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An Abstract View of Death - as seen in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours.

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An Abstract View of Death Lisa Crain HUM 107W January 28, 2005 In Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours contradictory and almost altered views of death are presented. Virginia Woolf and Michael Cunningham portray death as escape for some, but an entrapment for others. It is no longer treated as a subject to worry about or fear, which society now views it as. A line from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, "Fear no more the heat o' the sun / Nor the furious winter rages," sums up what the authors of Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours are trying to convey. Meaning that death is not something to fear, and life should be lived to the fullest. The thought of death streamlines through several character's narratives in both novels. In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith are haunted with thoughts of death, while in The Hours, Richard Brown and Laura Brown also share similar thoughts. Their feelings on the subject are, however, different. It can also be said that their motives for dying or wanting to die are also quite different. The characters' thoughts, feelings, and reasons of death bring about parallel relationships between the two novels. Septimus Warren Smith, in my opinion, parallels Richard Brown. ...read more.


By dying before he was seen at the award ceremony, the last image that his peers have of him was from his best days of life. Richard describes it the best when talking about a vision he had of the ceremony. "'Being proud and brave in front of everyone. I recall it vividly. There I am, a sick, crazy wreck reaching out with trembling hands to receive his little trophy'" (Cunningham 62). Another parallel between the two novels is that of Clarissa Dalloway and Laura Brown. Their similarity is a sense of entrapment, which leads to thoughts of death. Clarissa Dalloway is a 1920's housewife. It is a time where a women's role was inside the home. Clarissa spent her days reading memoirs and trying to get her servants to like her. Her life was restricted to a very set routine. Even her marriage was routine and void of passion. "She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa and more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway" (Woolf 11). ...read more.


Clarissa realizes that live isn't worth living unless you are passionate and fulfilled when she hears of Septimus' suicide. "But this young man who had killed himself - had he plunged holding his treasure? 'If it were now to die, 'twere now to be most happy,' she had said to herself once, coming down in white" (Woolf 184). It's Septimus' suicide that makes Clarissa realize that life is too short to be scared and unhappy. In these cases, death was used as a way of awakening thoughts of happiness and love in both women's lives. Death becomes multifaceted through the analysis of these novels. The authors of Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours have created new definitions of what it means to die. Septimus uses death for relief, escape, and conservation. Richard also uses death as conservation, but also revenge on his estranged mother Laura. Clarissa sees Septimus' death as an awakening and a chance to start over. Laura however uses death as an alternative to running away from it all. Death is no longer just the ending to a life. It's a mean of preservation, escape, and awakening. "Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death" (Woolf 184). ...read more.

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