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Mrs. Dalloway and the Social System

Alex Zwerdling
PMLA
Vol. 92, No. 1 (Jan., 1977), pp. 69-82
DOI: 10.2307/461415
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461415
Page Count: 14
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Mrs. Dalloway and the Social System
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Abstract

In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf wanted, as she says, "to criticise the social system, and to show it at work, at its most intense." Her critical attention is focused not on individuals but on the values of a particular class at a particular historical moment. Her novel examines the governing class's control over English society in the period immediately following the First World War, showing how coercive the ideal of stoical fortitude nurtured during the War had become by the time it was over. The dominant faith in the value of self-control creates an atmosphere of emotional austerity that in one way or another affects the behavior of all the characters in the novel. It inhibits the natural expression of feeling in those who live by the governing-class code and turns the more rebellious members of the society into unstable emotional exhibitionists.

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