Being that both Mrs Dalloway1by Virginia Woolf and The Rainbow2by D.
H. Lawrence are set in the early 20th century, the main femaleprotagonists appear to suffer similar struggles that were typical to womenaround that period, particularly the prevailing control that men had over womenin a generally oppressive society. Whilst these struggles are prevalent throughoutboth novels, the women endeavour to battle these repressive attitudes.In the novel, Mrs Dalloway,the main focal point is the portrayal of the impact of a repressive society on thelives of the women.
They live in a society structured around men, in which as aresult, the opposite sex suffer the consequences. The ideology of being man-likedominates society, and even shapes Mrs Dalloway’s actions, so that she is ableto live her life with more freedom. Clarrisa’s attempt of control over her personalliberty can be seen when she rejects Peter’s marriage proposal and marries MrDalloway, who allows her more freedom.
This bold act allows her to have the opportunityto shape her future of her own accord, something that is perceived as being typicallymasculine. When talking about marriage, Clarissa Dalloway acknowledges itsimportance, especially for women, “for one would not part with it one self, ortake it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’sindependence, one’s self-respect-something, after all, price less” (p.132). AlexZwerdling argues in his critical piece that “in Mrs Dalloway’s world, thesoul has no public function and can only survive in solitude. But even MrsDalloway’s marriage to Richard is not really a betrayal of self so much as acompact between two people to live together yet allow the soul a littlebreathing space.”3In the novel, menare granted more liberties and lenience, and they ultimately shape how societyis built. Women on the other hand, are forced to accept a repressive role in thesociety, more often than not as housewives or just as passive figures.
Mrs Dallowayinsinuates that women acknowledge the inequalities by explaining that it is hardto escape from the control men, “I would disappear but London would havenone of it … “constrained her to a partnership”. It is evident from Woolf’suse of “constrained” that there is evidently an element of restriction on herlife. The society constantly seems to restore these rulings set by men in accordanceto the masculine ideal. The prevalent image in society that man is superiormaintains this need for men to uphold these manly values.