Experience is Flux & Novelist Must Render it: in Mrs. Dalloway

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Modern Psychology and Consciousness

      Modern Psychology has made it altogether a difficult task for the novelist to treat consciousness in his subject matter. In the eighteenth and nineteenth-century novelists assumed the single aspect of their character’s life and they excluded other aspects of characters. But the new psychology has proved that consciousness is a fluid, it does not move in a fixed single direction but in various directions at the same time. Thus the rendering of consciousness become hard nut to crack because it flows in multiple directions at the same time, thus it is impossible to express them in a chronological order. The novelist of by-gone ages seldom tried to interpret inner life, they were preoccupied with the life’s external reality, it is very much unrealistic to fix up a character on single point and allow him to pursue dispersed thoughts. Virginia Woolf herself says, “Look within and life it seems to vary far from being like this... Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions-trivial, fantastic, evanescent or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from the old...so that if a writer were a free man, if not a slave, if he could write that he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feelings and not convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest, no catastrophe in the accepted style.” She further says, life “is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

Mrs. Woolf's Glorification of Joyce and Proust

      Mrs. Woolf has praised Joyce and Proust for trying to capture the ephemeral waves of life. The writer can draw the inner life in its. true picture when he comprehends the various impressions, on the mind of character that he receives during his ordinary engagements of life.

Experience is a Flux

      Mrs. Virginia Woolf believes that experience is a flux. The experience in its, totality can be best compared to a flow of stream, a water flow in which it is not possible to find out which tract of water belongs to which specific geographical area. Thus as every tract of water belongs to an entire stream, therefore all human experiences belong to all mankind. It is very rare that a man or woman lives in absolute isolation, but in that case, also his basic urges are identical. Thus diverse people share the identical experience. Bergson has rightly said, “Life is a spiritual force a vital impetus equal to pure as distinct from chronological time, and equal to human consciousness, when that consciousness attains to awareness not measurable by any amount of chronological time and space- when, that is, human consciousness attains to holding eternity in an hour.”

Mrs. Dalloway and the Treatment of Consciousness

      Mrs. Dalloway is Virginia Woolf’s deliberate attempt to bring all the tracts of experience into a single focus. She also has achieved success in being transferred from consciousness of a character to the consciousness of other characters. And she had done it in effective manner, the unity of the novel is not weakened by this frequent shifting but it is emphasized through such treatment of consciousness. In the narrow compass of a single day she has given an account of not only the party or the central figure Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway but also of the development of her character, her past life, moreover the whole essential information of the character, directly or indirectly attached to Clarissa Dalloway’s or come across her at some moment of her life.

      Mrs. Dalloway goes out of her house to the market in order to buy flowers for her evening party She meets various people while passing through the London street. Among them Septimus Warren Smith and his Italian wife Lucrezia are important. Smith is suffering from nervous breakdown and getting his treatment from Dr. Holmes and Bradhsaw. He ultimately commits suicide in order to get rid of such imposing men like Holmes and Bradshaw who try to possess what is not their own. Mrs. Dalloway comes to know the death of Septimus when Bradshaws came into her party and open this news to her. Mr. Dalloway finds her condition very much identical with the dead Septimus who has committed suicide. She is a lady of aristocratic family, very superior and far from the realities of lower strata of society. She does not have the direct experience of war, she is only specialized in arranging get-togethers to her husband Richard Dalloway’s advantage. But she also in her heart of hearts shares the fears of a man who is foreign to her. But as mentioned earlier that experience is a flux and two persons, entirely different from one another can share the same feeling.

University Questions

Experience is a flux and the novelist must render it. Discuss with reference to Mrs. Dalloway.

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