Treatment of Universal Love in the Novel Mrs. Dalloway

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The Original and Psychological Treatment of

      In conventional 19th century novel, love-theme occupies a central place. In Mrs. Dalloway also love is the central theme but it is very much different in its treatment as compared with other novelists. Love forms the climax of the conventional novels and there is written a series of events leading toward it and the story ends with either success or failure. Usually, the hero and heroine are presented as happily married and it is taken for granted that they would live happily for the rest of the lives. But in Mrs. Dalloway's love-story begins after marriage. The married couple has to face the grim realities of life and their love is tested by many incidents and then comes out its true picture. According to Mrs. Woolf, true love is the color of life, it exists throughout the life but passion is transitory and diminishing, a mere bubble that gets evaporated at the first contact of prosaic reality. Thus her treatment of love is very much original and psychological not conventional and ideal.

The Love Story of Mrs. Dalloway

      The protagonist and heroine of the novel Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is not a young maiden of tender years as we find in the traditional novels. She is a woman of fifty years. Although her conventional episode of love is already over yet her experience of love is the very texture of the novel. Whenever she thinks of her love for Peter Walsh, she considers it in the same way. When she recalls those memories the moments of their quarrels cease her mind. She loves him a lot and finds him as her spiritual comrade. She owes him words; ‘sentimental,’ ‘civilized’, they start up every day of her life as if he guards her. A book was sentimental; an attitude to life sentimental. ‘Sentimental’, perhaps she was to be thinking of the past. “What would he think, she wondered, when he came back?” After an interval he comes to the house of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway: “Nor the door opened, and in he came - for a single second she could not remember what he was called. So surprised she was to see him, so glad, so shy, so utterly taken aback to have Peter Walsh come to her unexpectedly in the morning.”

The Intricacy of Mrs. Dalloway’s Love

      The experience of Mrs. Dalloway regarding love is not very simple, and a very easy-phenomenon to understand. It is a mysterious and complex experience with all its joys, agonies, sorrows and exaltations. This experience has saturated her very being and made her personality very much different. She preferred to marry Richard Dalloway, her present husband, she loves him and is faithful to him. But her earlier love is rooted deep in her soul and it bursts out without any bar when Peter Walsh could not stop himself from weeping in front of her. She starts kissing him madly and impulsively.

A Terrible Agony of Peter’s Love

      As love for Peter Walsh has colored the soul of Mrs. Dalloway, it has wounded the soul of Peter and there is left a permanent scar on his heart. After Clarissa’s rejection of Peter, he could never be the same again. He was hurt badly. It has existed throughout thirty long years and finally overflows into his tears. He thinks that he has been in love with a wrong woman who has made his life like a hell. Love has contributed a lot in making his life a failure.

A Conflict between Love and Spiritual Privacy

      As we know Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway was in love with a man Peter, but why did she leave him? Why has she married Mr. Richard Dalloway? The answer has a lot to do with her psychology. The human soul wants to love and to be loved but side by side one also likes some privacy or a little ‘attic room’ of its own. Thus he/she feels a constant tension between love and individuality, Mrs. Dalloway deals with this antithesis between love and spiritual privacy. Clarissa rejects Peter and prefers to marry Richard because his love was too dominating and possessive. She does not expect him to allow her to have her own independence. But Richard is not too possessive. This is the reason why she hates both love and religion. She detests Doris Kilman for this reason. She is scared of Kilman because of the sense of possessing her daughter’s soul.

Different Faces of Love

      Love in its immense variety is presented in the novel Mrs. Dalloway. There is Clarissa’s love for Peter Walsh, her love for her husband Richard, motherly love for Elizabeth Dalloway, Peter’s love for Clarissa, Peter’s love for Daisy, Rezia’s love for Septimus, a neurotic in whose love she suffers terrible and silently till the moment Septimus commits suicide and leaves her helpless in this vast and wide world. We see the glimpse of Septimus’ passion for Isabella Pole also and his selfish motive behind marrying Lucrezia. Thus, “Marriage in Mrs. Woolf’s novels is often a means of overcoming spiritual insufficiency.”


      In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s has not only presented the love of a man for woman but also the feeling of a woman who is in love with a woman. Clarissa’s friendship with Sally Seton is the love of a woman for other woman. She feels for her what a man feels for a woman. Sally is extra-ordinarily beautiful and unconventional girl who has shocked everybody by running naked in the corridor to get sponge. There comes a most interesting moment when passing by stone urn with flowers in it, Sally stops, picks a flower, and kisses Clarissa on the lips. “The whole world might have turned upside down. This, then, is love; not a love of possession, but something protective, conspirational against the world of pretense and fraud (‘they spoke of marriages always as a catastrophe’), yet certainly bringing in the revelation, the religious feeling.” Thus such complexities of love are presented in this novel,
Mrs. Dalloway.

Universal Love in Mrs. Dalloway

      Karl and Magalaner go to the extent of stating that the theme of Mrs. Dalloway is ‘universal love’. Each of the central characters is portrayed “with respect to his place on the scale of love.” Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is regarded as the central figure not because of her intensity of love for others but because she is the focus of the love of others. Her maid servant, Richard, Peter almost everyone loves her except Doris Kilman. She takes much interest in bringing people together. “To combine, to create”. At her party, all the characters gather together. Sally Seton and Peter Walsh come there. Even the Prime Minister comes to attend the party. Dr. Bradshaw “the chief external link between the world of the Dalloway’s and the world of Septimus” also arrives there. Even Septimus who is dead is present there psychologically in the party. “For he is Christ like figure, the representative of universal love, who is found wanting by human nature, represented by Bradshaws and Holmes, and is crucified. He alone sees the vision of Evans and hears his message of ‘‘universal love delivered to him from the world of the dead”. Even Clarissa feels “there is an embrace in death’. Thus death is “universal love.”.

University Questions

‘Mrs. Dalloway is a study of universal love’. Discuss the dictum.
According to various critics, Mrs. Dalloway treats tensions between individuality and need of communication. Elaborate.
“Mrs. Woolf’s treatment of love is original and physiological”. Discuss this dictum with references to Mrs. Dalloway

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