Written Assignment 2
Examine and comment upon the use of trees or flowers as recurrent images that take on symbolic importance in key scenes in the novel.
Symbolism is a very effective tool for impinging meaning into a story. Virginia Woolf’s Novel Ms. Dalloway is a story about the day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares for a party. It is clear from the very beginning of the novel that flowers are a significant part of this story. One of the first things to happen in this novel is that Clarissa goes out to buy flowers, which immediately sets up their importance for the rest of the story. More specifically the flowers are significant because they act as symbolism for the traits of the individual characters, which is evident by a number of examples of character interactions with flower. In Mrs. Dalloway flowers can be seen as representative of the different characters traits of Clarissa, Lady Burton and Richard, these characters interactions with the flowers give the reader a sense that that the characters feeling and experiences are represented by flowers in their own individual way. The first character Clarissa has perhaps the most significant symbolism in relation to the flowers. Clarissa is a very emotional character. She spends a lot of her thoughts considering the ways that people judge her and is very self reflective on her own actions. She admires beauty and prestige and has what seems like an obsession with flowers. Clarissa has a very strong connection with flowers. Often time Clarissa has direct feelings that are symbolic of her experience with flowers. The first example of this is that being around flowers give Clarissa the feeling of peace and clarity as seen on page 10 when Clarissa is in the flower shop. Prior to arriving to the flower shop Clarissa was having concerning feelings about herself and her mortality. However once she arrives in the flower shop she seemingly forgets everything’s. Woolf uses literary techniques like personification saying “red carnations holding their heads up” and diction like “exquisite coolness” to provide intense detail that allows the reader to see just how entranced Clarissa becomes in the presence of flowers. Another example of this idea is the feelings of homosexuality that Clarissa associates with flowers. Clarissa has a very fond memory of her old friend Sally. She explains that she had feelings for her like those she would have had for a man. One of the things that Clarissa remembers most about Sally is seen by the quote, “Sally went out, picked hollyhocks, dahlias – all sorts of flowers that had never been seen together – cut their heads off, and made them swim on the top of water in bowls. The effect was extraordinary – coming in to dinner in the sunset”(P.28). This quote helps show how flowers are a key part of Carissa’s memory of Sally. It also hints to the idea that Clarissa might associate her feelings of homosexuality with flowers. Likewise her experience with flowers is associated with love, which is why she may have developed affection for Sally. This helps further demonstrate how Clarissa feelings are associated with flowers. From these examples we are able to see how Flowers are symbolic of Clarissa based on the different feeling they evoke and the character traits they reveal because of it.
Another character, who can be understood through the depiction of flowers, is Richard. Richard is very much unlike Carissa in that he does not resonate with flowers emotionally, nor does he have much appreciation for their beauty and instead Richard is awkward in the presence of flowers. This tells a lot about Richard character, as he is really a person who lacks a passion and has a very basic personality. In the story Richards interactions with flowers tell a lot about the person he is. In one example after eating lunch with Hugh and Lady Burton. Richard goes out to get Clarissa a bouquet of Roses in order to show his love