Independent Assignment 6/24/21

In my experience the strongest papers on literary texts usually feature close readings of individual passages.  Thus for your independent assignment today, I would like you to find one short passage that is relevant to the paper you are writing from the novel you are analyzing. It can be as short as a paragraph. It shouldn’t be more than a couple pages long. Read the passage as slowly and attentively as you can, writing down anything you notice, any thoughts you have. After you’ve done this, read it again several times.  Try to read the passage slowly at least 5 times. Each time you do, write down your thoughts, and try to notice new things. Keep in mind whose point of view you are getting. Consider whether the author seems to be affirming that point of view or calling it into question. Pay attention to any phrases or words that seem strange or striking, and ask yourself why the author has chosen to use those phrases and words. Imagine replacing those words with other words. What gets lost? How does the particular language the author uses influence your understanding or experience of the passage? After you’ve read the passage at least 5 times and taken notes, look through what you’ve written down and identify any insights that you want to include in your paper. In the comment section, please write down one new idea you had about your topic as a result of this exercise.

17 thoughts on “Independent Assignment 6/24/21

  1. The two identities represented by Mrs. Dalloway and Clarissa. Mrs. Dalloway is presenting the marriage to Richard, a mother to Elizabeth, and a hostess to an upper-class party. Clarissa is presenting the memories of the past( when she was young), the relationship with Peter, and an unclarity feeling with Sally.

    “Thus, as Mrs. Dalloway’, she must forego much of what falls under the trope ‘Clarissa,’ just as her momentary returns throughout the day to the world of ‘Clarissa’ require her to sacrifice the ‘thousand’ other ’sympathies’ that fall under her identity as ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.” The author uses “forego”, “sacrifice” and “sympathies” to describe the relationship between the two identities as a transaction. Forego means that Clarissa gives up her passion, ambition, and frankness to Mrs. Dalloway to exchange social(upper class) status, wealth, and reputation. Sacrifice implies that Clarissa has to lose her sincerity and bravery to become a sophisticated lady for dealing with people from the upper class. Moreover, sympathies are not suitable for the upper class because Mrs. Dalloway needs to maintain her image of being majesty in front of others( maid, servant, or lower class). The analysis of the differences between Clarissa and Mrs. Dalloway brings a new understanding of the difficulty to stay independent for a woman. The title of Mrs. Dalloway reflects Richard’s power not Clarissa herself.

    Article: Perry Meisel, “Virginia Woolf and Walter Pater”

    • For this assignment, you were supposed to read a passage from the novel closely, not a critical article. You should find a passage from Mrs. Dalloway to analyze.

  2. “All the fighting that mattered had been done by others—by Italy, by his father, by his wife,”

    This line to me really forces me to think about how passive George has been and how he has been rewarded for not doing anything really but by being himself. “The fighting had been done by his wife” seems so “anti-masculine” that it makes you wonder who is truly in charge here. To be honest, I suspect that this is what Forster wants. In his familiar style of subtly, Forster is a defender of feminism in that his female character Lucy is able to be more advanced than George intellectually (and perhaps even emotionally) although you would not know it from simply watching her knit his socks. But Lucy is in fact the fighter as she has pushed herself out of her comfort zone to be with George and has simultaneously rescued him from his depression. We can see that the traditional medieval gender roles has been flipped with George playing a modern version of the medieval Lady. Lucy has done the most changing between the two and has “rushed into the fray” much like a Knight while George has been her inspiration much like the medieval lady. She does not conform to George but is instead inspired by him and his ideologies (even if she has to somewhat rescue him from it). Even the small moment afterwards where George is struggling to get rid of a cab driver gives us a glimpse into their power dynamics. George cannot communicate with the man so Lucy calmly enters the situation and gets rid of the driver by speaking in her now fluent Italian, a very different picture from when she was first in Italy and was lost without her Baedeker. Lucy is the thinker and the problem solver, constantly forced to examine situations and make confident decisions on her own. We see this in her decision to leave Cecil and her ponderings on remaining unmarried and getting an apartment on her own. George on the other hand, because of his feelings for her, is completely subjected to her will and is willing to uproot his life based on her decision to either stay with him or leave: “We either have you in our lives, or leave you to the life that you have chosen,” says Mr. Emerson in the penultimate chapter. George’s love, much like a medieval love, is a sickness; a damnable and oppressive force, that holds him immobile (unless he’s kissing Lucy). He is only forward when he is overcome with emotion and passion such as when he first sees Lucy in the park among the violets. It is Lucy, then, who must make sense of his advances and plan a subsequent course of action. As a result, Lucy represents a more traditionally “masculine” role while George is more traditionally “feminine”. Lucy is logical and authoritative while George is submissive and emotional, passively observing life.

    • A fascinating reading here. I think you’re exactly right that the gender roles do seem to get flipped–and you’ve found a lot of really good evidence to support your case. One small point I would make is that I don’t think Forster treats love as a sickness or a damnable and oppressive force. He’s generally pro-love. Otherwise, though, this is a great start.

  3. Lucrezia Warren Smith, sitting by her husband’s side on a seat in Regent’s Park in the Broad Walk, looked up.
    “Look, look, Septimus!” she cried. For Dr. Holmes had told her to make her husband (who had nothing whatever seriously the matter with him but was a little out of sorts) take an interest in things outside himself. (p. 31)

    I was looking for passages related to Septimus and his symptoms, and found quite a lot about Rezia as well — unsurprisingly of course. Upon reading her perspective however, I realize how heavily she believed Dr. Holmes (English standards) at first. She believed that Septimus needed to be hidden away (p. 22), etc, but eventually, she becomes the only person on Septimus’ side. This I knew I wanted to write about for my paper, but after seeing her initial thoughts and delving into them a little more deeply, I now believe that Woolf intentionally uses Rezia and her foreign identity (Italian) to showcase what “progress” could be if the English people could just step away from their imperialistic mindset. Being Italian, Rezia does not have that limitation, and she is therefore able to be the change (ignorant to ally) that Woolf wants to see in society. We the reader are able to watch Rezia’s growth through multiple passages, not just the one that I highlighted here, and how she is only truly happy after she accepts Septimus’ condition, and rejects how the Doctors believed she should handle him. She even literally steps in the way of English standards (in the form of Dr. Holmes) trying to force itself onto Septimus in the end. I think Woolf also doesn’t mean to say that being an ally will technically save more people, since Septimus still kills himself, but even the understanding of the situation can bring about much needed internal peace.

    • The idea that Rezia, as an Italian woman, is free of the British colonialist mindset is really interesting (Worth noting, though, that Italy has colonies in North Africa). I think you should develop it further. One word of caution: in your analysis you be careful not to treat Rezia as if she is infallible or fully accurate in her perception of what is happening. She generally refuses to acknowledge that Septimus has a problem. Her desire for everything to be okay prevents her from grasping the severity of his condition. She does, however, seem to understand Septimus better than Holmes or Bradshaw.

  4. A Room with a View, Forster:
    There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honour when she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamoured of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war–a radiant crust, built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory self.”

    Forster made a case for women’s individualism that showcases progressive views on feminism, but A Room with a View is not radical in its ideas. The novel does not provide a challenge to the role of wife and mother, but rather, supports the idea that women can have independent thought and interests adjacent to their traditional roles.

    Melissa Ortiz

    • Forster would probably hold that it’s possible to have independent thoughts and interests (and to have agency) even while adhering to traditional roles. Do you disagree? Why?

  5. That is the man all over—playing tricks on people, on the most sacred form of life that he can find. Next, I meet you together, and find him protecting and teaching you and your mother to be shocked, when it was for YOU to settle whether you were shocked or no. Cecil all over again. He daren’t let a woman decide. He’s the type who’s kept Europe back for a thousand years. Every moment of his life he’s forming you, telling you what’s charming or amusing or ladylike, telling you what a man thinks womanly; and you, you of all women, listen to his voice instead of to your own. So it was at the Rectory, when I met you both again; so it has been the whole of this afternoon. Therefore—not ‘therefore I kissed you,’ because the book made me do that, and I wish to goodness I had more self-control. I’m not ashamed. I don’t apologize. ( A Room with a View.)

    – George made it very clear that he was not going to apologize for acting upon his feelings. He kissed Lucy because he is in love with her and she must know that his feelings for her won’t go away.
    – George calls out Lucy’s fiancé on his horrible behavior. He seems very angry and he has the right to be since she is marrying a fool.
    – George explains how Cecil is dictating her feelings and emotions. Not giving her a chance to think on her own.

    • Do you think it’s ironic that George claims that Cecil is dictating Lucy’s feelings and emotions even while he, George, is also telling Lucy what to think and feel? What makes George better than Cecil? What kind of relationship between men and women is Forster advocating?

  6. “Worshipping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper… his sense of proportion” (Woolf 97).

    – The word worshipping: worships social order and like for things to be his way. “Worship” gives the impression that Bradshaw sees the idea of Proportion as a divine force, the only correct “religion.”
    – “secluded:” do not get to be part of the public, society cannot prosper with “deviants” like Septimus
    – England can only prosper with one general view of what is right and wrong. People with mental disorders and those who disrupt normalcy have to be stopped for England to look superior. Bradshaw’s views are the only way to do this
    – I wonder if Bradshaw himself has mental disorders or in the past. He had to conform to the idea as well in order to be a practitioner
    – Social order comes with a separation of sexes. Everyone has their role, and thats another reason why Septimus and Rezia are advised to be separated. They deviate from their gender roles as Rezia supports Septimus.
    – The Bradshaws are quintessential British citizens. Model citizens for those who deviate from normalcy
    – “prophetic Christs…” a mockery of the initial word in this paragraph. Are people with mental illnesses any different from Bradshaw?
    – “Drink milk in bed” treated like children again until they can be molded into the perfect citizen… kind of sounds like something a pediatrician would say
    – It feels like the last sentence is suggesting Bradshaw’s experience means nothing because he doesn’t actually help anyone with their problems
    – “infallible instinct:” also mocking him here, doctors are not infallible. Society and other professionals who profit off of mental illness see Bradshaw as the perfect doctor. This is just not true. However, this adds to my suspicion that his infallible instincts come from suffering himself

    • Some really great careful readings of Woolf’s language here! I hope you include some of this analysis in your final paper. It’s interesting that you say that Bradshaw himself has been forced to conform to certain norms. I wonder whether this means he’s as much a victim of the dominant ideology as he is one imposing his will on others.

  7. “…I would have held back if your Cecil had been a different person, I would never have let myself go. But I saw him first in the National Gallery, when he winced because my father mispronounced the names of great painters. Then he brings us here, and we find it is to play some silly trick on a kind neighbour. That is the man all over—playing tricks on people, on the most scared form of life that he can find. Next, I meet you together, and find him protecting and teaching you and your mother to be shocked, when it was for you to settle whether you were shocked or no… He daren’t let a women decide.” (pg. 167)
    George here is laying out all of the reasons why he believes that Cecil would be the wrong fit for Lucy and making the plea that he is instead the better choice. While explaining how Cecil makes Lucy think what he wants her to think he is ironically making her do the same thing. In the next couple pages of the book Lucy breaks off the engagement with Cecil. While she is breaking it off, she repeats what Georges points of view are as to why Cecil is wrong for her.

    • It’s very astute of you to recognize the irony in this moment. What do you think Forster is suggesting? Is it possible for Lucy to be with a man without letting him dictate her thoughts and feelings? Is Forster suggesting that she can gain power over life only if she rejects marriage altogether? Or does she achieve agency within marriage by the end of the book?

  8. For having lived in Westminster-how many years now? Over twenty,-one feels even in the midst of traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes… Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive…In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jungle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; This moment of June.” (Woolf; pgs. 1-2)

    I found this to be very interesting in terms of the background information, as well as the effect that the clock tower and Clarissa are moving in-sync with one another. As for the technique, the stream of consciousness, we are able to ‘feel the beauty’ of London. She also expresses her positivity about everything, even though the war has some sort of dark cloud over the people of London. This gives the reader a better understanding about Clarissa’s characteristics, as well as her decisions and reactions to the world around her.

  9. “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” (125)

    A connection can be made through death in Mrs. Dalloway. The death of Evans connects to Septimus. The death of Septimus connects to Clarissa.

  10. After a little while Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears. He had reached an age where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise, and when he looked around him now for the first time and saw the height and splendor of the hall and the great rooms opening out from it into other rooms his grief began to be mixed with an awed pride. I helped him to a bedroom upstairs; while he took off his coat and vest I told him that all arrangements had been deferred until he came” (128)

    Mr.Gatz’s reaction to seeing his dead son seems to be not all that impressive. As a reader going into such an intimate moment, father seeing his dead son, I would have expected more sadness. It is hard for me to believe Nick Caraway’s thought that once a man reaches a certain age, death does not phase him as much.

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