Tragic & Pathetic Elements in Mrs. Dalloway

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      Mrs. Dalloway is a heart-rendering and sensitive account of human life. The novel contains a moving and vital expression of the miseries of man, his sense of isolation, his inability to communicate with others and; the questions of death are discussed in a good deal. Mrs. Virginia Woolf’s was at odds with life though she remained an accomplished lady, socially reputed and happily married. Her husband loved her very much. But unfortunately, she has to face periodic nervous breakdowns and this malady became so intense that when her literary career was too high, she shocked everybody by drowning herself. Her malady could not be diagnosed, it was very internal, something that ruined her soul and mind. Anyone who is suffering from this sort of physiological disease not only finds it impossible to liberate himself from its chains but his every effort to come out deepens this malady.

Mrs. Dalloway’s Tragedy of life

      Mrs. Dalloway owes a lot from the personal life of Virginia Woolf. It can be called an autobiographical study of Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway is a social butterfly, very much engaged in giving parties and buying and shopping, yet she appears a terribly isolated lady from within. She is married to Richard Dalloway who has given her all the freedom that she needs. It is for the freedom of thought and independence she had broken the heart of her lover Peter Walsh. But there is no semblance between a sensitive, tender hearted dreamy lady Mrs. Dalloway who ponders over the life, death and the world and the life of a mediocre politician Richard. In such relationship, there can not be found any emotional satisfaction. In fact, she loved Peter and not Richard. When Peter comes back from India after very long, she feels the warmth of his company, and she longs to possess that joy forever but it was not possible staying with Richard Dalloway. She fails to receive this kind of warmth in the course of living with Richard Dalloway. Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway feels cut off from her moorings, she is alone among the mass. It is pathetic to watch her spending time and energy in making arrangements for silly get-togethers. But she is helpless, he has nothing to do; and if in case she does not engage herself into such activities she might have been embraced by death. Indeed it is death alone that could extricate her from the tyranny of life. She thinks death is better than dying with every hour in life. She longs for death and sometimes addresses it by “soft names to take her breath out of her body. This personal and secret craving for death exposes when she is told by Bradshaws that Septimus has committed suicide. She does not regard Septimus a coward, as most of the sensible men do, but she praises him for his courage and defiance. She says that most of us need death but we are too coward to seek liberation through death.

      One can say that it is an unhealthy philosophic idea but here our purpose is not to establish any moral. Mrs. Dalloway, definitely does not possess healthy mind, her soul is tattered and tormented. She finds it not possible to come to terms with the world and this is the feeling that makes her a tragic figure. Nobody wants to live in an absolute isolation and Clarissa Dalloway is no exception. Even the reader can feel, her struggle and defeat to live a balanced life, a life of peace and contentment.

Peter Walsh, A Failure

      Most tragic life in Mrs. Dalloway is the life of Peter Walsh, the girlhood friend and lover of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway. He is the character who receives nothing but rejection and rebuff from life. He has tasted only failure. He seems destined not to receive any peace or happiness in life. Fortune seems to conspire against him and the world hatches a plot to destroy all the happiness in his store. First, he sends down from the university, then falls in love with Clarissa and now thinks to marry the wife of a Major in the Indian army. He faces one difficulty after another. He is a deserted lover, and his tragedy lies in his extreme sentimentality. He is more than fifty but still finds himself a failure in overcoming his sentimentality. He starts crying in front of Mrs. Dalloway and has again become normal and consoled when he is kissed by her. At Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway’s party also he feels all alone.

Septimus: Most Pathetic Character

      Both Clarissa and Peter are sympathetic figures but the real pathetic character of the novel is shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith. Once he was a man of considerable promise, intellectual, smart, sensitive and accomplished. But his experiences during war, when his dearest friend Evans was killed, turn, him into insane. He becomes a mute and introverted, he wants to run away from the world which seems to devour him. He does not know where to get peace. Nothing in the world attracts him. He tries to engage himself in writing odes to Time and indulges in a dialogue with Shakespeare. Whenever he gets hallucinations that his dead friend Evans is moving towards him, his sad plight touches the heart of any sensible reader. Our pity further increases when we consider the pains and agonies of his wife Lucrezia. She has left everything, her home, her parents, even her country for Septimus. But now she is put to live with a man who is almost mad. Her eyes always shed tears. Being a foreigner in London she feels herself very lonely and at the mercy of men like Bradshaws and Holmes who do not consider her very seriously. She tries her utmost to make Smith take interest in the world around but it is like flogging a dead horse.


      The death of Septimus has a cathartic effect. His plight creates a feeling of fear. He seems like a Greek tragic character who has been hounded down by forces beyond his control.

University Questions

Elucidate the tragic effect of Mrs. Dalloway.
Express your views upon the pathetic elements of Mrs. Dalloway.

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