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By marrying Richard, Clarissa has maintained ‘the privacy of the soul,’ she has ‘escaped’ the destructive intimacy of Peter Walsh, but Septimus’ only ‘escape’, to keep his own soul’s privacy from the clutches of Holmes and Bradshaw, was to kill himself. Thus, the novel does not offer any perfect relationship that Clarissa could have chosen (besides, perhaps, Sally Seton, which would have brought with it its own societal difficulties). But one’s solitude and independence, the novel seems to suggest, is paramount to the total abandonment and potential bitterness of intimacy.
The other dynamic of intimacy the novel offers its readers is that of the consciousness of characters. In a critique of the Victorian literature before her own, Woolf states that ‘they have laid an enormous stress on the fabric of things. They have given us a house in the hope that we may be able to deduce the human beings who live there.’ To create a truer mimesis, she suggests, the author ‘must trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.’ Indeed, the novel illustrates the inaccuracy and subjectivity of being able to ‘deduce the human beings’ from ‘the fabric of things.’ Our first physiognomic view of Clarissa is from Scrope Purvis, who describes ‘a touch of the bird about her, of the jay, blue-green, light, vivacious.’ This will later contrast with Peter Walsh’s description, that she looks ‘wooden, cold, heartless’ Of course, both of these descriptions are incompatible, and it is clear that Peter’s description seems to have been conferred onto her by his own jealousy. As Hermione Less states, Virginia Woolf’s ‘novels are about the difficulty of reading people.’ We find the metaphoric parallel here with the differing views of what the advertisement aeroplane writes in the sky. One of the onlookers suggests it was ‘writing a K, an E, a Y perhaps?’ It is fatuous, the novel seems to suggest, to derive any ‘key’ characteristic, whether in literature or life, from the superficial. Woolf illustrates such a method of deduction is impossible to divorce from subjectivity; each person will extract different meaning. To come closer to reality, the novel form would need a new kind of interiority.
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