Friday, October 15, 2010

Mrs. Dalloway: The Sane, The Insane, and Everything In Between

Oh Clarrisa, where shall we begin? Mrs. Dalloway thrills me to no end and therefore I am having quite the time deciding on any one thing to write about. Perhaps I shall jump all over the place as thoughts pop into my consciousness – I rather think that Woolf would approve. However, I am quite interested in fiction that deals with various forms of mentality – those like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” - so perhaps I shall focus on that for the time being.

I am intrigued by the portraying of sane and insane together within the same novel. The differences between Clarrisa and Septimus act as a commentary on the thin wall between the average mind and the mentally ill one. Clarrisa’s idea that “she must assemble” shows the mind of the everyday person – one who is concerned with the bad and the challenging in life yet can pull that emotion and turmoil into a manageable box and deal with it when they choose. They place the box somewhere in their mind and though an outside source like a smell, noise, etc may trigger it – they can successfully return those memories to the box. Septimus represents those who have lost their box. They lose the ability to divide their memories/emotions/sensations of the past from those of their present life. They can no longer distinguish between what has happened and what is happening now. The past bleeds into their present and turns in into a sort of alternate reality that only they are aware of. In some cases - like Septimus’ - this alternate reality becomes unbearable. The memories cannot be boxed up or pushed back so the previous trauma haunts them constantly.

It is for this reason that Septimus decides to jump. As he sees it, this is only escape from the constant memories and blurred reality that plagues him. Clarrisa understands this when she hears of his suicide and “she did not pity him” but rather saw it as courageous. She does not necessarily desire to do it herself but she can see why someone would. This is where the line is drawn, where the box comes in to play, and where the sane and the insane part ways. One posses the ability to escape and forget about the past for periods of time while the other has no escape – no way to find a moments peace.

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