Miss Doris Kilman: Character Analysis in Mrs. Dalloway

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Her Personality

      In the novel Mrs. Dalloway, Doris Kilman is the character of a tutoress. She teaches history to Elizabeth, the daughter of Mrs. Dalloway. She is presented as an odd, elusive, shy, middle-class spinster. She with her zeal for conversation and her green mackintosh coat, is truly, hateful and truly imagined. She is a troubled and embittered soul. She looks ugly with an awkward figure. She is degradingly poor and has a grudge against the world.

Her Grudge Against the World

      When the war had come Miss Kilman lost her job of a schoolteacher because she was suspected to enjoy German sympathies. She has the feeling that she had been cheated and thus started to think about taking revenge against the world. Being full of bitter and fury she felt the call of religion two and half, years ago and ever since, whenever she suffered spiritual anguish, she prayed to God. She has the desire to crush the women like Clarissa, very delicate and refined, without any knowledge of poverty and suffering. She wants to make them cry and make them conscious of her own spiritual superiority and power. She wanted to catch hold of Elizabeth's soul and brought her to god in order to make her see Mrs. Dalloway’s reality as she was, to make her daughter detest her (Clarissa) mother and love and honor Miss Kilman.

Mrs. Dalloway’s Hate for Miss. Kilman

      Mrs. Dalloway was gifted with the skill of seeing into the heart. She knew that Miss Kilman was an evil but she did not like to separate her from Elizabeth forcibly because it would hurt her (Elizabeth) and inspire her to revolt. Mrs. Dalloway knew that “she wants to capture her for god, and keep her with her in the cage she has constructed.” Clarissa thought, “she was clumsy, jealous but bitter, domineering, hypocritical, eaves-dropping, trying to convert everyone. She was out to destroy the soul of her daughter, to intrude into the privacy of her soul. This was intolerable.”

Doris Kilman: A Symbol

      Mrs. Virginia Woolf’s distaste for religious possessiveness is poured out into the character of Miss Kilman. She has criticized through this character all-too-common religious type, to which belongs a good number of clergymen. “It is a type in which the love of power is hidden under a religious cloak; a love of power mingled with invincible stupidity In themselves insignificant, they are dangerous as a body, as a vested interest with a big say in the life of the community. What kind of say this may be Virginia Woolf shows us in the person of Miss Kilman.”


      But Miss Kilman is not a monster of wickedness. She is a suffering soul and by rendering her stream-of-consciousness novelist has brought out the pathos and suffering of her life. Miss Kilman ate with intensity and Elizabeth found it puzzling because she did not realize that ‘‘eating was almost the only pleasure left to her”. Miss Kilman also indulged in self-pity; “people don’t ask to parties... I’m plain, I’m unhappy.’ She knows it’s idiotic to talk like this to Elizabeth - it is the way to lose her; but go on she does, pushed by some inner necessity.”

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