Analysing the Modernist Approach of “the New Dress” by Virginia Woolf Essay

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Virginia Woolf's short story "The New Dress" is often overshadowed by her more popular stories, such as "The Duchess and the Jeweller", "The Mark on the Wall", and "Kew Gardens". "The New Dress", written in 1924, may originally have been a chapter of the novel Mrs. Dalloway, because the same characters and events appear in both works. “‘The New Dress’ obsessively worries about the suitability of her new party frock, ‘a woman’s projection of self’” (Koppen 660). The protagonist Mabel, an insecure and self-conscious guest at a party, is convinced that she, together with her yellow dress, is ridiculed by others at a party. She is unable to take an honest judgement or receive a flattering compliment. Her mind is filled with pitiful illusion of being the target of mockery. At last, she gets up to leave the party, assuring the hostess Mrs. Dalloway that she has enjoyed herself. In the story, the modernism elements ambiguity, irony and paradox are related through the employment of stream of consciousness and symbolism. Woolf is commonly regarded, together with Edouard Dujardin and James Joyce, as one of the creators and early practitioners of stream-of-consciousness narrative. The thoughts and feelings of Mabel are central to the narrative. Woolf spends more than three thousand words on the half hour stay of Mabel at the party. The focus is more on character than plot; actually, the plot is revealed as the reader learns about the protagonist. T. S. Eliot puts symbolism as “the only way of expressing emotions in the form of art”. Symbolism hence can be defined as the art of expressing ideas and emotions not by describing them directly, but by recreating them through the use of unexplained symbols or images. Woolf uses the symbols of Mrs Dalloway’s mirror, toiling flies, the canary’s cage, chattering magpies, dressmaker’s dummy and so on to represent the feeling of

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