Modernism in the XX century in GreatBritain brought us one of the best literature authors, James Joyce and VirginiaWoolf. They are considered two of the most important and influential authors todate. Among their many writings, two of them stand out the most for both. ForJoyce, one short story called “The Dead” which is one of his 15 short storiesabout the lives of the middle-class people from Dublin at the start of the XXcentury and for Virginia Woolf, one of her best know novels Mrs. Dalloway,which describes a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society womanafter the first world war.
Between these 2 very important writings there aresome similarities as well as some differences. Starting with the time they were written in, as previously mentionedboth works are written in the literature modernism which means the XX century.There is though just one major difference, even though both are from the XXcentury, they were written at different “times”.What I domean by “time” is that James Joyce’s “The Dead” was published in 1914 which isthe year the first World War started while Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway waswritten after the war. The difference here can be found insidethe works, while Joyce concentrates to show the world how the middle class fromDublin and Ireland lived at the beginning of the XX century, in VirginiaWoolf’s book, especially at the end we can see how the character is contemplatingabout death and about himself. You can see how the war present in Mrs.
Dallowayis influencing the characters and how the people from the novel and maybe evenVirginia herself have no idea what is going to happen with the world after theWar. After reading the works, at a glance overthe title we notice a big difference between the two. In Mrs. Dalloway, thetitle is the last name of the main character: Dalloway which we can say it is astraight forward title, not giving much to think to the readers. But wait asecond, the title does not include the name of Clarissa, it is just plainDalloway, this might mean on one hand that this Mrs.
Dalloway is married,otherwise she would have been Miss and on the other hand, the title emphasizesthe fact that probably Clarissa loves Richard more than Peter and she isdevoted to him. In Joyce’s work, the title “The Dead” can be understood indifferent ways. The title implies death, but we don’t really get much deathfrom the story, and actually nobody dies in the same day as the action, deathis only present in one of the flashbacks, mainly when Gretta tells Gabriel amemory of her past, about her former lover Michael Furey who died from coldwaiting outside Gretta’s window. If we don’t take into consideration whenboth of the works were written and what the plot is focusing on, then we cansee one big main similarity between the two and one characteristic of themodernism: the action from both of the stories happens in only one day and theyboth have a party at the end.
Though it is worth mentioned that again, bothworks have also some flashbacks of the main characters even though the actionis only one day long. By making the action only one day long, the authorswanted to get away from your usually novel which happens during at least a yearor two or maybe even a lifetime. Though maybe this is not a really good thingas we kind of miss some important details about the characters, in a novelbased on one day only you cannot know very much about the lives of thecharacters, how they got where they are right now, what childhood did they haveetc. I think though that both works managed to deliver their message and alsowe have the flashbacks which are very welcomed as they inform us regarding thepast of some characters. Also from the beginning we can noticesomething which for some people may be important, we have 2 different characterregarding the gender. In Mrs. Dalloway, as the title suggest the main characteris a woman, more specifically Clarissa Dalloway while in “The Dead” the maincharacter is a man called Gabriel Conroy.
Maybe this also has to do with thefact that Joyce was a man and Virginia a woman, but in the end, who knows, itis very hard to tell. It is worth mentioning that in Mrs. Dalloway we also seea little of the action, or better said some flashbacks of a man called SeptimusWarren Smith who is, or better said was a veteran from the first World War. TheWar left him dead inside and he is not capable to have feelings.
Both of thecharacters have different roles at each of the parties they attend. ClarissaDalloway is the one who hosts the party in Virginia Woolf’s book while GabrielConroy is just a person invited to the party so already from here we have twoperspectives. Clarissa, besides the love for her husband and maybe for Peter(it is still not sure if she does indeed love Peter or maybe it was a thing of thepast) while Gabriel does not think about much only towards the end when hiswife tells him something from her past which makes him contemplate to thefuture. During the day, Gabriel is only going along with the party, meetingpeople, like little Lily or his cousins.
Something that these two characters havein common is love (what would be a story or a novel without love). Morespecifically past love, or lovers. A little difference is that in Mrs.
Dallowaythe past lover, Peter is alive and is still in contact with Clarissa eventhough he does not really confesses for her, he just asks if Clarissa loves herhusband, and Peter does not have that big of an impact in the novel while inJoyce’s story, Furey is what triggers Gretta to enter in a stat of numbness.Furley is also what makes Gabriel think about life and death in the end of thenovel which is what the novel is about. Talking about main characters is noteverything though as we have some interesting secondary characters there is onefor each story. On one hand we have Septimus from Mrs. Dalloway and on theother hand Michael Furey in “The Dead”. What have these two characters incommon you may think? Death. Both characters are dead or die during the action.It must be said that their death is not similar in the two works.
It iscompletely different actually. In Mrs. Dalloway, Septimus commits suicidebecause he is left empty after the first World War and he feels like he hasnothing to live for anymore while in “The Dead”, Furey dies of cold waiting forGretta outside her window in cold.
Both the deaths have something in common though, they both have an impact inthe stories. In Mrs. Dalloway, towards the end of the party, the death ofSpetimus is announced by a man and most of the people from the party are nowconcentrated on the death of Septimus talking about it which makes Clarissa alittle irritated as she and her party are no more the center of attention.
In”The Dead” the death of Furey has quite an impact because Gretta is rememberinghis death which kind of stuns her for a moment in the middle of the party, andagain, Furey’s death makes Gabriel contemplate about life and death, and aboutthe future and the past. One thing that the two works have also incommon is themes. One theme that is present both in “The Dead” and in “Mrs.Dalloway” is memories or flashbacks. Both of them have, at some pointflashbacks of some characters even though they are more present in Mrs.
Dalloway. Other than that the themes are very different. Maybe less proficientin “Mrs. Dalloway” is the theme death. Death as a theme is the main focus inJames’ short story but it is also present in Virginia’s novel and that is notonly by the death of Septimus but because of the presence of the War.
The waris only showed in the novel as death and suffering and nothing more, also, theWar is what lead Septimus to commit suicide. In fact, the main symbols in “The Dead”are mainly about death, in the end we have the snow as Gabriel is looking onthe window and he imagines the snow on Furey’s grave. Death’s presence in James’ novel is moreimportant because this is the focus of the story. Then we have the colour grey.
Grey is repeatedly used to describe some things like Julia’s hair and facewhich both are or look grey. InVirginia Woolf’s novel though, besides death we also have other themes likesocial class. The whole novel is mainly concentrated around the upper class.Clarissa comes from a high class family and even the prime minister comes toher party, this is to emphasize the importance of her and her family. All thepeople form the upper class in