Please help me show how language shapes and reflects values through how language techniques reflect similarities and differences to contextual values in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very large undertaking in which, of course, eNotes can only point the way. We'll start by isolating a passage from the text that indicates contextual values, identify those values, then analyze the language techniques (if there are any) that help shape and reflect those values (if they do).

Now it was time to move, and, as a woman gathers her things together, her cloak, her gloves, her opera-glasses, and gets up to go out of the theatre into the street, she rose from the sofa and went to Peter.

The contextual social values revealed in this passage encompass women's gender role ("as a woman gathers her things"); gender perception; social conventions ("now it was time to move"); and social interactions, with limiting bounds ("out of the theatre into the street").

The language technique of simile shapes the first values of women's gender role and perception. It shows a comparison of private actions to public actions. This reflects the contextual value that there is no private world for women.

The language technique of juxtaposition, combining public and private, reflects the contextual social value that prohibits a private world for women: what they are in public, so must they be in private. The existence of men's clubs and men's universities and men's professions indicate this absence of a private world is not the case, is not true, for men. The language of the text supports this indication by avoiding any masculine pronouns or references, e.g., no mention of an escort going out "into the street" as well.

The language technique of vocabulary selection reflects the trivialization of women through enumeration of their trivial tools. Women's tools are trivial: a cloak, gloves, oper-glasses. Her tools do not include such significant male tools as The London Times Financial Section.

The language techniques of temporal (time) adverbs and locative (place) pronouns reflects the contextual value of woman's sphere. The theatre in London's West End, not the Stock Exchange, is women's sphere. In the West End, which is not the Exchange--as well as in her private parlour--she acts according to an external "Now" at which she gets "up" and goes "out" and goes "into." These language techniques shape and reflect the contextual social value of women's ultimate isolation. Ironically, though, there is a stream of characters in the narrative that reflect a universal consciousness and unity--except, it appears, for women.