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How are the themes of repression and oppression are presented in Mrs Dalloway?

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cristopherhs4 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:50 PM via web

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How are the themes of repression and oppression are presented in Mrs Dalloway?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2013 at 8:31 AM (Answer #1)

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In this novel everybody is shown to be oppressed by the inherent loneliness that is an essential part of living. This is shown most clearly during Clarissa's shopping expedition to Picadilly, when, even though she is surrounded by the heaving tumult of so many people rushing around, she is struck by how lonely she feels:

She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.

The image of the sea is an important symbol of the way in which this loneliness can threaten to drown those who are not strong enough to withstand it, such as Septimus and Lady Bradshaw. One of the essential truths of the human condition therefore in this novel is the oppression of loneliness and how it acts upon humans and threatens us.

Repression is shown through the way in which many, if not all of the characters are struggling with a sense of sadness that they battle against expressing. Clarissa, in the following quote, links this sadness to the aftermath of the Great War that has just been endured:

This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.

The reference to "Tears and sorrows" is particularly important in this text, for many characters are shown to cry as a result of unsuccessfully repressing their sorrow. Male and female characters alike, such as Septimus, Clarissa, Rezia and Peter Walsh, all break into tears during the course of the novel because of the great sorrow that lies within them that they have only tried to repress.

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