Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slow Read: Mrs. Dalloway: halfway through

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I left the last reading wondering how Clarissa Dalloway might have been affected by Peter's visit. This reading gives a glimpse into Peter's response. He surprised himself with tears. He thought he'd been over this years ago. It seems to me both are experiencing the rebirth of old selves. I wonder what they will find their relationship to those old selves will be?

Stalk women much, Peter? It seems Peter has a fantasy life without being very reflective about it:

There was a dignity about her. She was not worldly, like Clarissa; not rich, like Clarissa. Was she, he wondered as she moved, respectable? Witty, with a lizard's flickering tongue, he thought (for one must invent, must allow oneself a little diversion), a cool waiting wit, a darting wit; not noisy. She moved; she crossed; he followed her. To embarrass her was the last thing he wished. Still if she stopped he would say "Come and have an ice," he would say, and she would answer, perfectly simply, "Oh yes."
So Peter falls asleep in the park,
Suddenly he closed his eyes, raised his hand with an effort, and threw away the heavy end of his cigar. A great brush swept smooth across his mind, sweeping across it moving branches, children's voices, the shuffle of feet, and people passing, and humming traffic, rising and falling traffic. Down, down he sank into the plumes and feathers of sleep, sank, and was muffled over.
and also in the park is Mr. Septimus Smith. Why is he and his wife in this story, I wonder? They were in the vicinity of Mrs. Dalloway, and in the vicinity of Peter, but is there going to be something more significant? It seems to be a pretty convincing glimpse inside Septimus's head, and how far gone he is, seems like schizophrenia to me, but it seems also to be brought about by the war. Hallucinations:
It was horrible, terrible to see a dog become a man! At once the dog trotted away. Heaven was divinely merciful, infinitely benignant. It spared him, pardoned his weakness. But what was the scientific explanation (for one must be scientific above all things)? Why could he see through bodies, see into the future, when dogs will become men?
Peter reminisces:
Somebody who had written him a long, gushing letter quite lately about "blue hydrangeas." It was seeing blue hydrangeas that made her think of him and the old days--Sally Seton, of course! It was Sally Seton--the last person in the world one would have expected to marry a rich man and live in a large house near Manchester, the wild, the daring, the romantic Sally!
Sally Seton...wasn't she Clarissa's love interest back when? She was!
Over and over again he had seen her take some raw youth, twist him, turn him, wake him up; set him going. Infinite numbers of dull people conglomerated round her of course. But odd unexpected people turned up; an artist sometimes; sometimes a writer; queer fish in that atmosphere. ...As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of these nautical metaphors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners
Clarissa seems to be something of a salon hostess, or a patroness. Huxley and Tyndall must be significant. Oh, they were scientists seeking to separate science from religion. Atheists again. Clarissa doesn't believe in God.

Considering his stalkerishness, I was wondering if Peter was really getting married. The lady does exist...he just doesn't appear to like her attentions all that much. Hmmm.
It was impossible that he should ever suffer again as Clarissa had made him suffer. For hours at a time (pray God that one might say these things without being overheard!), for hours and days he never thought of Daisy. Could it be that he was in love with her then, remembering the misery, the torture, the extraordinary passion of those days? It was a different thing altogether--a much pleasanter thing--the truth being, of course, that now she was in love with him. And that perhaps was the reason why, when the ship actually sailed, he felt an extraordinary relief, wanted nothing so much as to be alone; was annoyed to find all her little attentions--cigars, notes, a rug for the voyage--in his cabin.
Back to Septimus. This is also why I think of schizophrenia:
Here he opened Shakespeare once more. That boy's business of the intoxication of language--Antony and Cleopatra--had shrivelled utterly. How Shakespeare loathed humanity--the putting on of clothes, the getting of children, the sordidity of the mouth and the belly! This was now revealed to Septimus; the message hidden in the beauty of words. The secret signal which one generation passes, under disguise, to the next is loathing, hatred, despair.
Dr. Holmes, inept general practitioner. Sir William at least can diagnose mental illness when he sees it. Could Sir William be the connection between Dalloway and Smith?

The beginning

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