A Fictionalized Treatise On Modern Marriage
This is an essay comparing the treatment of marriage
in fiction by Virginia Wolfe, Bernard Shaw, and D.H.Lawrence
from within a fictional framing story in which the principle characters
of Mrs.Dalloway, Man and Superman, and Women In Love
meet at a dinner party hosted by the author’s alter ego.
“Everything must be exactly right, James, understand? These guests are very important people, all of them, and I will not have them disappointed by our hospitality.”
The man-servant nodded deferentially to his employer Carter Manart, commenting, “From what you’ve told me of them, Carter, I am certain that even our most lax attentions would be appreciated.”(1)
Manart considered this statement a moment, shrugging finally and saying, “True; the Tanners don’t really stand on ceremony much, and the Birkins are satisfied more by intellectual fare than pageantry. But the Dalloways… they are professional party-goers; and though never criticizing directly, laxness will be remembered by them.” He strode around the ancient oaken table, spot-checking its recent refinishing and shining the odd smudge in its polish.(2) James had just finished setting it with the simple, black edged crockery and smooth crystal glasses, and Carter could not help but admire the contrast between the placemats’ coarse and basic weave and the table’s solid ostentation.(3)
“How many years has this table been in our family, Jim?”(4)
“To be honest, Carter, I’ve no idea…. When my father taught me it’s maintenance,(5) he told me how it had been refurbished in his youth from a simpler style into these Victorian flourishes; see, this routing is newer as well as these corner pieces with the frills.”(6) The butler’s finger traced a chiseled flower from its pistole down to its swirling root at the table’s leg. “Kind of old-fashioned looking these days… especially with what you’ve done with this dining room.” He glanced about with one eyebrow arched, then fixed a wry look on Manart.
Carter was still staring at the table. “Yes,” he said, in regards to the its antiquity. “But I am afraid to do too much to it yet; it’s so old and… well, honorable, if you see my meaning, that I would not have it reworked when I refurbished it for fear of, I don’t know, denigrating it?”(7) He looked quizitively at James, to see if the older man understood his sense. The butler nodded knowingly and returned his attention to the rest of the room, inviting Carter, with teasing glances, to share in the observing.
“Yes, but I won’t hold back on more minor decoration; after all, the room can be bared without too much expense.”
They both surveyed the room’s decor, one admiringly, the other, amusedly.(8) The walls were a madman’s pastiche of Realist portraits of old men and women (not all necessarily old in the paintings themselves), Impressionistic luminary blurs and Surrealist distortions of landscapes. Manart’s prize side wall, across from the dining room’s wide, tall windows, caddie-cornered one of Rembrandt’s grotesques and Bruegel’s Dutch pastorals with Monet’s “Waterlillies”, Goya’s “The Third of May”, and young Salvador’s, “Persistence of Memory”.(9) Also adorning the walls were sconces modified into gas lamps around the turn of the century, then into electrics in 1920, seven years ago.(10) The room’s huge crystal chandelier had also been electrified, and was now glowing warmly, casting sparkling flashes on the walls through its yellowed rose crystal. The floor’s uneven, smooth mahogany panelling was covered in the center by an Oriental rug of, predominantly, grays and bright red, overshadowing blue and purple flourishes.(11) It was on this rug that the ancient table and its surrounding Indian rattan chairs stood.(12) The only other furnishings in the room were large downy pillows strewn before the windows and a brass bar of sorts, stocked with liquor — mostly gin and scotch — and sours; it also was a tea service on those occasions when Carter actually bothered with a formal tea, which was seldom.(13)
“And if my tastes should change next month, following the whimsy of this age,” he continued, “I am sure to keep most of the paintings, will profit on those I get rid of, and will always know Sergeant-Major Brighlington in the Colonies — he’s entrenched there, poor sod.” (14)
“Yes, well, I don’t know what your father would have thought–”
“Oh, he’d’ve hated it, of course; if only because I’d tossed out those dreadful trophies and beasts’ heads leering down and making one question the source of the dinner’s steaks.” They both laughed; Carter, more heartily. “But he was a kind enough old chap-” here Carter caught himself and glanced to see James’ still visage “-except to you, though…. Look, friend, I really am sor–“(15)
James’ mood lightened and he forced a grin. “No, Carter, don’t bother yourself, I’ve told you. It was the times….”
“Pathetic in so many ways, yes. I really am–”
“Enough. I must check on the hors-d’oeuvres and you’d better change; the guests are expected in an hour.”(16)
Carter watched James bow slightly, out of habit, and turn and walk out through the kitchen’s door, shutting it quietly behind him.
He turned and stepped toward the windows, his back to the table and prize wall, and stared out across the gardens.
The sun was dangling over the woods west of the house, about an inch away from hiding, casting a lurid orange haze on Manart’s young but wizenning face. He relished its glow and thought to himself how the sunset would thrill his sensitive guests an hour hence as it purpled the horizon and draped magic over the room. He would keep the electrics low until absolutely needed, set a close atmosphere for the night; for he wanted the truest confidence and advisement of these, his new friends. A few questions burned in him to be released from their spiraling, contentious gyres and he knew no better group to which to pose them.(17)
“So where exactly are these to be placed, Carter?” James held a small stack of cards, folded so that they would stand like little tents.
Manart snapped his right cufflink into place, shaking his wrist to get the loose jacket’s sleeve to lie. “Hell of a question, James; I’m not real certain of the etiquette of these things, or even if the guests will appreciate etiquette of this pigeon-holing sort.”(18) He took the cards from the black man’s pink palm. “I mean, there’s only the three couples, so if I put the couples side-by-side, then one couple must sit sort of at the periphery.”
“Does it really matter?”
“I don’t know; that’s why I’m so concerned about it. I would just seat them myself, but they’re all older than me, it would seem strange. And I don’t know if they would take to being seated by you — no offense, friend.”
“It would be their offense if they were so; relax, Carter.” He walked to stand beside the table, setting down a handful of flatware with a muted clatter. Pointing, he said, “Why don’t you have Mr. Tanner here,” indicating the right hand of the table’s head, “Mrs. Tanner here,” across from Jack Tanner’s seat, “then likewise boy-girl across from each other with the Birkins next down and the Dalloways furthest from the head. That way no couple is excluded, and age is the only hierarchy from the head –barring you, of course.”
Manart pondered this a moment, then said, “Fine, whatever; God I hate worrying over such niceties. I certainly hope they aren’t offended.”
James waved dismissively. “You said yourself that the Tanners were a relaxed crew; so too the Birkins. That should be a majority, so don’t worry about the Dalloways.”
Here Carter laughed aloud. “‘Don’t worry about the Dalloways’ he says! Richard’s ONLY an MP, for God’s sake…. Although, I don’t suspect he’d hold a grudge or anything of the sort. But it only takes a disapproving word to that meddlesome Bruton and she’ll have her ‘Cabinet’ dragging my shipyards through the mud in the press, no pun intended.”(19) He pulled out the flaring chair at the table’s foot and dropped heavily into it. “God I need a drink.” He turned to face James who had moved to stand near the kitchen door, behind and to the right of Carter. “Is it alright to serve a drink before the meal, James?”(20)
“Actually, one is supposed to do so; it’s called an ‘aperitif’.”
“Brilliant!” Carter exclaimed. “Be sure to; it should loosen our guests, and I know it will help me.”
Almost as if on cue, the men could hear the voice of the maid greeting someone rather loudly, probably to warn them. Manart dealt the placecards rapidly, like their gaming cousins, while James strode to the double doors to throw them wide with aplomb just as Jack Tanner and his wife Ann reached the threshold.
“Mister and Misses Jack Tanner, Mister Manart!” announced the maid to Carter, who now stood before the doors, legs planted wide (to forbear trembling) and arms spread in a gesture of welcome.
He visibly withered as Ann cursorily said, “Mister Jack Tanner and Misses Ann Whitefield-Tanner, actually, dear.”(21) There was a mischievous glimmer in her eye as she nodded to the maid, who had only the darkness of her skin to thank for hiding the flush of her embarrassment.
Carter recovered quickly, making his first mental note of the night.(22) “My apologies, madam; Margaret did not know the proper etiquette, for which I am solely to blame.” Her took her offered hand and lightly planted a kiss on its back, looking downward. “It is so good to see you again after our too-brief meeting in the Halls. You have honored the House of Manart by accepting my invitation to this informal dinner.” He bowed deeper, with flourish.
“Isn’t he cute, Jack?” Ann teased, turning to smile at her husband.(23)
Carter’s pale-skinned face did not mask his blush so well as had Margaret’s ebony.
“Oh, don’t let her addle you, Mister Manart!” Tanner heartily cried, clapping Carter on the shoulder and seizing his hand for a single, vigorous pump.(24)
“Please, feel free to call me Carter, Mister Tanner–”
“Not if you call me by my father’s name, I won’t! Jack, agreed?” His grin was infectious.
“And please call me Ann; my surname is a bit too unwieldy for friendly conversation.” Mrs. Whitefield-Tanner’s beauty struck Carter to his soul as her smile melted from wicked to confiding; her forties were treating her no worse than had her thirties or twenties.
Again Jack spoke: “And who is this” indicating James “an African! My, but you are an oddity here in the Dales; what’s your name, sir?” He extended his hand.(25)
“James, Mister Tanner,” the servant answered, clasping hands. “It is a pleasure to meet such an outspoken champion of human freedom.”
“An it is a pleasure to meet one of its inheritors,” Jack countered, beaming with a grand blend of honor and pride. “And call me Jack, alright?” He capered toward the door, leaning into the hall to holler, “Everybody call me Jack, do you hear?!” He traipsed back, his eyes laughing. “When is the aperitif served?”
“Hear, hear!” laughed Carter; and taking the Tanners one on each arm, he strolled into the room proper, gesturing for them to sit, his nervousness melted away in their warmth.
They sat side-by side on the right of the head before noticing the placards.
“Oh, apologies, good master Manart,” said Jack, holding up Ann’s (or, rather, Rupert Birkin’s) card, “we didn’t know this was formal.”
Carter blushed again, only slightly, and replied, “Well, it isn’t, really… I’m merely somewhat new to this sort of affair, and…. Oh, sit where you will!” he laughed, “I want friends here, and there are, after all, no Rolls at the podium, right?”
The Tanners laughed at the allusion to Parliament. “Good,” Jack said, “I would hate to break my long-held habits!” For he sat on the right, an odious rank for him, were this Commons.(26)
Just then there was heard footsteps in the hall, one set Margaret’s light quick tread, the other two sets mingling, but not exactly in unison.(27)
“Mister and Misses Birkin?” said the maid uncertainly, as she reached the open double doors. She stepped to one side and Ursula Birkin strode forward, side-by-side with her husband Rupert, who was looking somewhat quizzically at Margaret as he passed.(28)
Carter moved from Jack’s side, as he and Ann rose to greet the new arrivals, and with a sweep of his arm said, “Be welcome in the home of Manart,” trying his best to achieve oxymorous relaxed obeyance.(29)
“Why thank you, Mister Manart,” said Mrs. Birkin. Then, seeing the Tanners, said to Rupert, “look, dear, it’s the Tanners. Didn’t we meet in Ausberg?” This was to Ann in particular.
“Sure, we almost crashed into one another on the south slope of Mount Something-stein; I’ll never forget what you said: ‘Destiny forces all greats into conflict’, or something like that. It is good to see you again; what a shame it took our young lobbyist friend in Commons to bring us together here.” She moved to embrace Ursula, smiling warmly at Rupert in the process.
“We’re hardly ever in Britain,” spoke Rupert, finally entering the conversation, “Europe is so full of things to experience, each day offers fifty new lives to one who would take them.”(30) He stepped forward to shake hands with Carter and Jack.
“Well, I’m glad I ran into you two at The Boar and Board last week,” replied Carter. He turned to Jack, “We had the longest talk — the three of us- about your speech at Parliament, the one on women’s suffrage, and I said, ‘So I’ve invited the Tanners to a little dinner party with the Dalloways, sort of a meeting of the camps’ and they were so delighted by the prospect that I could not help but include them, much to Margaret’s dismay — she had everything planned already.” He was babbling, but the friendly air of this group of bright minds could only loosen his excitable tongue.(31)
“Glad you did, son,” said Jack heartily, then to Rupert, “and if I may ask, sir, where do you stand on the vote — though I suspect by your deference to this fair femme that I know?”
“Oh, of course women should have the vote; they have ever been the more practical of the species,” Rupert replied sincerely, his eyes flashing at the prospect of the night of intellectual communion to come.(32)
“But they have yet to develop the experience with national issues, affairs of state.” A new voice, clear, if a bit tremulous, rang in the room.(33)
“Mister and Misses Dalloway,” said Margaret, belatedly and a bit perfunctorily. “I’ll be getting the first course ready; dinner will be served in five minutes.”
“Yes, ma’am!” said Carter smartly, saluting the maid and glowing with mirth over her obvious consternation at having her role as announcer usurped. “Welcome, Mister and Misses Dalloway.” He had tensed, but only a wee bit, at the surprise arrival and curt entrance into the debate; now, he played the perfect host.(34) “I trust you know Ann Whitefield-Tanner and Jack Tanner….”
The Dalloways nodded politely to Richard’s latest political rivals, exchanging customary murmurrings.
“And these are the Birkins,” said Carter, gesturing to Ursula and Rupert, “recent friends of mine.” Then, before any contention could get underway, he sweepingly indicated the table. “Shall we all have a seat, the aperitif is hot on the heels of the Dalloways.”
“Excellent,” said Jack, as he and Ann resumed the seats they had first occupied.
The Birkins sat across from them, Rupert at the head, laughing that his name was now ‘Ann.’ Mrs. Dalloway hitched for but a moment, finally taking her seat where her card was, beside Ursula, smiling and looking closely at her as while daintily lighting on the rattan’s motley cushion.(35) Dalloway moved to sit on her left, then noticed there was no place set there and circled the table to sit by Mrs. Whitefield-Tanner. He nodded civilly to her in sitting.
“Should be a Hell of a lot of fun tonight, Cart!” said Jack, reaching behind Ann to jovially clap Richard Dalloway on his shoulder.
Dalloway laughed politically, shaking out his linen napkin and placing it on his lap.
The first courses were consumed heartily by all, the lateness of the supper and the day’s heat having bred fierce appetites in them all. While waiting for the first entree, Jack had casually opened the discussion of suffrage which was the overt intent of Carter’s invitations of them.
As expected, the debate was heated, while remaining civil and respectful.
The Tanners, being its strongest proponents, argued the most convincingly for the vote. Jack’s combination of endearing witticisms and searing observation left the conservative Richard frequently on the defensive, a position with which he was, at least, familiar.(36) On frequent occasion, Ann would let flash some anger with Dalloway’s stubborn doubt over women’s capacities, but each time Jack calmed her with a stroking palm or redirection of the point of discussion.(37)
Ursula Birkin was, primarily, a supporter of Jack and Ann’s view, offering anecdotes from her travels which would serve to reinforce some nicety of the debate. She did, however, feel that a certain training period for women voters might be in order, if only to smooth the transition into this near-universal suffrage.(38) Rupert, meanwhile, stayed on the margins of the debate, preferring, with Clarissa Dalloway, to absorb the room and its view’s scenery.(39) At one point, he had tried to steer the conversation to the natural sublime; but this attempt had been made while Jack was marshaling a refutation of Richard, seeking it in a stewed potato, and the interruption was swept politely aside.
During this half hour of conversation and consumption, Carter had remained fairly quiet, offering only his support for suffrage –universal suffrage, a point too unwieldy to gain much interest in the heat of the smaller debate– and then reclining to watch the play of his guests. He most wanted to be assured that they were enjoying themselves, staying on friendly terms, and otherwise merely being themselves, for it was in their interaction that his true end in throwing the party was served.
As the discussion reached the impasse which it had reached for months in Parliament, he took it as his cue to open the floor for his debate. He cleared his throat, dabbed a corner of his mouth, and leaned into the group.
“Well, I can see that there is some strong difference of opinion here on this, understandable in light of our essential differences. Jack and Ann are of the radical cast — Jack in particular –, the Birkins are seemingly a bit above the issue, and our friends the Dalloways are from an older tradition of propriety and custom: something which should not too lightly be trounced.” He cast a wry look at Jack, who could not suppress a snigger, in part at Carter’s audacity, in part at his veracity.
With the debate thus closed by coming full circle, Carter continued, “But there is one point in which all of you seem to concur, one with which, lately, I have become concerned.”
The group looked to one another, trying to guess at the subject they shared, so crypticly expressed by their host.
“Why, I speak of marriage; you all agree that the institution of marriage is appropriate.”
There was a general exhalation or snort and a clamor ensued, nearly all speaking at once.(40)
“Oh, lad, you know where to push the buttons,” exclaimed Jack.(41)
“Oh, no; here we go,” sighed Ann.(42)
“It’s interesting you should say that,” mused Rupert.(43)
“There you are, dearest,” laughed Ursula to Rupert.(44)
“But of course,” puffed the Dalloways, nearly in stereo.(45)
A brief silence descended like a thunderclap on the room, everyone realizing that they were speaking over one another. Then laughter rippled around the table, and Carter said, “The reason I ask is that I’ve been involved with a delightful actress for nearly a year now, and I feel as if marriage is the next step.(46) The only rub is that I am not certain what exactly that institution is anymore, and I wish to know your opinions, being my only acquaintances who, if I may so say, are entrenched in the convention.”
“Not only may you say that,” stated Jack with gusto, “but you are most accurate in your choice of verbs.” This exclamation elicited an elbow in the ribs from Ann; she was smiling, however.
Rupert leaned forward, a penetrating look in his eyes, and replied, “But marriage need never be an ‘entrenchment’. It is possible to maintain a balance between the individuals and the union of those individuals.” He faced Carter. “You should resist with all of your soul that horrible fusion in marriage which is traditional in our heritage; a fusion which leads to such terms as ‘wedlock’.”(47)
Jack was intrigued by Rupert’s proclamation and sought deeper explanation. “You don’t feel that something is surrendered in marriage, that the forces in nature, in Life itself, which compel union forbear separate identity? Though I would like to call myself free and separate, I know full well, and accept, that a great part of my identity is tied up in this thing here.”(48) He thumbed towards Ann humorously, and had a bruise added to the one forming on his ribs. “You see? Where else but in matrimony would I tolerate the violence done on my person in just the past few moments?”
“Oh, come along, now,” countered Ursula, “you would take just such a jab from Rupert were it as good-natured and affectionate.(49) As I have come to understand Rupert’s idea of individuals in equilibrium, we enter into marriage to fulfill the individual’s purpose in being, on the one hand procreation, yet even more so self-definition.” She took Rupert’s hand.
He continued where she left off. “Yes, and via this ‘star- equilibrium’, where the two are bright and whole and held in balance by their own gravid attraction to one another, the individual’s orbit is perturbed — not in the sense of disturbed, but in that it achieves the wobble, if you will, that it is meant to have.” He sat back a bit; then his brow furrowed a bit as he saw Jack perk and anchor to his diction.
“Wobble, son; yes, you’ve got that right.” Jack chuckled and took a sip of sherry. “Wobbling like a drunken sailor down the road, leaving the sight where he was waylaid!”(50)
At this point, Clarissa spoke for the first time in some time. “But Mister Tanner, there is something to be said for the compartmentalization of home building. A married couple is partners in life, each complementing the other and helping the other overcome hurdles which would thwart the lone voyager in the world.” She looked at Ursula, almost as if for approval. Ursula faintly smiled, depth of meaning in her eyes as they held contact.(51)
Rupert softly said, “That’s certainly another way to put it.”(52)
Clarissa continued, burgeoned by the Birkins’ support. “And further, Mister Tanner, you are, after all, married yourself, to a lovely wife. How can you be so cynical about marriage then?”
Jack, rocking back with a creak of rattan, replied, “I am at the whim of the Life Force. I must succumb to its purposes and wed and mate and contribute my share of sperm to the gene pool so that Mankind may, over the generations, become the gods they are intended to be.”
Clarissa flushed at Jack’s crude statement, and Richard took this as his cue to speak up, “Listen, Tanner, this is no place for such barbarity; surely you can make your point without reference to bodily fluids.” He glanced at Clarissa to note her reaction to his defense of the women’s honors.(53)
Jack and Ann both rumbled with mirth, and he deferred to her, letting her point out, “But, Richard, you just did so yourself. And in the company of ladies and their honors!”
Richard flushed at being so caught in his own words, and the rest of the group laughed good-naturedly. Carter, nevertheless, saw that the conversation was straying into the dead ground already trod by the suffrage debate and redirected the people’s attention by saying, “But suppose, friends, that she does not turn out to be the right one? How can I be certain?”
“You can’t, really,” Ursula answered. “You have to trust what your heart tells you. If it proclaims your love for this woman resoundingly enough, that must be your guide.”
“Plus, the Life Force will let you know,” Jack added calmly. “If it has decided, you really have no choice.”
“I dare say we agree on something,” said Clarissa, somewhat surprised, “though I don’t think I would put it so mechanisticly, so inexorably.”
“But that, good Clarissa, is precisely what it is, ultimately,” Jack returned, smiling kindly, almost condescendingly. “The ends of the Universe are far stronger than one man’s aspirations or beliefs. We merely decide whether or not to fight them, fruitlessly. I, for one, know I am to lose my battle against this dove.”(54) Here he beamed at Ann, and she at him. If he had more point, it was lost in their silent communion, and Richard took the floor.
“But that choice to fight is a freedom we have. If we love our intended, we will not choose; if we do not, the din of battle will drown out Life’s pleas and arguments.”
“And leave you a wandering, lost star, shining into the void and seeing no light to answer your song.” Rupert was aglow and tears glistened in his eyes. Ursula bowed her head, but reached over to lay her hand on his forearm.(55)
“Take it from me, that is the truth.” Everyone turned to face Clarissa who had said this distantly and with faint tears in her own eyes.(56) Richard reached past his treacle to clasp her hand and whisper something the others did not hearken to hear.
Night had completely descended and the room was suffused with the steady, yellow glow of the electrics. The table was clear and Carter was lost in thought over all that he had heard from his new friends. Marriage today, it seemed, was more a partnership than it had been in his father’s day of property and possession. His love for the actress was strong, he knew; else he honestly would not have taken his precious time to concern himself with their future. He understood the demands of the Life Force as expressed by Jack. Further, he welcomed the polarity and individuality of Rupert’s star equilibrium. The idea of another helping one define oneself, rather that defining one (as with the Dalloways, specifically Clarissa) spoke to his inner need to be his own man, while ameliorating his frightening craving for union with another, a woman, a lover. That there could still be significance in the marital relationship, without self-insignificance being a result, empowered him, spoke both to the traditions of love which formed his herital core and the urge for isolation in the soul’s core.
He looked slowly at each of his guests, marveling at their love for their spouses and, in all but Richard, their truth to their selves. The couples were silent and happy. The Tanners held hands and stared into each other’s eyes; the Birkins softly touched one another’s arms and were lost in private reveries; the Dalloways still held hands across the table, Clarissa staring at her nearly empty glass and Richard looking over her shoulder at a David on the wall.
Carter cleared his throat and, as everyone broke their meditations, said, “Well, friends, I thank you whole-heartedly for you advisement on this most important concern of mine.”
“Was it of any assistance?” asked Rupert, feelingly.
“Why, yes, Rupert,” answered Carter slowly, a soft, distant smile creeping onto his face. “Yes, it was; and I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to my wedding”—a pleased murmur danced around the table—”which should be in the fall, if my love accepts.”
“We’ll be sure to be in the country,” said Ursula, as everyone else also stated their acceptance of the invitation.
The party broke up a while later; and as the Tanners donned their coats and passed out the front door, James came up behind Carter and commented, “It will be nice to have a lady in the house again; it always seemed sort of empty without a mistress.”
“And I will be sure she is no mistress, James,” Manart responded, turning to face his friend with a loving smile.
The butler nodded and began to move toward the dining room, to straighten it up.
“By the way, James,” added Carter, “tomorrow I would like you to help me move the dining room table into the library. Then we shall go out to purchase a round table that suits the room.”
“Very good, Carter.”
1 ) James’s familiarity represents Modernistic rejection of class distinction and is suggestive of the relationship between Jack Tanner and Henry Straker in (A).
2 ) Throughout the work, this table will be symbolizing modern marriage, the thematic thrust of this Fictionalized essay. The refinishing and smudges in the polish represent the iconoclastic redefinitions of the institution of marriage attempted by the Modernists and their vagaries thus far. In particular, Shaw struggles with these new definitions in (B).
3 ) Basic setting symbolizes Modernist retreat from ceremony and pomp in marriage, placing emphasis instead on its practical character and ends.
4 ) The answer attempt to allude to antiquity, even Adam and Eve, for mating and marriage are as old as the humanity in homo sapien.
5 ) Suggestive of the patriarchal tradition of marriage prior to Modernism.
6 ) The Victorian refurbish is from the simple, natural Romantic past; specifically the constraint (“routing”) reintroduced by the Victorians.
7 ) Suggestive of Carter Manart’s uncertainty about the character of Modernism, specifically Modern marriage, the resolving of which is to be the frame story of this essay.
8 ) The room is symbolic of Modernism as a movement in general, encapsulating its past, influences, and character in its time.
9 ) The Rembrandt suggests Europe’s post-Renaissance; Bruegel, Romanticism’s pastoral ideals; Monet, Victorianism’s hazy, idyllic optimism; Goya, the dark side of revolution and change; and the anachronistic Dali, the quest to “make it new” and, as its title suggests, the persistent remnants of the past and tradition.
10) My ‘tip-o-the-hat’ to the Industrial Revolution’s positive achievements.
11) Grey represents the ambiguous moral posture of the Modern era, especially World War I, which is symbolized by the red. Purple and blue flourishes are symbolic of the old aristocracy, being overshadowed by the middle (gray) and working (red, for the Labor party and Communism) classes. Thus, the gray and red serve a doubly symbolic purpose.
12) Suggestive both of the fascination in the Modern period with the Orient and the fact that Britain’s society (the table, in part) rested on the backs of its Colonies, especially the non- white ones of China and India.
13) More iconoclasm; today, formal tea has become almost a joke throughout most of British society.
14) Like England was becoming complicated in the Indies.
15) James is black and old Mr. Manart was too like his Southern US counterparts.
16) James is older, and this, in keeping with Modernist semi- iconoclasm, commands respect over the employer-employee relationship. See Mrs. Dalloway and Ms. Kilman’s complex ‘bidirectional hierarchy’ in (H) for a parallel of this employer deference to employee.
17) Ha! I got you! I’m not spilling all of the frame story’s surprises at once. (Editor’s Note: please forgive such levity on Mr. Artman’s part; he is quite excited about this whole thing, you understand.)
18) The iconoclastic Carter has his reservations over which edifice to ignore: class, age, rank. One must implicitly be recognized due to the hierarchical nature of a long, square table.
19) By way of background, Manart is his own lobbyist in Commons, petitioning on behalf of his inherited shipping business. This, in effect, implies that the business is not doing very well, else he would have someone do this for him.
20) Like any busy youth in this pre-depression piece, he does not know all of the social mores and procedures. It will later be revealed that this is his first formal (though informal) dinner party.
21) At this point it should be explained that in characterizing each couple, I am trying to project their relationships into the future as would be most probable based on the thematic resolutions of their particular source authors. Subsequently, the couple’s will hold more and more similar views the longer they have been married. Thus, Ann Whitefield-Tanner is, in her choice of surname, asserting the power granted her in the relationship by the Life Force as well as her own individuality. Furthermore, she has developed more of the wry, playful humor that characterized Jack Tanner in (A) and has, it will become evident, lost her tendency to lie to cast a favorable light upon herself. This honesty only further emphasizes the fact that she has been victorious in Life’s eternal struggle between means and vessel of Its culmination.
22) This mental note is, simply, that Ann has an assertive character, even after marriage: she is the first of the Tanners to speak, and her first works are playful mockery of her host’s servant.
23) Ann has learned iconoclasm from her husband in their twenty-two years of marriage, and is amused by Carter’s bombastic formalities.
24) Marriage, for Jack, has still not come to mean deference to his wife’s whimsy.
25) Jack’s interest is far from racist, as should become evident.
26) He would, of course, sit on the left of Commons with Labor. I have had old Jack elected to Parliament, and this is, in fact, where he and Carter met on formal grounds; this party is the first informal meeting of their, thus the introductions.
27) The first allusion to star equilibrium is their nearly synchronized treads.
28) Not having been present for her previous introductory faux pas, Rupert wonders at the uncertainty Margaret evinces in their introduction.
29) As will soon be show, like the Tanners, the Birkins are recent acquaintances of Carter’s, and he is struggling to maintain a balance between the party’s informality and the reverence he feels is due to his seniors and unintimate friends.
30) The Birkin’s have remained true to their desire to break all connections with society and have been traveling in Europe the past seven years, since their union. Note also that Ursula asserts herself first. This is not an example of her sensual dominance, but rather merely indicates that she is not behind (in the sense of subservient) her husband. And unless they are to speak in unison, one of them must open his or her mouth first.
31) Here I should note that I do not, in this draft, intend to explore their opinions on women’s suffrage. Rather, this was the issue of the day and I feel it is the most appropriate one which would draw these diverse people together. It, thus, is a device more than a theme.
32) This echoes Rupert’s passion for the intellectual as portrayed in (E).
33) The only remotely respectable conservative argument.
34) This parallels Peter Walsh’s accusation of Clarissa Dalloway’s perfectionism in (H).
35) My crude, ignorant efforts at suggesting the homoerotic impulses to be found in Clarissa and which are emphasized by Jane Marcus in (L).
36) I am presuming that the obviously greater wit written into Jack’s character has proved quite difficult for Richard in Parliament.
37) This is not his dominance, but rather his matrimonial ability to sooth fruitless wrath, something I imagine he has had to do often when bringing her to Parliament’s highly formal halls.
38) In this dichotomy between the Dalloways and the Tanners, the Birkins are naturally assuming a middle ground, as would be appropriate for their rather distant association of late with Britain and its issues. Further, as the intellectuals of the group, they must seek the harmonious compromises, the balances which can satisfy both sides… much like their marriage arrangement.
39) Conversely, a middle ground can be found by leaving the field of battle all together….
40) What follows (while also being reminiscent of Churchill’s dialogging) is a succinct summary of the characters’ general attitudes towards the subject of marriage. While not exactly a thesis statement, the passage is a tone-setter.
41) Mating is Jack’s favorite subject in (A).
42) See the last lines of (A): “Talking!”
43) Ever the intellectual’s introductory statement.
44) An acknowledgment of Rupert’s ‘authority’ on this complex point. She has, I am assuming, come to his camp on the issue of star equilibrium while, in keeping with that idea, maintaining her individual self; later, she, too, will have her say on the subject, as is meet.
45) A good score for this stereo statement would be Fiddler on the Roof’s “Tradition.”
46) That actress is the first non-tonal hint at my Shavian leanings in the character of Carter, my analog.
47) A blending of nearly verbatim quotes from (E) and (G).
48) “Thing” is in part a jocular statement, and in part an expression of the embodiment of the female drive in woman, a drive which is the spawn of the Life Force.
49) Ursula is, now that they are married, no stranger to Rupert’s desire for a union with the other, a semi-homoerotic interaction with another man.
50) A jocular expression of the deterministic qualities of the Life Force’s press into mating.
51) I am really trying for homoerotic overtones here; be gentle in your mockery of their crudity. Woolf made Mrs. Dalloway into a woman with a bright memory of a past female love, and I am merely trying to show how an older woman can anchor this glimmer of the past in the present, giving it a new lease on life, if you will.
52) Birkin is not quite satisfied with this practical expression of his more idealistic belief in equilibrium, one which would not necessarily involve complementation, but more likely, reflection.
53) Note how it took an offense to draw Richard into this intellectual debate; he is no powerhouse of thought, but he will be riled by a affront to his conservative ideals of propriety and honor. The next sentence parallels his ‘love for effect’ which he practices in (H) with the surprise roses.
54) This note is here just because I had to toot my use of contrast between the metaphor of battle and the reference to dove of peace. Clever, eh? (Editor’s Note: Once again, I am force to make an apology for Mr. Artman’s levity….)
55) Suggestive of Rupert’s continuing pain over the loss of Gerald and also of Ursula acceptance of his need for the Other.
56) Clarissa shares Rupert’s sentiment for a lost other.
- Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman. 1903
- “Preface to Getting Married”, 1908 (Ayot St. Lawrence Edition of The Collected Works of Bernard Shaw)
- St. John Ervine, Bernard Shaw: His Life, Work and Friends. Morrow & Co.: New York, 1956.
- Anthony S. Abbott, Shaw and Christianity. Seabury Press: New York, 1965
David Herbert Lawrence
- D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love. 1920, 1922
- David Cavitch, D.H. Lawrence and the New World. Oxford University Press: New York, 1969
- Mark Spilka, The love ethic of D.H. Lawrence. Indiana University Press: Bloomington & London, 1955 (1966)
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. 1925
- Jean Guiguet (transl. Jean Stewart), Virginia Woolf and Her Works. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York & London, 1962
- Hermione Lee, The Novels of Virginia Woolf. Holmes and Meier: New York, 1977
- Jane Marcus, Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987