex' as Virginia Woolf has called: "Imaginatively she is completely insignificant, she pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history".

Woman has always been projected as secondary and inferior. The bias against women can be seen right away from the day one of creation. It is said that God created man in his own image. The suggestion is that God is male. Further it is said that, after creating man, made woman from the rib of man. As Adam, the first man on earth, remarks about Eve: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man".

In other words, woman is secondary to man. She has to depend on man for her existence. Her image and position are bound up and determined by religion, cultural- codes and societal setup.

In the 19th century, the image of a woman was entirely different from that of earlier times. She was emerging out of the 'shell' with access to higher education, growth of the female labor market, the campaign for the vote (to a limited extent) and birth control.

"Ours is a time of transitions, and all our ideas, political, social, and even religious, are being tested anew with fire," wrote a woman in 1894.

The new women or the emerging image of women was a feminist view that emerged in the final decades of the 19th century in Europe and North America. Feminist thinkers stood against the discrimination that is still faced by the working women. Among these feminist thinkers was one who was very much concerned about the position of women, especially professional women, and she was none other than Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the 20th century. She was born in London, January 26, 1882, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, the Late Victorian critic, philosopher, biographer and scholar.

Being a woman, Woolf has tried to give the woman's point of view in her novels. She relies more on intuition than on reason. Woolf deeply resented the role of women in Victorian society, wherein to nurture, preserve, and repair were the sacred duties of well brought up young ladies. In the 20thcentury, Virginia Woolf was one of the prominent writers who produced literature by asserting her female identity. Through her works, she has tried to depict the inherent politics of patriarchy, especially through her essays "A Room of One's Own" (1929), and "Three Guineas" (1938).

Regarding her novel Mrs Dalloway, Woolf says, "I think it is the most satisfactory of my novels...it seems to leave me plunged deep in the richest strata of my mind."

In this novel, Woolf envisions the city of London through a female perspective, wherein women voice their feelings about the din of the urban space, an arena traditionally reserved for males and defined masculine.

Clarissa Dalloway permeates the text as a romantic, carefree, buccaneer, proactive yet asexual. Though she is over fifty as the novel opens, overweight after a recent attack of influenza, she has not yet lost the capacity to enjoy life. She enjoys the beauty of the morning which to her seems 'fresh as if issued to children on the beach'.

She vacillates between her public identity as a socialite in London and her private self that seeks to blend into a complete being-'pointed', 'dart-like', and 'definite'. In the novel, the innate strength of womanhood is brought into sharp focus, pitted against male inadequacies and lack of intelligence.

Virginia Woolf portrays the image of a new woman that emerges after World War I. She is the writer of liberty who through the technique of "stream of consciousness" exposes the true character of a woman. …

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