Independent Assignment 6/21/21

Look over the Essay #1 Prompts.  Consider which question you would like to answer.  Once you’ve tentatively decided on a question, write down some initial thoughts in response to the answer. Consider which scenes from the text might prove most relevant and identity them in your notes.  You should try to identify roughly 2-3 scenes or passages. When you have finished, share your notes (or the part of your notes that you think is most representative of what you will be arguing) in the comment section under this post.

If you can’t find a question that you would like to answer, then you may devise your own question.  It should be focused on either A Room with a View or Mrs. Dalloway. If you choose this option, please submit a draft of your question in the comment section.


32 thoughts on “Independent Assignment 6/21/21

  1. Is it possible to use two questions to do the essay?

    3. I think Virginia Woolf focused on time for the main idea of what little time can pass through and the experiences you can receive from the characters and events that can happen throughout the passage of time. We are focused on many differently characters, but the message of time helps us understand what is happening to the characters and the decision they make, and what is taking place next. I can see that the narrative or stylistic strategy because of the flow of the character while the reader is reading. In the opening scene, when we read about the stroll that Mrs. Dalloway is taking down the street, remarking on the troubles, or remarks she has while having a peaceful stroll before she has to get ready for the party she is hosting.
    4. I think Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway does teach us the ‘inner thoughts’ to the Characters within the book because of the way she gives the description about mental illness throughout the novel. In the first section of the book, we get a sense of the Clarissa, Peter and Mr. Dalloway’s behavior, decision making, and personal view of the sort. After that is sorted out we soon learn about the effects of the war through the character Septimus. Within the conversations of Septimus and his ‘doctors’, we learn more and more about his traumatic experience, and the sort of PTSD or shell shock his mind is going through, even though the war is over. I think the unique thing about Woolf’s writing is that she makes the remarks so surreal as if she was having her own mental illness. She adds very descriptive context that adds, in some way, drama to the society that the characters are currently living in. Since it focuses in the British monarchy, I believe that has some influence about the characters position in that society, and what they do. A Couple examples of this would be the opening chapter/section of the book where we learn the mindsets of Clarissa and George about their love for each other, or what once was. Another example, of course, is the mental crisis Septimus is currently experiencing in the novel. (PAGES: 13, 38-40, and 53-54)

    • You should focus on only one question, not two. If you try to answer two questions, you don’t be able to explore either in sufficient detail and depth. Also, you’ll have two separate arguments rather than one. It seems like you may have more to say about question #4 than #3, but it’s up to you, which one you want to write about.

  2. 3.Time is obviously a central preoccupation for Virginia Woolf. What is she trying to suggest about the way we experience the passage of time, and how do her stylistic or narrative strategies allow her to capture that experience?
    This question seemed the most intriguing to me. The way that time is used in Mrs. Dalloway is very prominant throughout the entire book. A couple scenes that come to mind when brainstorming this topic are when Septimus is in the park and struggling returning to the post-war world, and linking that back to the passage used in class today about his experience in war, with his friends death, war is “sublime”. Also linking the passage of time some how with his mental health problems. Another part of the book that could be used is the relationship with Mrs. Dalloway and Peter Walsh’s relationship and how that has evolved over time. Time is such an important aspect of all stories because it is how we perceive the story unfolding, they both go hand in hand and it is very interesting when that is not as straight forward as it usually is in traditional stories.

    • This is a good start. You should think about how characters experience the passage of time and why Woolf often chooses to tell the story in an alinear, non-chronological fashion. What does this reveal about our experience of time?

  3. Prompt #5
    In Mrs.Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Woolf espouses a feminist stance through the connection and interleaving between reality and memory of Mrs.Dalloway’s one-day life. Mrs. Dalloway is a wise woman who had dreams and goals that she wants to pursue. However, she has to pretend that she only knows some basic understanding of politics, society, and others because she has to match her husband’s knowledge level, “With a mind of her own, she must always be quoting Richard—as if one couldn’t know to a tittle what Richard thought by reading the Morning Post of a morning!”(Woolf 69). It is pathetic women cannot display their talents on their own. Society does not allow women to be independent and be themselves. Women only exist in the eyes of their husbands, brothers, and sons. Moreover, women have to be lived as how society requires, with the rules and norms set up by patriarchal power.

    • Great topic. You might think about whether Clarissa is able to achieve any kind of agency in this society. If so, how? What is she able to accomplish within the confines of a patriarchal society? What is she not able to accomplish?

  4. The last question- How are the texts we read modern? In terms of newness, the novelty, or the historical moment? For this question, I want to focus on Mrs Dalloway by Virgnia Woolf. I feel as if there is a lot of content I can analyze as well as Woolf’s style of writing.

    Passage 1- Topic of Sexuality

    “Then came the most exquisite moment of her whole life passing a stone urn with flowers in it. Sally stopped; picked a flower; kisser her on the lips. The whole world might have turned upside down!”

    This is a powerful moment in the book portraying Clarissa’s conflict with her identity involving sexuality and with whom her heart resides. In many novels during this time, sexuality was rarely discussed or implemented as a reoccurring theme.

    Passage 2- When Clarissa is walking in London and getting flashbacks of Bourton.
    Topic- Her writing is

    This is one of the most powerful parts of the book when Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style of writing is exemplified. This form of writing allows readers to understand and partake in the character’s thoughts. This style of writing resembles the realistic way humans think and stream of thoughts which compared to other novels is less implemented and makes this style contemporary.

    Passage 3- Mental Illness/Death

    “What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? A young man had killed himself. And they talked of it at her party– the Bradshaws, talked of death.”

    Many people don’t discuss mental health and what many people fear; death. Death is directly confronted by Clarissa once the news has spread in her party of Septimus’s suicide. I feel as if generally this topic isn’t as prominent in other novels, and death being a central theme in this novel contributes to modernism.

    • You bring up a number of really striking examples. For your paper, you might think about what connects them all. Would you say that Woolf is committed to breaking certain powerful taboos in society? Is that a primary motive for her?

  5. 6. Again, focusing on either A Room with a View or Mrs. Dalloway, what makes that author’s text modern? How does the text demonstrate an awareness of the newness, the novelty, of its historical moment? Does the text break with tradition? How so? In answering this question, please consider both the themes explored and the styles employed by the author in question.

    Mrs. Dalloway offers an intricate level of modernity in its ability to capture the unspoken problems, thoughts, and desires of individuals in oppressive and restrictive environments. Its delivery parallels the human stream of consciousness and provides readers with an effective portrayal of how complex people actually are. Externally, people such as Clarissa Dalloway must uphold a public image, but internally she lives in her old realm outside of social conventions. In the same way the book touches on modern discourse about mental health, it also provides a rather controversial criticism of Britain that exposes the challenges of being an individual in a society obsessed with facades. Britain is not perfect, neither in its controlling nature nor in its persistence to silence those who suffer (like Septimus). Lastly, Mrs. Dalloway subtly embodies modernity through self-discovery and sexual exploration. She questions her identity throughout the entire novel, digging for her own desires and an individuality outside of societal expectations.

    Criticism of British society
    “But Proportion has a sister, less smiling, more formidable, a Goddess even now engaged– in the heat and sands of India, the mud and swamp of Africa, the purlieus of London, wherever in short the climate or devil tempts men to fall from true belief which is her own… Conversion is her name” (Woolf 97).

    Mrs. Dalloway self-discovery
    1. First page starts with “Mrs. Dalloway” and last page ends with “Clarissa”
    2. “She felt somehow very like him– the young man who ahd killed himself. She felt glad he had done it; thrown it away… He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun” (Woolf 182).

    Suffering and loneliness
    1. “Once you fall, Septimus repeated to himself, human nature is on you. Holmes and Bradshaw are on you. They scout the desert. They fly screaming into the wilderness… Human nature is remorseless” (Woolf 95).
    2. Page 141 again where he feels alone (before committing suicide wants his notes burned)

    • Some very smart opening ideas here. You’ll need to think a bit more about what connects your examples. It seems like your overall focus is Woolf’s critique of the social expectations and constraints and her dramatization of how individuals discover freedom and autonomy within those constraints.

  6. Essay Prompt #6: Again, focusing on either A Room with a View or Mrs. Dalloway, what makes that author’s text modern? How does the text demonstrate an awareness of the newness, the novelty, of its historical moment? Does the text break with tradition? How so? In answering this question, please consider both the themes explored and the styles employed by the author in question.
    I would say that Mrs. Dalloway is more of a modern text, this Is shown through certain interactions between the characters of Sally and Clarissa. The kiss the girls share wouldn’t be acceptable in an older time, the girls would be judged. As Clarissa meets Peter again, she reconnects with her past and admits she felt love and was sexually attracted towards Sally which once again would be unacceptable if we were talking about sexuality in the 1920’s many people would look down on these girls.
    Clarissa also embodies self-discovery she spends the entire book trying to find what makes her happy while she tries to avoid society and the expectations set for 50-year-old woman. Clarissa spends her life trying to fit into such society standards which makes her feel lonely while married to Richard.
    Lastly, I would say the death scenes and the mental illness that Septimus encounters sheds light on the newness found through Woolf’s writing style. Compared to many novels that were written back then death and mental illness wasn’t broadcasted and focused on how Woolf focused on it. The trauma experienced through Septimus helps focus on such modern text.

    • You have some promising ideas here. You should think a bit about how to connect them into a single overarching argument. It seems like you’re exploring how Woolf represents certain taboo topics. A couple things to keep in mind: the kiss between Clarissa and Sally would have been a scandal during the 1890s when it happened; that’s why it was kept secret. And Clarissa does not admit her desires to anyone else. In general, she doesn’t avoid society or its expectations; she leads a fairly conventional life. But her inner life may be another story.

  7. Prompt #5:
    So far, I am interested on prompt #5 which speaks about feminism in either book. I chose to use A Room with a View which E.M. Forster speaks against feminism. While I was reading this novel, I noticed there was a lot of sexism occurring. This sexism not only came from men but as well as women.
    (1) Chapter 3: Miss Lavish announces that she is no longer in the Victorian era which makes her more modernized and feministic, but Miss Alan looks down upon her. Miss Lavish seems do stuff that makes Miss Alan and others think her behavior is unladylike.
    (2) Chapter 16: George tells Lucy that Cecil does not treat women correctly. He is unfair and his sexism overpowers him. Unlike the others, George is realistic and honest with his feelings.

    • You’ve found some important examples of sexism in the book. The question you’ll need to think about is what is Forster’s stance? Does he reaffirm the sexism of the characters or does he challenge their sexism?

  8. I will be writing a response to essay prompt #6, addressing its question of “what makes the author’s text modern?” I will answer this question in reference to Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, by discussing Septimus Warren Smith’s mental disorder symptoms, and how Woolf’s description of his[/her] experience of being “treated” challenges the traditional English imperialism mindset. For my paper I plan to begin with a brief summary of the novel, pointing out key scenes which I will refer to at a later time. I then plan to use scenes from the text to first establish Woolf’s definition of “traditional” or “conservative” English standards of society (Peter Walsh and his extreme patriotism, people being excited to see the prime minister at the party, Drs. Holmes’ and Bradshaw’s attitudes about their failures at treating much less diagnosing Septimus). After that I’ll bring up scenes and characters whom Woolf uses to provide contrast to those standards, then build a case for what I will argue is Woolf’s idea of modernity and how it challenges the traditional/conservative views. (Detailed descriptions of Septimus’ active symptoms in that the existence of these alone are claiming that mental malladies exist which disputes all known medical information thus far, Rezia’s resistance towards the damning prognoses, Septimus’ resistance to the Drs, Septimus’ suicide and how the news of the suicide breaches Clarissa Dalloway’s party).

    • Some really provocative opening thoughts here. Does Woolf, in your view, suggest that certain new modern tendencies will challenge or destroy the destructive and inhibiting conventions of the past? Which tendencies? What kind of progress is Woolf envisioning?

      (One small note: certain medical experts, such as Bradshaw, do already acknowledge the existence of medical maladies. But the vast majority of doctors focus exclusively on physiological problems.)

  9. I do not know whether my ideas fit more with question 2 or 6 but I think my argument is a mixture of them: I think what makes A Room With a View modern is the way Forster characterizes his young adults, particularly George. George is independent of restrictive social conventions and even shows influence over his adult counterparts such as Mr. Beebe. He is able to subtly yet passively transform those around him. In the same way George also does not neatly fall into the standard male gender role. He is emotional rather than logical and does not assume authority over Lucy. This demonstrates that Forster’s ideal world is fluid and nonrestrictive. He is emphasizing the equality between the sexes and does not treat youth as subservient to adulthood.

    Examples: George gets Mr. Bebee to bathe in the pool, The lines in the last chapter of the book that reflect on how George did not really do much to actively get Lucy but how it was the work of everyone around him.

    • This is really promising argument. It would work as an answer to either question #2 or #6, so you can pick either. You should just focus on offering the reading that is most interesting to you. one question I have: is Forster suggesting that the young have a perspective or an approach to life that is compelling, simply by virtue of their youth? What about the young makes them a positive force? Or is Forster simply suggesting that those who are older should not automatically be granted authority and power?

  10. This is a small start that I have for question 5.

    5. Mrs. Dalloway, widely regarded as Virginia Woolf’s finest, is a novel rich in topics. Woolf has a lot to say about society and postwar changes, but feminism is a constant topic throughout the work. Clarissa’s marriage to Richard Dalloway, the protagonist of the novel, ended in disaster. Richard was more interested in politics than his wife. He left his wife for a conference he didn’t care about as a result of his adherence to upper-class social obligations. Richard was once again invited to Lady Bruton’s party without his wife. Clarissa felt a sense of emptiness and insignificance at this point and she ridicules her husband’s attempt to replace her warmth with a hot water bottle. Woolf shows us that in patriarchal culture, marriage is not a guarantee of a good relationship and mutual understanding between a husband and a wife.

    • I think it’s very smart to focus on the marriage between Clarissa and Richard. But I would caution against making overly-strong claims. The novels doesn’t suggest that the marriage between the two of them is a disaster. Clarissa has her moments of dissatisfaction, but in many moments she claims to be happy with Richard. I think you can make a very compelling argument that focuses on the problems in their marriage–particularly the power imbalance–without overstating Clarissa’s degree of unhappiness.

  11. #3. Time
    I might try to compare Woolf’s writing to Einstein’s Space-time. Woolf is suggesting that a person’s perspective can impact another person. It can appear differently to two people. Similar to Einstein’s space-time where the fourth dimension can appear different to two observers depending on one’s viewpoint or when we see the Moon its is actually what the Moon was like 1¼ seconds ago.

    I plan to setup my paper by discussing how time is marked by big ben; the juxtaposition of young memories and present reality; How Clarissa’s and Septimus’ similar yet different perspectives seem to blur into one another; How life impacts someone. I may drop Einstein but still try to get my points across by using the space-time idea.


    (Big Ben / events take place in one day)
    “It is this, he said, as he entered Dean’s Yard. Big Ben was beginning to strike, first the warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. Lunch parties waste the entire afternoon, he thought, approaching his door.”
    “The sound of Big Ben flooded Clarissa’s drawing-room, where she sat, ever so annoyed, at her writing-table; worried; annoyed. It was perfectly true that she had not asked Ellie Henderson to her party; but she had done it on purpose. Now Mrs. Marsham wrote “she had told Ellie Henderson she would ask Clarissa–Ellie so much wanted to come.”

    Clarissa had a theory in those days–they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not “here, here, here”; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter–even trees, or barns. It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death . . . perhaps–perhaps.

    (Septimus /Clarissa/ Big Ben)
    The young man had killed himself; but she did not pity him; with the clock striking the hour, one, two, three, she did not pity him, with all this going on. There! the old lady had put out her light! the whole house was dark now with this going on, she repeated, and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun. She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night! She felt somehow very like him–the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.

    • Very ambitious topic! Given that you have only 3-5 pages, I agree that it might be wise to avoid trying to explain Einstein’s theory of space-time–which on its own could take up pages and pages. But I do think focusing on how the passage of time and the experience of time are relative to a particular individual’s point of view would make for a fascinating paper. I don’t entirely understand what you mean when you say that you’ll be talking about how one person’s perspective can impact another person. So that’s something you’ll need to be sure to articulate clearly in the essay.

  12. I’ve been struggling the past few days to think of a question to answer and had spent a lot of time pondering my own question to answer. However, after a few days of reflection, I became drawn to the third prompt. Ms. Dalloway takes place over the course of a singular day. We’re introduced to the titular character as she steps out into the world, ready to prepare for a party and it ends with Peter thinking of Clarissa. I think this passage of time is immensely unique. I’m used to reading books where characters, settings, and plots are developed over the course of the course of weeks or months, if not years. Many of my favorite novels to read growing up were series which is usually based around the passage of lots of time (aka seeing Harry grow old in the HP series or reading about Percy becoming a counselor in Percy Jackson). Because of this, I found the character development to be one of the most stylistically creative ways of writing I had ever read through. Having to grow through an ocean of emotions, feelings, and revisiting the past in a singular day felt foreign to me to read, yet when I think about my own days, I realized it was very much the same. I recently spent this past day driving past Battery Park City. I saw Stuyvesant for the first time in a couple of years since I graduated and met up with some high school friends that are still great friends of mine while reconnecting with a few others that I had lost touch with. Throughout the day, I felt as though I was living two separate lives. One was the life I was living in the present, but the other life I was leading was the life of the past. I was re-experiencing past memories but I also had thoughts in the present to see how far time has passed, much like Clarissa did in the novel. We’re given glimpses of memories from other characters such as Septimus and Peter and we see how their experiences are shaped differently based on their past experiences. Hearing my friends talk about both the past and the present, as well as how the past affected the present, made me realize something almost supernatural. Time isn’t linear. I’ve always thought that it was. One of my favorite Greek plays about Oedipus introduced the idea of the passage of time through the Sphinx’s riddle. Woolf challenges this idea throughout her entire novel and being able to understand and empathize with the characters in the novel made me able to relate to them on a much deeper level. I think this is a theme I’d love to be able to explore further. If possible, I’d like to write 3-5 pages discussing this theme about the novel, but I was also wondering if it’d be possible for me to include a page or two about my own experiences as I feel as though it would add to the essay.

    • These are some really insightful initial thoughts. You have a great topic: I think focusing on how we live in two different worlds simultaneously, how the the past continues to make an appearance in the present, and how our experience of time is not actually linear–are all really important points to explore. I also think it would be great to bring in your own life experience. Just make sure you give yourself enough space to analyze 2-3 passages or scenes from the text carefully. You may need to go over the page limit, but that’s fine.

  13. Prompt #5)

    I would like to explore how A Room with a View aligns with a feminine stance and where it may be misguided in that regard. I find it interesting that a male author would dedicate so much of his societal critique to the expectations placed on women.

    The perfect first example is the Medieval Lady monologue. To qualify the expectations of female adequacy as medieval is to (mockingly) say that they are outdated and do not represent women as individuals. Such a criticism can definitely be construed as advancing feminist ideals.

    Another example is the match between Lucy and George. George explains that he loves Lucy as she is and does not intend to force his opinions on her. He wants her to have her own independent thought. George admits that he is flawed and still feels the need to possess her, but that he is aware of this fault and that men and women need to work together to overcome outdated expectations. This scene is very relevant. Forster is talking about allyship. He believes it is not enough for men to “not oppose” women’s independence but that they should actively support it.

    As a final example, to examine the other side of the argument, did Lucy need to marry at all? She had no financial need, which is one of the biggest motivators for marriage to this day. Couldn’t she have travelled for a few months, continued her personal growth on her own and then came back to George? Couldn’t she have attended piano concerts, taken advanced classes, nurtured her hobby and then came back to George, if she must marry?

    • You’re exploring a really interesting issue in the book, and you’re asking all the right questions. I also think you have three really good examples that you can analyze further. I notice in your final example, you point out that Lucy does not need to marry because her family is relatively wealthy. But this raises a question: even if she did go to Greece and delay marriage, could she be a model for feminist empowerment across class and racial lines? Or is she only a figure for upper-middle-class white feminism? You don’t have to answer this question, but it’s one that might be interesting to think about. More importantly, why do you think Forster chooses to end the book with marriage? What motivates him to stick to this traditional plot? What does this reveal about the social pressures and conventions that he is claiming to challenge?

  14. 2.. A Room with a View seems to offer a challenge to many traditions and attitudes leftover from the Victorian era: church doctrine, class hierarchies, social conventions. But does it offer a possible vision to replace the world that it rejects? How would you characterize the politics of the book? What kind of society does it imagine? How does Forster suggest we should treat each other? How should we behave? On what basis should we decide how to live? What is wrong with the way society is structured and the way people like Lucy are asked to lead their lives and what alternative does Forster propose? Please support your argument with specific passages from the text.
    The Book A Room with a View written E.M.Foster, gave the audience of its time a futuristic view of society, where men and women would be equal or slowly getting there. Where class and status were important but not everything. Where people start questioning religion as we notice in the scene of Lucy and Mr. Emerson back in Italy in the church Of Santa Croce, as lucy notice people praying to the painting of Machiavelli, which she thought was eerie. Moreover, the author really helped us see the reality of women in the medieval time, and how she was supposed to act, be and live; yet Foster through the main character Lucy would rebel against those norms, the norms of the right and wrong suitor as Lucy debate between Mr. George and Mr. Cecil.

    • You’re bringing up a number of great examples of how Forster challenges various traditions. I would recommend organizing your paper around three sections: one on gender roles, one on class divisions, and one on Christianity. A question you might consider is whether Foster is imagining the future or whether he is describing something that is already happening. Could one argue that these traditions are already breaking down and that Forster is celebrating this development and advocating for further reform?

  15. 3.Time is obviously a central preoccupation for Virginia Woolf. What is she trying to suggest about the way we experience the passage of time, and how do her stylistic or narrative strategies allow her to capture that experience?
    I think time is an interesting topic to explore and discuss. I am very interested in it. Some examples I have in mind are Septimus still stuck in the time when war was still ongoing. Stuck in his past. Another example is Mrs. Dalloway thinking of her past. The decision’s she made in which lead to her current present. And also her recovery from which she had almost experience death which leads her to think of her future. What happens after she dies. When I think of time, the past, present, and future just pops in my mind.

    • This is a great start. You should work to develop this into a straightforward thesis. What is Woolf’s novel suggesting about the human experience of time?

  16. I would like to explore feminism in the novel Ms.Dalloway.

    5. Focusing on either A Room with a View or Mrs. Dalloway, explain whether you think his/her work espouses a feminist or an anti-feminist stance. Does the text appear to celebrate those actions which further independence and empowerment for women? What kind of depiction does it offer of its female characters?

    This is the prompt that I have chosen. In my essay I would like to focus on how Virginia Woolf depicts feminism through Clarissa. I will analyze her writing techniques to see how she writes about Clarissa in comparison to male authority figures like the Prime Minister. Also I would like to analyze Clarissa independent personality and her feminine complexity. The way that she like to host parties for the high rank English society.

  17. 5. I chose to focus on whether Forester presents a feminist or anti feminist view point.
    – At first one may think Forester is presenting a feminist view point, but to me it seems he is mocking feminism.
    – He does this by making the story about Lucy having to choose discovering herself, George or Cecil.
    – Forester paints Lucy as this character who wants to discover what life has to offer but yet the final decision in the book was choosing a man. Not only that, George, a man had to point out to Lucy that her relationship with Cecil was toxic as if George was there to save her.

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