Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 10

Literature & Theology, Vol 12 No 2 June 199S


Douglas L. Howard

This paper examines the extent to which Mrs Dalloway is pervasively

influenced by the Bible and juxtaposes a pattern of Biblical history with the
contemporary history that is created within the course of the novel. From
the recollections of that summer at Bourton to Septimus' death and Clarissa's
party, Edenic beginnings are nostalgically remembered, the 'fall' into adulthood is painfully recalled, and, through the sacrifices of a number of unlikely
'Chnsts and Christesses', rebirth and spiritual renewal are ultimately
achieved. Although she is often portrayed as an author without any apparent
interest m Christianity, Woolf uses these motifs not only so as to give her
story mythic importance, but also, through her creative implementation of
this metaphor, so as to mark her break from patriarchal Christian values
and redefine the character of her own beliefs.

Woolf was taught from a very early age to deny religious

dogmatism and to reject the spiritual offerings of Christianity, her childhood
experiences in the openly agnostic Stephen household anticipated the anxiety
of influence that Biblical motifs would exert upon her later work. Inasmuch
as adopting her father's beliefs without question would have been no better
than blindly subscribing to some religious system, she proved that she had
learned her lessons well by engaging in her own crisis of faith, a crisis not
unlike the one experienced by Rachel Vinrace in The Voyage Out or by the
young Clarissa Parry herself in Mrs Dalloway. As Leslie Stephen published his
Agnostic's Apology in 1893, she, in 1897, secredy toyed with the idea of
writing 'a long picturesque essay upon the Christian religion' that would
prove 'that man [had] need of a God'.1 Although Christianity and the Bible,
with its patriarchal power structures, were clearly unacceptable alternatives
to her in this ongoing spiritual journey, her consistent use of Christian
symbolism and Biblical history in her novels suggest that they provided her
with a point of departure dirough which she could define the nature of her
own beliefs. Critics2 have already identified Biblical patterns in To the
Lighthouse and The Waves, yet I would argue that Woolf, with the examples
of Eliot's Waste Land and Joyce's Ulysses to guide her,3 was weaving a cycle

O Oxford Uruvenity Pren 1998

Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013




Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

of Biblical history into her aesthetic designs as early as 1925, with the
publication of Mrs Dalloway. "The yellow curtain with all the birds of
Paradise"* does not therefore blow back and forth at the conclusion of the
novel simply as colorful detail, but rather it signifies an Edemc renewal in
which a central movement from Genesis to Apocalypse is resolved and in
which Woolf 's personal spiritual interests are reaffirmed.
In Mrs Dalloway, Woolf sees the span of Biblical history encapsulated within
the lifetime of the individual. To this extent, the Edenic state, in literal as
well as in symbolic terms, becomes the state of youth and human potential,
the equal capacity for future greatness or failure that is fulfilled through the
exercise of choice and that exists beyond the confines of death and time. As
long as they are young and as long as the major decisions concerning their
futures have yet to be made, the characters in the novel flourish in a world
where time, 'the destroyer' (33) in DiBattista's words, has no power.5 The
maturing beauty of Elizabeth Dalloway, for example, is compared 'to poplar
trees, early dawn, hyacinths, fawns, running water, and garden lilies' (204), a
collection of nature images and symbols of birth and rebirth that, in and of
themselves, could easily constitute a locus amoenus.6 The other characters in
the novel, in fact, consistently associate her with the possibilities of new life.
The anxiety of aging and the threat of death do not haunt her as they do
her mother, but rather she optimistically conceives of herself as living in a
world of opportunity. Considering her career ambitions, Elizabeth believes
that she will someday 'become a doctor, a farmer, possibly go into Parliament'
(207). The young Septimus Smith, from his residence off the Euston road,
similarly flowers like 'a new blossom on [a gardener's] plant' (128) into a
poet with the promise of a developing Keats. He is praised for his efficiency
at the office by the managing clerk of Sibleys and Arrowsmiths, Mr Brewer,
who foresees that Septimus will 'in ten or fifteen years, succeed to the leather
arm-chair in the inner room' (129). During the war, Septimus also distinguishes himself as a soldier, achieving promotion and attracting the notice of
his commanding officer Evans.
Eden is typically portrayed as an idealized place of origin, a place of
unrestrained natural beauty where, as Milton imagines it, 'The Birds [are] in
choir ..., vernal airs ... attune/The trembling leaves, ... and the Hours ...
dance ... on the Eternal Spring.'7 Whereas Elizabeth and Septimus are linked
to the Garden merely through metaphoric description, the limitless potential
of youth, for some of the odier characters in the novel, is connected to an
actual Earthly Paradise. Dozing off on her sofa, Lady Bruton wistfully daydreams of a time when she had energy and vitality, of her childhood in the
fields of Devonshire, 'and the beds of dahlias, the hollyhocks, the pampas
grass' (169). For Peter Walsh and Clarissa, the Eden that they would recover
is recalled through comparable visions of Bourton,8 with its own assortment



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

of roses, hollyhocks, and dahlias, with 'the rooks rising [and] falling' (3), and
with its 'walled-in' (114) garden. As they are nostalgically remembered, these
idyllic landscapes, like a scene on Keats' well-wrought urn, seemingly exist
in a timeless state of perpetual summer. The sun always shines, the air is
always 'fresh ... [and] calm' (3), and the flowers are always in bloom because
the characters in the novel can only envision them under these circumstances.
According to Susan Dick, the summer at Bourton reflects 'a time of
potential which [Clarissa] juxtaposes with the unspecified failures that
[follow]'.9 Amidst the widespread fertility of the English countryside, she,
like the flowers themselves, is also in full bloom. Young, 'lovely in girlhood'
(46), and innocent to the ways of the worldshe openly admits that 'she
[knows] nothing about sexnothing about social problems' (49)she is the
object of affections from both men and women. She finds herself faced with
the difficult choice of Dalloway or Peter, a decision which will forever affect
the course of her life. Anticipating her marriage to Dalloway, Peter Walsh,
who is also young, handsome, and boasting no failed marriages to his name
at this point, haplessly pursues Clarissa, his romantic ideal, m the hopes of
realizing the possibility of her love.
If, as Septimus tells us, people 'desert the fallen' (135), if solitude and
isolation constitute existence m the fallen world, then clearly the Edenic state
is denned by the union or communion of consciousnesses into what J. Hillis
Miller calls 'oneness'.10 In contrast to the dreary decadence and loneliness of
the present, 'that summer at Bourton,' as Peter and Clarissa remember it, is
lively and animated largely because it brings together a group of distinct
personalities with different backgrounds, from the snobbish Hugh Whitbread
to 'that ragamuffin Sally without a penny to her name* ( i n ) . They are
brought together, in fact, in much the same way that the party apocalyptically
reunites them in Edenic 'oneness' in Clarissa's drawing room.
Ideally, however, this union of conscious minds takes place on a deeper,
more intimate level between two people. For the major characters in Mrs
Dalloway, these recalled moments m childhood or young adulthood are
significant, are worth remembering largely because they are moments in
which the characters connect with that one person who is capable o in
Clarissa's words, 'completing' them. During their midnight boating expedition at Bourton, Peter Walsh, in what he describes as 'twenty minutes of
perfect happiness' (94), shares some kind of understanding or 'bond' with
Clarissa in which they 'go in and out of each other's minds without any
effort' (94). Although Peter, thirty years later, denies any feeling for Clarissa
and believes, in fact, 'that she [is] now in love with him' (120), an overt
Freudian projection, the remainder of his life becomes, with the fall from
this relationship, an unsuccessful attempt to renew this connection through
other women. While Septimus ardently courts the erudite Miss Isabel Pole



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

to no availshe corrects his love poems m red inkMitchell Leaska believes

that his true union is with Evans during the war and that their love is 'so
powerful that [Septimus cannot] acknowledge the stark fact of their permanent separation'.11 Evans, who is noticeably 'undemonstrative' (130) toward
women, and Septimus exchange an affection that, although unspecified, is
apparently so intense that, when Evans is killed, when Septimus is severed
from this totality of being and loses his 'complement', he simultaneously loses
the ability to feel. Inasmuch as Clarissa is Septimus' 'double', the most
emotionally fulfilling relationship for her in the novel is likewise the homoerotic bonding that she experiences with Sally Seton at Bourton. Their love,
which Clarissa openly admires for its 'paradisal' innocence and purity, is
consummated by a kiss that she describes in terms of a 'religious feeling' (50).
Her relationship with Sally, 'which could only exist between women' (50),
serves, moreover, to strengthen her sense of sexual identity, a sense of identity
that is later reduced by her marriage to Dalloway and by her inability to
fulfill the sexual obligations of her role as wife.
As 'waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall' (58) on a summer's
day and as falling is the ultimate end of every natural act, being born into
nature in Mrs Dalloway means being born to fall. Somewhere along the way,
the seemingly endless summer of youth degenerates into the world of mortality and responsibility. The 'icy claws' (54) of death slowly take hold and,
with the passage of time, unused or unrealized potential becomes the cornerstone of a failed existence and the hallmark of the fallen state. While
Meisel specifically refers to Mrs Ramsay's death as the focal point of change
in To the Lighthouse, as that moment in which the state of grace is lost, the
recurrence of 'falling' makes the loss of innocence more difficult to identify
in Mrs Dalloway in terms of an isolated incident. For Peter Walsh as well as
for Clarissa, the fall could begin with love, which, when it becomes possessive
or intrusive, when it attempts to invade 'the privacy of the soul', destroys,
in Clarissa's words, 'everything that [is] fine, everything that [is] true' (192).
Peter's smothering, obsessive infatuation for Clarissa anticipates their final
confrontation by the fountain, its cracked spout symbolizing his phallic
impotency, and his eventual ejection from the gardens of Bourton. Knowing
that she is in love with Dalloway, he imposes a futile ultimatum on Clarissa
in an attempt to attain her unattainable affections and Leaska is correct, I
think, in his assessment that Peter 'essentially [encourages] a situation which
insures his [disappointment]' (97). With this disillusioning introduction to
the world of experience, Peter, like the rest of the characters in the novel,
falls into a cycle of repeated failure in which he is sent down from Oxford,
in which his first marriage is about to end in divorce, and in which he finds
himself in a precarious, ill-fated relationship with the wife of a major in the
Indian army.



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

Clarissa's love for Dalloway could like wise initiate her fall into experience
in that it leads to their marriage, a 'catastrophe' (Sally's word) which transports
her from the Edenic English countryside to the busding city streets of London
and to a world of politics and cocktail parties.12 While the young Clarissa
Parry is considered an attractive potential bride by both Peter and Richard,
the married Clarissa Dalloway, failing to live up to this potential, is repulsed
by the sexual obligations that her role as wife requires and finds 'a virginity
preserved through childbirth' (46) besieged by her husband's need to gratify
his 'Horrible passion' (192). Whereas Clarissa's relationship with Sally gives
her a sense of 'completion', a sense of unity, and puts her in touch with her
womanhood, her marriage to Dalloway makes her feel incomplete. It pessimistically makes her 'see what she [lacks]' (46) as both woman and wife.
Clarissa's loss of innocence could also be linked to that 'falling tree' (117)
which kills her sister Sylvia Parry and first brings death into her world. In
the same way that Rachel Vinrace suddenly abandons her Christian beliefs
during Mr Bax's religious service, Clarissa, from this trauma, dispels her belief
in 'the Gods' and adopts an atheistic understanding of goodfrom this
moment on, she believes in 'doing good for the sake of goodness [alone]'
(118)and evil, the knowledge of these principles, of course, being the
remnant of man's first disobedience.13
If, however, there is a single event in Mrs Dalloivay that destroys the Edenic
potential for life as well as for die future and brings death home to the people
of London, then clearly that event is the First World War. Miss Kilman
begins a promising career as a teacher at Miss Dolby's school, but, with the
onset of the War, she is dismissed because she will not deny her origins or
'pretend that all Germans [are] villains' (187). As a result, she turns to religion,
another 'destructive' force, according to Clarissa, and slowly deteriorates into
the shrewish spinster that would possess Clarissa's daughter, Elizabeth.1'4 The
orderly life of Mr Brewer is similarly thrown into disorder by the 'prying
fingers' of die War, which take 'away his ablest young fellows, ... [smash] a
plaster cast of Ceres,15 [plough] a hole in the geranium beds, and utterly
[ruin his] cook's nerves' (129). Mrs Foxcroft grieves over the fact that 'that
nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin' (5),
while Lady Bexborough mourns the death of John, 'her favorite.' Among its
other casualties, the War also claims the life of Evans as well as the mind of
Septimus. With the bond between them forably broken, Septimus fears that
he is unable to feel and thus marries Rjezia in an act of desperation. His once
exemplary work at the office begins to fall off and, shortly thereafter, he
begins to entertain thoughts of suicide. In one way or another, everyone
bears a scar from the War. Life, as the characters in the novel know it, is
irreparably altered by it. The world is tragically transformed from a place of
promise into a place of disappointment and failure. Clarissa thinks that 'before



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

the war, you could almost buy perfect gloves' (15), but, with the fall from
glory, perfection of any kind is no longer possible.
Along with the loss of potential, the fall initiates the unrelenting progress
of time, which is perhaps just as much a part of the curse as death is. As
youth, beauty, and vitality define the Edenic state, time, in the fallen world,
slowly lays waste to the body and, like Holmes and Bradshaw, forces the soul
toward the dark mystery of death. Where Clarissa once was 'lovely in
girlhood' (46), she suddenly feels 'shrivelled, aged, breastless' (45). Her recuperative powers are not what they once were. Like Evelyn Whitbread, she
now finds that 'some internal ailment, nothing serious' (7) becomes a major
cause for concern, affecting her heart and robbing her of her strength. While
Clarissa fears that Peter Walsh will notice that she has grown older (and he
does), Peter, who is ironically 'six months older' (67) than she is, is busy
trying to come to grips with the effects of his own aging. 'I am not old' (75),
he frantically tells himself, yet, in the same way that he consistently denies
any feeling for Clarissa, these emotionally charged refutations, from a Freudian
perspective, seemingly support the truth of the thing that they would reject.
Time has passed. Peter has aged. From the quiet recesses of her room, Lady
Bruton more openly admits that 'she [is] getting old' (168). With the completion of the morning's agenda and the conclusion of her lunch with Dalloway,
she, no longer the energetic young girl that runs through the fields of
Devonshire, falls asleep on the sofa. Virtually all of the characters in the
novel, in fact, are fatigued by the passage of time and, at one point or another
in the day, find themselves nodding offPeter and Septimus both fall asleep
on the bench in Regent's Park, Clarissa must take 'an hour's complete rest
after luncheon' (181), and Pvichard Dalloway yawns out in the street with
Hugh Whitbreada sleep which prefigures what Hamlet calls that final 'sleep
of death'.16
From the Edenic state of union, the protagonists of Mrs Dalloway also
descend into a world of isolation and into a sense of what could very well
be modern alienation. Where they once felt that they were understood, that
they were in some way connected to something or someone, they are now
abandoned by the world because, as Septimus tells us, people, by nature,
'desert the fallen' (135). With the departure of Peter Walsh, Clarissa, excluded
from her husband's luncheon with Lady Bruton, despairingly concludes that
she has been left 'alone for ever' (70) and imaginatively redefines this tragedy
in terms of some gothic withdrawal to the dark tower, an image that Jean
Wyatt interprets as another manifestation of 'Death and frigidity'.17 Peter
Walsh, on the other hand, spends the majority of his day aimlessly wandering
the streets of London by himself. Although Peter would have us believe that,
'at the age of fifty-three, one scarcely [needs] people anymore' (119) and that
his isolation is self-imposed, his brief adventure as the 'romantic buccaneer'



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

and his vision of an ideal woman who knows his deepest, innermost thoughts,
according to Leaska, dramatically illustrate the pathetic 'depth of his aloneness'
(99) and his inherent need for companionship. Miss Kilman endures 'shocks
of suffering' (201) when Elizabeth leaves her alone in the restaurant. Frustrated
by her husband's madness, Reaa cries that she is 'alone!' (35) by the fountain
in Regent's Park. Septimus, who is momentarily left by himself on Mrs
Filmer's sitting-room sofa, similarly conceives that 'the doom of Milan', the
punishment for his unconscionable attraction to Evans during the War is 'to
be alone for ever' (220). With the fall from grace, loneliness, utter loneliness
characterizes the human condition.
According to Biblical history, the sins of man and the burden of the fall
are redeemed through the death of Christ on the cross. In the same way that
Elijah invokes 'Florry Christ, Stephen Christ, Zoe Christ, Bloom Christ,
Kitty Christ, Lynch Christ'18 in the 'Circe' episode of Ulysses, so, too, does
Mrs Dalloway offer up a plethora of potential 'Christs and Christesses' (150).
Of all the characters in the novel, however, Septimus, 'suffering for ever, the
scapegoat, the eternal sufferer' (37) is perhaps most directly linked to the
hero of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As Christ is the shepherd who
comes to lead 'the lost sheep of the House of Israel [to salvation and as he
prophesies that] the kingdom of heaven is close at hand',19 the schizophrenic
Septimus, who notices 'a few sheep' (37) in Regent's Park and who claims
to hear 'a shepherd's boy piping' (103) amidst the sounds of the city traffic,
brings an apocalyptic vision of a new order, a vision, in DiBattista words,
that is based on the subversive 'levelling of the great chain of being' (49).
He comes to spread a message of universal love. He comes to assert the unity
of all living things, to establish a connection between trees and people and
dogs and men. Sitting on the bench in Regent's Park, Septimus also has 'an
astonishing revelation' (106) that the dead, led by Evans, will rise, an event
that marks the beginning of final judgment in Revelations.20 His promise to
Rezia that he 'will tell [her] the time' (106), in fact, has nothing to do with
her question, but ultimately refers to the realization of these prophecies and
the end of the old world order.
More importantly, 'Septimus Christ' comes to repair the damage that is
caused by the fall. Whereas the crime of disobedience unleashes death as well
as the paralyzing fear of death upon the world, Septimus would inform the
Prime Minister that death is not the end of life, a radical notion that essentially
ends the reign of death by making it meaningless. As life ends on one level
of existence, it simply begins on another. Unfortunately, he never gets the
chance to meet the Prime Minister because he believes that the sin of the
fall demands the sacrifice of his life as payment. He sees himself as being
'condemned to death by human nature' (145), by the guilt that he personifies
as Holmes and Bradshaw, because his conscience cannot accept or deny his



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

homosexual attraction to Evans. As a result, Septimus leaps to his death with

a cry of 'I'll give it to you' (226), a cry that, according to Susan Dick, alludes
to Christ's last words, 'It is finished' (42).21 Crucifying himself on the railings
below, he makes the sacrifice which, Leaska believes, ultimately enables
Clarissa to purge her own guilt and 'cling to the memory of her love [for
Sally Seton]' (116).
Inasmuch as Woolf's juxtaposition of Biblical history with the history of
her characters emphasizes the spiritual significance of die novel's events, the
novel's events conversely transform the Biblical metaphor through this relationship, a transformation that seems clearly designed to serve Woolf's own
political, spiritual, and social purposes. In order to adapt to the complex
demands of the twentieth century, her Bible story accounts for possibilities
that the authors of the original text would have most certainly considered
blasphemous. Thus, Biblical meaning is found in the lives of the English
upper class, homosexual attraction helps to define the Edenic state, and Christ
appears in, among other things, the form of a mentally ill war veteran.
Moreover, while die character of the Bible is decidedly patriarchal and
masculine in nature, Woolf's representation lays stress upon the feminine.
The figure of Chnst is not only split, but feminized, as the apocalyptic
prophesies envisioned by Septimus are completed in the novel's final scene
by his double Clarissa. Christ becomes Christess. As Septimus dies so that
Clarissa may live, Clarissa throws a party, her sacrifice, her 'offering' (184)
to life, so that odiers may be brought back to life. She ushers in the new
Eden. She is the one who speaks with the Prime Minister. Her party becomes
the occasion that makes the dead physically as well as spiritually rise from
their graves. Although Peter Walsh 'had been quite certain she was dead'
(287), Aunt Helena Parry suddenly appears in Clarissa's drawing room. Clarissa
believed diat Sally Seton had been the victim of'some awful tragedy' (277),
yet she, too, is 'resurrected' as the Lady Rosseter. As the circle that made up
that pivotal summer at Bourton is gradually restored into a paradisal state of
union and as the various consciousnesses that make up die party are joined
in 'oneness', the landscape reflects the establishment of a new Edenic order.
The birds of Paradise make their symbolic flight in and out of the room and
Mrs Hilbury marvels at the 'enchanted garden' (291) that now surrounds them.
Throughout the day and throughout her life, Clarissa has apprehensively
viewed death, in Jean Wyatt's words, as 'both alternative and threat' (451),
yet, by vicariously experiencing it through Septimus, it, now properly understood, no longer becomes a source of anxiety for her. Death is redefined as
the place of true communion where people from all walks of life may
ultimately 'embrace' (296). Emerging victorious from this struggle with
suicide and death, Clarissa wills herself back into life. On this point, I must
agree with Leaska that the novel's closing line, 'For there she was' (296),

St John's University, Jamaica, NY 11439,


Woolf; 77K Diary of Virginia Woolf,

vol. Ill, cd, A. O. Bell (New York:

Harcourt, 1980) p. 271
Mana DiBattista, for example, traces a
thematic cycle of 'both Genesis and
Apocalypse' in The Waves, while Perry
Meisel believes that the third part of To the
Lighthouse constitutes 'a state of wishful
modernist redemption' from the plenitude
of Mrs Ramsay's Edemc graces. M
DiBatosta, Virginia Woolf's Major Novels'

the Fables of Anon (New Haven- Yale UP,

1980) p. 187. P. Meisel, 'Deferred Action
in To the Lighthouse', Modem Critical
Interpretations To the Lighthouse, ed , Harold

Bloom (New York. Chelsea House, 1988)

p. 142
According to James Kong, Woolf was 'setting type for [the 1923 Hogarth Press edition of] The Waste Lana" at the same time
that she was developing the character of
Septimus Smith for Mrs Dalloway. She had
also read Ulysses before the completion of
her own novel and, in spite of her general
distaste for Joyce's work, begrudgjngly
expressed admiration for 'Hades', an episode which specifically concerns itself with
death and rebirth. J King, Virginia Woolf
(New York- Norton, 1995) p. 333.
* V. Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (San DiegoHarcourt, 1925) p. 256 AH references to
Mrs Dalloway are from this edition. I should
also point out that, while Woolf similarly
refers to this curtain in the 1923 notebook
version of Mrs Dalloway, she does not make

mention of'the birds of Paradise', a glaring

omission which suggests that its inclusion
in the published novel serves some thematic purpose.
As Neville in The Waves contrasts the vision
of Percival's fall into adulthood with
Percival in the Edemc state of youth, he
conceives that '[h]e will coarsen and snore.
He will marry and there will be scenes of
tenderness at breakfast. But now he is
young. Not a thread ... lies between him
and the sun' V. Woolf, The Waves (San
Diego. Harcourt, 1925) p 4.8.
The combination of these elements is certainly well within the framework of what
E R. Curous defines as locus amoenus, an
idealized 'topos of landscape description'
E. R. Curuus, European Literature and the

Latin Middle Ages, trans. W. Trask (New

York; Princeton UP, 1953) p. 198 For further discussion of the manifestation of the
locus amoenus in the novel, see also M
Hoff's, 'The Midday Topos in Mrs

Dalloway', Twentieth Century Literature 36:4

(1990) pp. 449-<53J. Milton, Paradise Lost IV.264-8, in John
Milton Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed.,

M. Y. Hughes (New York; MacMdlan,

Hoff, in fact, notes diat Peter's evaluation
of Bourton as 'a nice place, a very nice
place' (83) is 'a free translation of the Latin
locus amoenus' (450) and diat, through such
a statement, Peter has, in effect, pronounced 'Bourton a locus amoenus' (452).

Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

carries 'the fuller suggestion of a new Clarissa ..., finally at one with herself,
more fully conscious, and perhaps more enduring' (117). Where life earlier
could do nothing more for her than make her 'aged and breastless' and send
her off to the claustrophobic confines of the grave, it now holds potential
and beauty, as it once did when she was younger. The apocalyptic ending
of this day in June, a time of rebirth, brings with it the ending of an old way
of life, yet it simultaneously signifies what must be, for Clarissa, a new
beginning and what must reflect, for Woolf herself, a momentary resolution
in the ongoing spiritual redefinition of her own character.



Downloaded from http://litthe.oxfordjournals.org/ at Durham University Library on April 14, 2013

S. Dick, Virginia Woolf (London: Edward

ize the devastation of the landscape and the
loss of potency as a result of the War
Arnold, 1989) p 36
J Hilhs Miller, 'Mrs Dalloway. Repetition 16 W. Shakespeare, Hamlet 3.1.74, in The
as the Raising of the Dead', Modem Critical Riverside Shakespeare, ed., G Blakemore
Views: Virginia Woolf, ed., Harold Bloom Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).
J. M. Wyatt, 'Mrs Dalloway Literary
(New York. Chelsea House, 1986)
Allusion as Structural Metaphor', PMLA
pp. 169-90, p. 183.
M. A. Leaika, The Novels of Virginia Woolf 88:3 (1973) P-446
From Beginning to End (New York. John J.Joyce, Ulysses, ed., H. W. Gabler (New
York Random, 1986) p. 414.
>y, 1977) P- 108.
Matt. 10:6-8 All references to the Bible
According to Hermione Lee, 'the social
are taken from The Jerusalem Bible, ed., A.
arena of the Dalloways ... reflects Virginia
(New York Doubleday, 1968).
Woolf's fascinated dislike of die world of
According to Beverly A n n
society hostesses, eminent politicians, disS e p t i m u s ' n a m e (Latin for ' S e v e n t h ' ) refers
tinguished doctors and lawyers, and grand
to the seventh circle of Hell in Dante's
old dowager ladies' H. Lee, The Novels of
Inferno, which 'is die circle for war, suicide,
Virginia Woolf (New York Holmes and
sexual perversion'. The ordinal adjectMeier, 1977) p. 94
ive 'seventh', however, also has significance
The death of an immediate family member
in connection to Biblical numerology and
likewise brought an end to the innocence
and endings in the Bible Not
of Virginia Stephen and added to her quesonly is the seventh day the final day in the
tions of faith In 'A Sketch of the Past,' she
process of creation in Genesis, but the turn
states that 'the chatter and laughter of the
of events in Revelations is based upon a
summer' and the 'flashing visions of white
recurrence of sevens, the seventh and final
summer dresses and hansoms driving off to
act in these sequences typically being the
private views and dinner parties' suddenly
most devastating. God's final judgment
ended when she was thirteen, wim the
begins with the breaking of the seventh
death of her mother Juha By the time that
seal When the seventh angel blows the
she was twenty-four, she had also lost her
seventh trumpet, the ark of the covenant
half-sister Stella, her father, and her brother
is revealed and God's fury is unleashed
Thoby V Woolf, Moments of Being, ed,
upon the nations of the earth We are also
Jeanne Schulkind (New York: Harcourt,
told mat, of all the bowls of plagues that
1985) p. 94.
are emptied over the earth, the seventh
While Woolf's portrayal of the bitter, pious
bowl, bringing lightning, thunder, and a
Doris Kilman seemingly suggests an outviolent earthquake, 'is the most terrible'
nght rejection of religion, Clarissa's preoc(Rev. 16:21). B. A. Schlack, Continuing
cupation with her as well as Woolf's need
Presence: Virginia Woolf's Use of Literary
to include her in the novel effectively demAllusions (University Park Perm State UP,
onstrate the extent to which such religious
1979) P- 70.
devotion, as both alternative and opposi- 31 Woolf also connected these words to the
tion, influences the author and her main
death of her mother. As she was writing
character. Exemplifying the ambivalent
Mrs Dalloway, she, m a 1924 diary entry
feelings that Kilman obviously inspires in
that marked the twenty-ninth anniversary
her (and Woolf), Clarissa at the party even
of Juha Stephen's death, remembered that,
admits that 'she hated her she loved her'
on that day, 'old Dr Seton [walked] away
with his hands behind his back, as if to say
To the extent that Ceres is a goddess of
It is finished'. V. Woolf, The Diary of
fertility, agriculture, and harvest, the
Virginia Woolf, vol. II, ed., Anne Olivier
destruction of her statue could also symbolBell (New York Harcourt, 1978) p. 300.