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Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

Consumerism and Gender in the Works of Virginia Woolf


A Pleasure A Pastime A Recreation something more than merely shopping. Advert for Selfridges c.1909

To shop presented something of a conundrum to the Edwardian woman. Emancipated, yet subjected, autocratic yet dependent, shopping bestowed her liberty of the city versus the constriction of financial dependence. As Woolf writes, the essential ingredients to achieving independence are money and a room of her own.1 The consumer believes she has autarky; she believes the city seemed *had+ become a female space.2 This myth was largely the product of the new era of shopping3 wherein the shopper was removed from the provincial confines of the Victorian grocers and placed in behemoth Department Stores. From their very inception they served to naturalize the limitless of female shopping desires.4 Perhaps since women have so often been identified with consumption5 the inevitable expansion of female space in the early 20th century took place on the already female dominated consumer space. As modern consumer "palaces"6 rose to the fore of the public consciousness, consumerism was refigured from a disorderly female pleasure, to a context for female self-fulfillment *sic+ and independence.7 On the fringe of this movement were those who ventured so far as even to suggest the shopper should be encouraged to experience city life in the role of the traditionally, but no longer exclusively, masculine culture of the flaneur.8 The female consumer in the first decade of the twentieth century saw a potentially unprecedented expansion into the fiscal, spatial and intellectual realms. Woolf, however, is decidedly more cynical about this potentially limitless expansion. The presence of consumerism and consumers in Woolfs writing is hardly surprising. Within her lifetime she had witnessed the opening of five if the major department stores in London.9 And whilst Woolf maintained a fascination/repulsion10 with the concept of shopping she considered any woman actively partaking in it to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.11
1 2

Woolf, Virginia A Room of Ones Own and Three Guineas (London, Vintage, 2001) P.2 Rappaport, E.D, A New Era of Shopping': The Promotion of Women's Pleasure in London's West End, 19091914 in Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, ed. Charney, L. and Schwartz, V.R (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995) P.43 3 Rappaport, Erika. D. A New Era of Shopping: The Promotion of Womens Pleasure in the Londons West End, 1909-1914 P.30 4 Bowlby, Rachel, Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping (London, Faber and Faber, 2000) P.26 5 Thornham, Sue Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies (London, Arnold, 2000) P.126 6 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 7 Rappaport, Erika. D. A New Era of Shopping: The Promotion of Womens Pleasure in the Londons West End, 1909-1914 (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000) P.31 8 Rappaport, Erika. D. A New Era of Shopping: The Promotion of Womens Pleasure in the Londons West End, 1909-1914 P.39 9 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.196 10 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.196 11 Woolf, Virginia A Room of Ones Own and Three Guineas (London, Vintage, 2001) P.18

Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

Oftentimes, critics attribute Woolfs unease with consumerism to be down to her personal foibles, a list neatly summed up by Miller: her upper middle class background, her cultural heritage as part of Britain's intellectual elite, her peculiar socialism/pacifism, her personal temperament, and, ironically, her gender.12 And yet there is a gratuitous overreliance upon Woolfs psychological profile in modern criticism, an overreliance that myopically risks overlooking Woolfs intellectual intentions. It is generally female critics such as Elliot, Wallace and Simpson that argue that for Woolf the exchange of commodities in a capitalist economy and the exchange of women in a patriarchal sexual economy are interrelated13 and that this compliance with an inherently misogynist institution is the root cause of Woolfs discomfort. Perhaps this is why Woolfs characters rarely truly shop; as Bowlbys metanalysis of consumerism in literature notes, there is more just looking" than in any of Bowlby's subjects14; Woolfs characters therefore frequently flirt with the identity of the consumer and rarely embrace it, and indeed, often fairly fail. For Woolf the combination between consumerism and identity is exceptionally fine-tuned, and ultimately, may come at the cost of a womans individuality. Whilst there is no single stereotype of the consumer in Woolfs work, three characters would seem to adequately represent the spectrum of Woolfs attitudes of the consumer: Clarissa Dalloway, Orlando and Rose Partiger. All three confront consumerist demands with varying methods and ensuing levels of success. The unifying factor between the three is their method of projecting themselves upon the act of shopping and the objects bought. Asides from this, however, Woolf provides a rather thorough account through Mrs. Dalloway. The most prolific of Woolfs characters, two of her major appearance Mrs. Dalloway and Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street are largely devoted to the consumer: Mrs. Dalloway is, after all, the primary activity in Mrs. Dalloway.15 And of the aforementioned triumvirate, Mrs. Dalloway is by and far the most successful of Woolfs shoppers. In many ways Mrs. Dalloway is exactly that which commodity culture would package as a "style"16: middle-aged, middle class, female and wealthy. For Clarissa, there is no inherent contradiction between seeing herself as a consumer and a female; since the latter is largely absent the moment she leaves the doorstep she enters the world being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa anymore; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.17 This may be what Thornham refers to as the strategy of mimicry.18 In order to enter and be accepted as a consumer, Clarissa forsakes her feminine identity in lieu of her husbands. Such assimilation is absent when Orlando ventures forth; she consults her shopping list reading in a curious stiff voice as if she were holding the words.19 Unlike Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando clings to her name, rejecting the name Mrs. Bonthrop Shelmerdine; the resultant dichotomy of identity results in her discomfort as a consumer.

12 13

Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.194 Simpson, K., Economies and Desire: Gifts and the Market in "Moments of Being: 'Slater's Pins Have No Points, (Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 28, Number 2, 2005) p.19 14 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.196 15 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.197 16 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.201 17 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.13 18 Thornham, Sue Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies (London, Arnold, 2000) P.196 19 Woolf, Virginia Orlando, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012

Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

One is forced to question, therefore, what function does Clarissa Dalloway serve? Her status as an eponym does not necessarily guarantee her status as a protagonist. Yet since she is so often allied with the feminist movement, it would seem that Clarissa Dalloway is more than just a subjugated wife. Woolf would seemingly provide moments that seem, nonetheless, to irrevocably cement such a notion. Clarissa ponders How then could women sit in Parliament? How could they do things with men? For there is this extraordinary deep instinct, something inside one; you cant get over it; its no use trying; and men like Hugh respect it without our saying it.20 Such assertations would seemingly contradict Simpsons concept of the relationship between consumerism and womens activism.21 Friedman provides an answer for the seeming juxtaposition between intention and effect. She notes that in pledging their husbands credit to shopkeepers to whom they were strangers, conflict arose between husbands and merchants, and husbands and wives and that despite the potential conflict womens enhanced mobility and the expanding network of retailers combined with a legal system that limited womens responsibilities for their debts to create opportunities for women to purchase goods even when forbidden by their husbands. 22 All female shoppers subtly subvert societys expectations, simply through acting as a consumer. This relates to Marxs notion of the economic structural compatibility between the visible and invisible levels of social reality. This can account for the presence of elements common to other structures.23 Structural Marxism would ascribe to Mrs. Dalloway the level of the real object, that is to say the level of the visible. Much the same can be said of Orlando, who, flung through time, need not be aware that her activity as a consumer is inherently liberating. It is, instead, the essence of consumerism that is the truth. As mentioned, however, Woolfs devotes relatively little consideration to the actual art of shopping, preferring to explore the impression her characters receive and imprint upon the experience. Whilst the shopper invests ordinary goods with cultural and social meetings24 they also do so on a personal level. Woolf explores the way that meanings become attached to things25 and whether this can truly coexist with the female shopper. Often the meanings behind objects supersede the actual object being bought; the actual purpose of shopping is rendered irrelevant. Indeed, often the process of shopping is rendered a failure; Woolfs characters are frequently out of place as consumers. Of all the previously mentioned characters, Orlando is the least successful in the environment of the consumer. Her inexperience may be due to her nature as an anachronism. Her entry into the twenties is one of the most violent in the novel: the entry is signalled with a terrific explosion right in her ear; she reacts as if she had been violently struck on the head.26 Like Woolf,
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Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street in Stella McNichol (ed.) Mrs. Dalloways Party (London, Vintage, 2010) P.20 21 Friedman, Andrea. The Politics of Consumption: Women and Consumer Culture (Journal of Women's History, Volume 13, Number 2, 2001) p.159 22 Friedman, Andrea. The Politics of Consumption: Women and Consumer Culture (Journal of Women's History, Volume 13, Number 2, 2001) p.163 23 Gimenez. M. E. Structuralist Marxism on "The Woman Question" Science & Society, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Fall, 1978), p. 303 24 Rappaport, Erika. D. A New Era of Shopping: The Promotion of Womens Pleasure in the Londons West End, 1909-1914 P.33 25 Friedman, Andrea. The Politics of Consumption: Women and Consumer Culture (Journal of Women's History, Volume 13, Number 2, 2001) P.162 26 Woolf, Virginia Orlando, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012

Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

this new era is not an anathema, but a fascination. As a consumer, Orlando is engulfed: Shade and scent enveloped her. The present fell from her like drops of scalding water. Light swayed up and down like thin stuffs puffed out by a summer breeze.27 As Woolf writes, Orlandon falls victim to the
myriad impressions of the Department store, and must suffer with "no plot, little probability, and a vague general confusion."28 This vague general confusion manifests itself as a vision of

innumerable coloured stuffs flaunting in a breeze from which came distinct, strange smells.29 The experience is not so much daunting as transcendent. As Gordon Selfridge declared, he Department Store was to be the opposite of the unified whole 30 and Orlando falls victim to the fragmentary nature of the modern consumer. The search for bed sheets alone evokes evokes the river off Wapping in the time of Elizabeth, the feel of rough rubies, lying with Sukey.31 As well as not fitting into the societal consumerist construct of the married woman unlike Mrs. Dalloway nor does she fit into the constructed heterosexual and consumer desire and their relation to each other.32 Her intense focus on the inwards renders Orlando a failed consumer. She eventually forced to concede that shes blessed if she could see, as the list bade her, bath salts, or boy's boots anywhere about.33 As hinted before, Orlandos curious stiff voice when announcing her shopping list belies an inability to *collude+ with heteropatriarchal power structures that identify woman.34 Indeed, bath and boots became blunt, obtuse; sardines serrated itself like a saw.35 The very items she searches for become physically repulsive and the overall experience become an intellectual one. Orlando largely embodies the individual consciousness in tension with a mass mind.36 In the case study of
Orlando, Woolf would seem to consider the difference between the two to be irreconcilable. When a shopper, Orlando loses possession of her identity; when in possession of identity, Orlando can no longer function as a shopper. Before coming to Mrs. Dalloway, the consummate consumer, it may be of benefit to inspect the character of Rose Partiger. Like Orlando, she steadfastly forges an identity and attempts to maintain it; unlike Orlando, she is successful in obtaining the object of her consumerism. A denizen of the Partiger family, she, like her siblings, possesses something of a distorted identity. In her sisters this is manifest in their maturity in spite of their preadolescent selves. Both Milly and Delia are forced to speak severely whilst imitating the manner of a grownup person
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in order to organise the junior members of the household for their fathers visit. Roses

identity is manifest in a masculine persona; she sees herself as a soldier and upon leaving the house rebelling against her seniors wishes in doing so the adventure had begun she had her

pistol and her shot. 38 The journey to the shop is similarly translated into a fabulation; Lamleys Shop becomes the central tower39 Rose must venture to. Whereas Mrs. Dalloway and even, to some
27 28

Woolf, Virginia Orlando, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 Woolf, Virginia, Essays cited in Mark, Hussey, Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Woolf (MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Studies, Volume 50, Number 1, Spring 2004) P.10 29 Woolf, Virginia Orland, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 30 Jennifer, Scanlon (ed.) The Gender and the Consumer Culture Reader (New York, New York University Press, 2000) p.33 31 Woolf, Virginia Orland, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 32 Jennifer, Scanlon (ed.) The Gender and the Consumer Culture Reader (New York, New York University Press, 2000) P.39 33 Woolf, Virginia Orland, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 34 Simpson, K., Economies and Desire: Gifts and the Market in "Moments of Being: 'Slater's Pins Have No Points, (Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 28, Number 2, 2005) p.21 35 Woolf, Virginia Orland, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 36 Hussey, Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Woolf (MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Studies, Volume 50, Number 1, Spring 2004) P.10 37 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.8 38 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.19 39 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.20

Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

extent, Orlando fall into the roles of wife and mother respectively, Rose fails to conform to any

consumer identity in its everyday forms.40 This lack of a default identity may be due to their being no prescribed identity for a girl in consumerism. Sans husband or child to buy for, any child, even female, has no place in consumerism. Give this identity tabula rasa, Rose is permitted to choose the deviant tomboy personality that she does. This is a hint that like Orlando and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Dalloway, Rose fails to fit within the constructed heterosexual consumer desire. 41 More subversive than outspoken, one can deduce due to the history of sexual, even lesbian, connotations42 of the tomboy. This position is almost validated as, towards the finals chapters of the novels, Roses enigmatic chastity hints towards a deviant sexuality. And as a child Rose equips this persona upon leaving the house. However, after the expanse of just a single street, the figure of a man suddenly emerged under the gas lamp.43 Unlike Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway embody the tension of the masses versus the individual; this scenario
prescribed consumerist identity; that is to say, is far more intimate and secluded. It is no doubt significant that the figure of a man bears down upon the deviant female in this encounter. Rose confronts him in her constructed identity 44

The enemy! Bang! She cried, pulling the trigger of her pistol. but ultimately to no avail. Indeed, this failure manifests in an abrupt change in syntax. As Roses identity is truncated by reality, so is the fluidity of the prose. Each action becomes brief, and unromantic: he leered at her. He put out his arm as if to stop her. He almost caught her. She dashed pat him. The game was over.45 The shortened sentences draw attention to the unrelenting presence of the masculine pronoun, whilst Rose is relegated to merely her and she. And in casting off the confident masculine identity she is forced to for safety to Lamleys shop.46 Consumerism here fulfils its natural role as to provide sanctuaries47 for the female consumer. However, in fleeing to Lamleys Rose does not regress into the angel of the hearth48 that is the average female consumer. Upon arriving in the 49 shop, she, like Orlando, had forgotten what she came for. The ultimate act of buying is unimportant as is the object bought. Instead it is the identity of the consumer that Rose seeks to protect herself. Having nominally completed the task of consumer, Rose attempts to reintegrate her tomboy personality I am returning in triumph only to find that the identity no longer worked.50 She is still confronted with the ominous figure unbuttoning his clothes.51 Although no longer a masculine persona, nor is Rose the typical feminine consumer. As such the figure of the male remains omnipresent. Unlike Orlando, whose intellectually introspective identity compromises her status as a consumer, Rose sheds her identity and in doing so manages to accomplish the basic economical task of purchasing. However, this doesnt qualify her to join the ranks of the consumer. The microcosmic male still bears down on her, she still flees and the object of her consumerism is
40 41

Bowlby, Rachel, Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping (London, Faber and Faber, 2000) P.24 Jennifer, Scanlon (ed.) The Gender and the Consumer Culture Reader (New York, New York University Press, 2000) P.39 42 Brown, J.R, Tomboy in ed. Zimmerman, B. Encyclopaedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures (New York, Routledge, 1999) P.771 43 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.20 44 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.20 45 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.20 46 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.20 47 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 48 Woolf, Virginia, Essays cited in Mark, Hussey, Mrs. Thatcher and Mrs. Woolf (MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Studies, Volume 50, Number 1, Spring 2004) P.43 49 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.21 50 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.21 51 Woolf, Virginia The Years (London, Penguin Classics, 2002) P.21

Charles Japer

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rendered void. Woolf stills emphasises that consumerists require the women to still be a child or a
servant when it comes to matters outside the home.52 The individual identity 53 essentially any deviation from the purely essential nurturant and expressive female role

compromises the characters integrity as consumer. Again, the credo recurs: one cannot be an individual and a consumer according to Woolf. Having witnessed the incompatibility between identity and consumerism in two of Woolfs characters, it is perhaps best, in the interest of equilibrium, to view the consummate consumer of Woolfs work: Mrs. Dalloway. Indeed, consumerism lies at the very core of Mrs. Dalloway. At its very inception is the much celebrated line Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself54; Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street opens almost identically: Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself. 55 This line, and the cultural significance that surrounds it, will be discussed. Initially, however, it is necessarily to see how, and whether, Mrs. Dalloway balances her identity as a woman and her identity as a consumer. She emerges as the efficacious female explorer and adventurer56 facing the blatant and raucous57 tide of Oxford Street. The urban city blends with Clarissas rural background as she faces the [clogged] river of Bond Street.58 But unlike Orlando, struck as she is by the wonders of the modern consumer society, Clarissa approaches the consumer identity with a strict, almost sombre air. She asserts But no looking! One must economise59 with the nature of the economy being ambiguous: it may equally be money or time. Indeed, the entire procession of Bond Street is described funereally as an astonishing and rather solemn progress. 60 Yet given the sententious air surrounding Clarissas promenade, she nevertheless exclaims that I love walking in London really, its better than walking in the country.61 And although stating a preference for the metropolitan lifestyle, there is nonetheless a balance struck between the two. As she stares into a shop window she asks herself What was she trying to recover? What image of white countryside?62 And given Clarissa's rural, leisured, gentrified background her trip for flowers isnt that of a disinterested consumer, but of her natural context.63 The reader is not granted consumer voyeurism: we do not know the exact flowers she purchases.64 Indeed, the particulars of her trip are unimportant; Woolf doesnt intend for us to know what flowers mean to Mrs. Dalloway as a consumer, but as a person. The entire scene climaxes in an almost
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LaFave, Sandra, The Marxist Critique of Consumer Culture, http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/marxism_and_culture.html Retrieved: 12/12/12 53 Gimenez. M. E. Structuralist Marxism on "The Woman Question" Science & Society, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Fall, 1978), P.309 54 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.3 55 Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street in Stella McNichol (ed.) Mrs. Dalloways Party (London, Vintage, 2010) P.19 56 Friedman, Andrea. The Politics of Consumption: Women and Consumer Culture (Journal of Women's History, Volume 13, Number 2, 2001) P.162 57 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.194 58 Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street in Stella McNichol (ed.) Mrs. Dalloways Party (London, Vintage, 2010) P.24 59 Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street in Stella McNichol (ed.) Mrs. Dalloways Party (London, Vintage, 2010) P.24 60 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.13 61 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.6 62 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.10 63 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 64 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198

Charles Japer

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erotically charged Mrs. Dalloway declaring this beauty, this scent, this colour, and Miss Pym liking her, trusting her, were a wave which she let flow over her and surmount that hatred, that monster, surmount it all; and it lifted her up and up when oh!65 Mrs. Dalloway succeeds in maintaining her identity whilst being a consumer since she transforms the commodity before her into part of her past, her own identity.66 She maintains control, as will be demonstrated next, of her intentions and her identity, by merging that of consumer and of woman. Orlando finds herself relying on the commodity as a signifier of her lifestyle67: the first floor leads to the river off Wappingthe treasure ships and the merchant ships rough rubies lying with Sukey The Cumberlands a house almshouses in the Sheen Road.68 Clarissa fixates on single thread of associations to which everything else relates: whether walking, looking or buying, everything relates to Bourton and, by extension, the flowers she intends to buy. Whereas Rose let the socially unacceptable side of her personality reign over that of the consumer, Clarissa buries this within her consumer identity. Her feelings for Sally are incorporated within the act of shopping. All that is Mrs. Dalloway is incorporated into the consumer identity that she dons.
And indeed, this identity is clearly stated in the opening sentence: Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. As is oft said, as a proposition demonstrates three qualities of the protagonist: that she married; she is buying flowers; and she has chosen to do so herself. It is the latter that is so imperative to both the character and the philosophy of Mrs. Dalloway. In a novel where characters are passive as actions happens to them, Mrs. Dalloways dominant and declarative assertion of action sets her apart. The two active verbs said and buy being used in conjunction with the reflexive pronoun herself give both the emphatic sense of action and the possession thereof. As she reflects, better distemper and tar and all the rest of it than sitting mewed in a stuffy bedroom with a prayer book!69 Clarissa would rather receive the treatment bestowed upon ill togs than to remain inactive. Mrs. Dalloways deliberate control and prescience towards the act and art of consumerism is juxtaposed by her husbands inadvertent repetition. In contrast to the vibrancy of the opening sentence, the masculine iteration is rendered But he wanted to come in holding something? Flowers? Yes, flowers70Richard Dalloways decision is infinitely vaguer, abundant in rhetoric questions. Indeed, the decision of where to shop is not made by Richard himself, but much rather with contrary winds buffeting71 them to their ultimate destination. And as Miller notes, Richard's shopping trip is without a specific purpose72 with the decision to buy flowers is ultimate rendered superfluous by Clarissa already having bought them. Simpson characterises this gift economy as the danger of colluding with heteropatriarchal power structures73 and indeed, Richard enters bearing his flowers like a weapon.74 Yet the effectiveness of the gift is diffused by Clarissa having already bought the item in question. Indeed, on Hegelian grounds, it is the female in

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Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.14 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 67 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 68 Woolf, Virginia Orland, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200331.txt Retrieved: 16/12/2012 69 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.12 70 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.126 71 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.123 72 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198 73 Simpson, K., Economies and Desire: Gifts and the Market in "Moments of Being: 'Slater's Pins Have No Points, (Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 28, Number 2, 2005) p.21 74 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.127

Charles Japer

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this scenario that stands above the male, insofar as intentional under some description.75 However, foresight is an essential part of intention76; Clarissa stands alone in this respect. The novel immediately asserts her intention and control, whereas Richards qualifies as little more than a mere happening or occurrence. 77 And whilst her foresight sets her in stark relief to her husband, it also sets her above the general mesmerised masses. Woolfs uses a peculiar, corpse-like imagery to describe other consumers. Distracted by a plane writing out a message she fails to notice her baby, lying stiff and white in her arms, gazed straight up. 78 On entering a shop, Clarissa notices only one other customer, sitting sideways at the counter her elbow poised, her bare hand drooping vacant.79 The listlessness of the rest of the world, their perpetual motionless contrasts against the constant freneticism of Mrs. Dalloways movement and the clear intent that is the foundation of her actions. In determining and deciding her actions, Clarissa becomes a certain type of conscious consumer, and in doing so places herself above the indecisive proletariat that form the novels supporting cast. Subsequently, one can see the intensely fraught relationship between consumer and gender identity in Woolfs mind. It does initially seem compelling to all out state that to Woolf, the individual and the consumer are mutually exclusive identities. Indeed, the popular consensus in previous works seem to consider that the individual, up to and including Woolf, could only be an ambivalent witness to commodity culture.80 Statistically, this does certainly seem to be the case. Orlando projects her identity entirely upon the Department Store, at the cost of the identity as a consummate consumer. Rose is a complete inversion of this: whilst nominally accomplishing the role of the consumer and succeeding in acquiring the object of her desire, she does so largely at the expense of an identity in which she feels comfortable. Of course, Woolf would never paint things in such monochrome tones, and in the smorgasbord of her characters, Mrs. Dalloway presents something of an incongruity. Unlike the aforementioned two, Clarissa Dalloway manages to strike an equilibrious balance between both her identity as an individual and her identity as a consumer. The ultimate question is why this is? Culturally, very little separates her from Rose and Orlando: all are female, well-off, and possess identity and desires that jar with the expectations of society. Yet somehow Mrs. Dalloway can say that she will buy the flowers herself, and succeed. Perhaps the root of this dissidence lies in the fabric of Clarissas identity. One must ultimately weigh up Mrs. Dalloway versus Clarissa and ask whether one is subordinate to the other. Equally however, it is entirely possible that they operate in harmony. For whilst Clarissa may pine for the kiss from Sally Setton, lost to the ages, Mrs. Dalloway remain rooted in the present, grateful, almost gratuitously so, of the masculine dominance in her life. Rose allows the Clarissa aspect of identity to retain dominance, lacking the mask that the Mrs. Dalloway would provide. Indeed, Clarissa doesnt even keep the two distinct, insofar as Clarissas desire Sally Setton is manifested in Mrs. Dalloways consumer action the purchase of the flowers that provide a perennial link to her youth. The masculine attempt to arrogate this connection, for Richard to use the flowers as a weapon an in presenting them to Clarissa, render flowers a
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Deligiorgi, Katerina Doing without Agency: Hegels Social Theory of Action in Sandis and Laitinen eds., Hegel on Action (London, Palgrave, 2010) P.5 76 Deligiorgi, Katerina Doing without Agency: Hegels Social Theory of Action in Sandis and Laitinen eds., Hegel on Action (London, Palgrave, 2010) P.5 77 Wilson, George and Shpall, Samuel, "Action", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/action/ Retrieved: 10/12/12 78 Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, (London, Penguin Classics, 2000) P.22 79 Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street in Stella McNichol (ed.) Mrs. Dalloways Party (London, Vintage, 2010) P.25 80 Miller, D, Jackson, P. et al. Shopping, Place and Identity (London, Routledge, 1998) P.198

Charles Japer

CJ92@Sussex.ac.uk

mere token of the heteropatriarchal gift economy.81 This association would have taken place, had not Mrs. Dalloway taken the decision to buy the flowers herself. Perhaps this in part explains the aphoristic nature of the line in the modern consciousness. Where Woolf would seemingly differ, however, in is the assertion that the masculine culture of the flaneur82 had now also been incorporated into the consumer identity. Indeed, the consumer is perpetually assaulted with expectations, requirements, mysteries; there is simply not time for introspective reflection. The stylistic descent into the purest of stream of consciousness in Orlando is demonstrative of this. As she increasingly focusses on the sensory impressions and associations she is receiving from the Department Store, so too does she simultaneously drift further and further from her actual intention. This stands in stark contrast to Mrs. Dalloway and her strict mantra of But no looking! One must economise. Indeed, even in the rare moments where Clarissa does lapse into the more typically reflective mode of the flaneur that is, Hatchards the book shop and Mulberrys the florist the free associations are still firmly rooted in a consumerist frame of mind. She is only at the bookshop to buy a gift; only at the florist to purchase flowers for her party. Woolf contests the notion that simply being given limited reign of the streets of London is synonymous with intellectual and artistic emancipation. Much rather, though the divine arbiter of the Department Store may proclaim that its premises allow for women to become flaneurs, it is the very act of consumerism that robs them of the ability. Ultimately Woolf expresses no navity about the contemporary interplay of gender and consumer. Whilst playing a role in superficially liberating the woman by releasing her to the streets of London superficial, in that it is hardly novel or particularly momentous the consumer role is still the fundamentally nurturant and expressive in the monolithic unit - the family - which defines the "woman's world.83 For the enquiring mind, the role of the consumer is still embroiled in conflict with the mass mind, be it the myriad as with Orlando or the specific as with Rose. Shopping may be pleasure; it may be a pastime; it may be a recreation. But to Woolf shopping really is merely shopping.

81

Simpson, Kathryn, Economies and Desire: Gifts and the Market in "Moments of Being: 'Slater's Journal of Modern Literature, Volume 28, Number 2, 2005) P.20
82

Thornham, Sue Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies (London, Arnold, 2000) P.39

83

Gimenez. M. E. Structuralist Marxism on "The Woman Question" Science & Society, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Fall, 1978), pp. 308-309