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When Melody And Drama Collide: The Use Of Melodramatic In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

1363 words - 6 pages

Mrs. Dalloway, the early twentieth century novel by Virginia Woolf, paints a picture of the London in one day in the 1920’s. It primarily focuses on the titular character getting ready for a party, and her friends and family coming to the party later in the ending. the only major exception to this is Septimus Smith, a World War I veteran, dealing with the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that he gained during the war. The passages that describe Septimus are apocalyptic and devastating to see a man completely unwound like Septimus. By the end of the novel Septimus kills himself by throwing him out of his house and onto spikes. The author describes this jump as melodramatic. The use of ...view middle of the document...

It is people mimicking art, but like many others, they are bad actors. Melodramatic illustrates the gap between art, and what we aspire life to be, and what life really is like.
The first instance of the use of melodramatic in the novel comes in the passage describing Septimus’s current helplessness. The passage says that “At last, with a melodramatic gesture which he assumed mechanically and with complete consciousness of its insincerity, he dropped his head on his hands. Now he had surrendered; now other people must help him. People must be sent for. He gave in,”; this is a perfect example of Septimus’s feelings throughout the novel (Woolf 65). Whenever Septimus’s actions are described as melodramatic, he gives up. His melodramatic gestures are instances when he is entirely devoid of life. The melodramatic nature of his movements can be seen through both definitions. The original definition shows that Septimus is merely an actor playing his part in life as well as he can, but ultimately devoid of the qualities that people normally have in life. The music that surrounds him in his life is that of death and pain. It is his own personal music that drives him to give up. The main point that deviates Septimus from the original melodrama is his lack of a happy ending. This passage is succeeded by Septimus going into bed and laying there as if he is dead which only furthers the death that surrounds Septimus. This leads to the newer definition of melodramatic that only worsens Septimus’s actions. The newer definition lends itself to look at Septimus even closer. Septimus’s insincere movement is caused by his detachment with the rest of the world. His movement is completely forced because he does not want to move. Every moment of his life is forced because of the very nature of his disease. This forced action is insincere because he is never sincere because his emotions are shut down by his PTSD.
The only other time when melodramatic is used to describe Septimus is in the last few moments of his life. The author seems to put the point of view from inside his head. He thinks of his suicide as the “rather melodramatic business of opening the window and throwing himself out” (107). The use of melodramatic here illustrates that every time that it is used to describe Septimus’s behavior he is giving up. The last use of the word had him giving up on life, if only for a few moments, to rest his head in his hands and eventually lay down like he is dead, but suicide is the ultimate form of giving up. It is Septimus giving up forever with no hope of ever getting out of this terrible depression where he lives. Giving up plagues Septimus ultimately uses melodramatic as a way of describing himself giving up in the last moments...

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