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WOOLF


 In a letter to Vita Sackville-West Virginia described her unhappy childhood "Think how I was brought up! No school, mooning about alone away my father's books; never any chance to pick up all that goes on in schools-throwing balls; ragging; slang; vulgarities; scenes; jealousies!". Virginia and her brother Thoby wrote in a home newspaper "Hyde Park Gate News" many invented tales and a family diary. During the summer holidays, Virginia went to Talland House in Cornwall, where she met Meredith and Henry James. In her childhood she was sexually abused by her stepbrothers. This event will help to increase her mental problems. She had the first breakdown when her mother died. In 1904 her father passed away and Virginia, Thoby and Vanessa moved to Bloomsbury. Here they founded a club of intellectuals and artists, called Bloomsbury group, formed by Leonard Woolf, Vanessa's husband, Lytton Strachey and many other Modernist artists. They gave importance to aesthetic pleasures and liked experimenting.

Virginia Adeline Woolf was born in January 25,1882 in London.
Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen was the editor of Dictionary of National Biography. Virginia and her sister Vanessa were brought up at home, but their brother attended Cambridge University.

In 1913, she completed her story " The Voyage out", after it, she had a depressive crisis and she tried to kill herself. Virginia suffered from maniac-depressive psycosis. She had other crisis in 1929 and in 1930. Every crisis was characterized by many symptoms. In her diary, Virginia, notes down and comments about her books and she gives descriptions of her feelings and her illness. She said that she was not only depressed but going "mad" and was beginning to hear voices and finally she couldn't concentrate, read or write. In the summer 1940, while Britain entered war, she became more and more depressed and in March 28, 1941 she committed suicide, leaving a short letter to her husband.

'Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that - everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer.
I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.
Virginia.'

V. Woolf's masterpiece "Mrs. Dalloway", influenced by Joyce's Ulysses, is a story, set in one day, but the narration proceeds through the character's memories, thoughts, associations of ideas.
Both Joyce and Woolf uses the interior monologue to exprime the stream of consciousness. Time seen like a series of different moments linked together by associations of ideas and imaginations.


All the characters in the novel have failed to live up to their early dreams and ambitions. Clarissa fears that her life has been superficial and passionless. Richard Dalloway has not succeeded in politics as he had hoped. Peter Walsh, a Socialist and would-be writer, has not fulfilled any of his literary ambitions. Sally Seton has married a bald manufacturer from Manchester. The intellectual Doris Kilman has become an embittered religious fanatic. Septimus Smith, who had dreamed of being a poet, suffers from an inability to love. The story of Clarissa crosses with the story of Septimus Warren Smith, a war veteran, who intersects with Clarissa's party when she hears of his death.
Virginia Woolf said that through this book she wanted to represent life and death, sanity and insanity.
Another theme of this text is the passage of time and the measuring out of human lives and seasons. The original title of "Mrs. Dalloway" was infact " The Hours".
At the beginning Virginia intended the book to end with Clarissa's death: "Mrs. Dalloway was originally to kill herself or perhaps merely to die at the end of the party". She was thinking of Clarissa as a deeply depressed woman. Instead it is Septimus Smith who kills himself, and who serves as Clarissa's double.
Septimus feels himself responsible for the death of Evans, his friend, who died during World War l. After returning from war, he understands that everything in his life is changed, he can't appreciate literature, he doesn't love his wife and doesn't want a child. He thinks that human being have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment. He suffers from headaches, sleeplessness, fears, dreams, in particular his haunted by the spectre of Evans. His visual and auditory hallucinations, his delusion of omnipotence, and his accompanying sense of guilt suggest schizophrenic.
At the end he can't distinguish between reality and hallucination. Septimus isn't only traumatized by the war but his is a serious mental illness.
At the end Septimus commits suicide, this act is seen by Clarissa as a heroic act of defiance. Septimus's death is a reminder of the intensity and joy of a life, even if beyond the triumphs of youth.
Clarissa identifies herself with Septimus, this identification is a part of her realization of her own limits and possibilities. "For there she was", the novel ends, insisting that as readers we too must take Clarissa on her own terms. Despite its fascination with death, Mrs. Dalloway ends, as it begins, with a tribute to endurance, survival, and joy.
At the beginning of the story Clarissa thinks about death "did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?". Now she is living a drama, she hopes to return to the happiness of that time when she was young. Only in the evening, at the party when she knew that a young man had thrown himself from the window she thinks about death and life.

"They went on living. They would grow old. A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies chatter. This he had preserved. 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.[] Then there was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one's parents giving it into one's hands, this is life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart an awful fear.[] She had escaped. But that young man had killed himself. Somehow it was her disaster-her disgrace. It was her punishment to see sink and disappear here a man, there a woman, in this profound darkness, and she forced to stand here in her evening dress. She had schemed; she had pilfered. She was never wholly admirable. Odd, incredible; she had never been so happy. Nothing could be slow enough; nothing last too long. No pleasure could equal, she thought, straightening the chairs, pushing in one book on the shelf, this having done with the triumphs of youth, lost herself in the process of living, to find it, with a shock of delight, as the sun rose, as the day sank"
She thinks to her life and to Septimus's death, who had the courage to put on end to his life, Clarissa will continue to live and she rediscovers the joy of life, leaving old memories and her sad emotions.

In 1999 Micheal Cunningham (1952-) won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction "The Hours". This novel had origin in Cunningham's passionate interest in Virginia Woolf, her life, her works, her new conception of fiction. Cunningham's work refracts the life of three characters. The first one is Mrs Dalloway, a woman living in New York at the end of 20th century. The second character of the novel is Clarissa Vaughan, who is organizing a party for her dear friend Richard, who is dying of Aids and at last commits suicide. (Compare with Septimus) The third character is a simple housewife, Laura Brown, who chooses to leave her boring life for one day. She takes her favourite novel, Mrs Dalloway, goes to a hotel where take a room for one night. There she feels as if she had entered a dream of one day.
Intermingled with these three characters, there are six chapters and a prologue entitled "Mrs Woolf", in which Cunningham gives us flashes of Virginia Woolf's life, of her thoughts and sensation, as if she were for him a character above the other three. In the prologue of "The Hours" there is a description of the last moments of Virginia Woolf's life as Cunningham recreates them.

"She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941. Another war has begun. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa. She walks purposefully toward the river, certain of what she'll do, but even now she is almost distracted by the sight of the downs, the church, and a scattering of sheep, incandescent, tinged with a faint hint of sulfur, grazing under a darkening sky. She pauses, watching the sheep and the sky, then walks on. The voices murmur behind her; bombers drone in the sky, though she looks for the planes and can't see them.[] She stands close to the edge of the river, which laps against the bank, filling the small irregularities in the mud with clear water that might be a different substance altogether from the yellow-brown, dappled stuff, solid-looking as a road, that extends so steadily from bank to bank. She steps forward. She does not remove her shoes. The water is cold, but not unbearably so. She pauses, standing in cold water up to her knees. She thinks of Leonard. She thinks of his hands and his face, the deep lines around his mouth.[] She could probably return in time to destroy the notes. She could live on; she could perform that final kindness. Standing knee-deep in the moving water, she decides against it. The voices are here, the headache is coming, and if she restores herself to the care of Leonard and Vanessa they won't let her go again, will they?[] Almost involuntarily (it feels involuntary, to her) she steps or stumbles forward,[] Then the current wraps itself around her and takes her with such sudden, muscular force it feels as if a strong man has risen from the bottom, grabbed her legs and held them to his chest. It feels personal."


Percorso interdisciplinare di giulia zanier anno scolastico 2004-2005 liceo scientifico "G.Oberdan" Trieste


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