One major theme that has been present in many of our readings, as well as the movie we are currently watching, is the struggle within women to find their social identity in a world that presents a picture of the perfect, submissive woman that holds it together emotionally. This is a pressing theme in women’s literature especially when written by women. In the works of Chopin and Woolf, this is explicitly depicted.
In Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” we encounter a woman who has clearly been defined by her husband and societal expectations until her husband’s death. This is where Chopin portrays the emotional struggle she comes up against when becoming “free’’! Although she does not get a chance to experience freedom for more than an hour (suggested from the title) in that time frame many emotions are released, exposed and analyzed; she is vulnerable to the societal standard of being a perfect, submissive wife, or widow in her case, that holds it together emotionally. Chopin suggests that this stress can do harm to one’s health through Mrs. Mallard’s death after she sees that her husband is alive.
In the film, “Mrs. Dalloway” based off Virginia Woolf’s novel, we observe the main character, Clarissa’s, internal struggle with holding her emotions together while struggling to balance her social roles and relationships. We also witness Virginia Woolf herself expressing a great need to find her self-identity but being so trapped, just like Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf has a major theme of death and suicide in her writing that could also be seen in the movie. The theme reflects her reaction to the conflict with self-identity; she would rather die than be trapped in a life that she does not wish to live. Thoughts of suicide and discomfort from leading an unsatisfying life led Woolf to write and express her struggle through her characters.
Coming from a woman’s perspective, we can conclude that this internal conflict of social identity can be devastating to a woman’s health, physically and mentally.