Modernismis a shift in literature because it rejects the romanticism and realism of the19th century. So, modernist novel is a turning point because all theformer novel styles represented a much more picture-perfect life of people withtheir romance and actions, but the modernist novel represents the innerstruggles of the 20th century people, and the reader have access tothe feelings and thought of the characters and can examine thempsychologically. In the 20th century, it was a new thing thatpost-war traumas were counted as an issue in novel.
Like Virginia Woolf, someother authors left the conventional characters and broke the social taboos andbegan to create modernist novels. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is considered as a modernist novel because it waswritten after the First World War.
Mrs.Dalloway shows the post-war anxiety and traumas that people experienced. Firstly, the most significant characteristicof the modernist novel is stream of consciousness. Stream of consciousness isthe flow of thoughts and feelings in the mind of the characters.
Stream ofconsciousness makes Mrs. Dalloway apsychological novel. Virginia Woolf shows this in Mrs. Dalloway by informing us about the characters thoughts andfeelings. especially Clarissa’s mental breakdowns and anxiety problems areclearly seen in the whole novel. There is no conventional order of narration asit is seen in Austen’s Pride andPrejudice. Woolf jumps from one character to another character and there isno presumption that she is going to do such a shift. Secondly,there is pessimism, hopelessness, uncertainty and deterioration in modernistnovels.
People are experiencing post-war anxiety and try to recover. In thebeginning of Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa is buying flowers. This represents thebeauty and happiness even after the war, people try to continue a normal lifewithout any depression. On the other hand, Septimus Warren Smith isa good example of pessimism and hopelessness.
Septimus experienced the FirstWorld War and is still under its effects. He is experiencing mental breakdownsand has no more hope in his heart. Hereminds the reader of the war and its horror. In the beginning of Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf call the war up tothe mind again ‘For it was the middle of June.
The War was over, except forsomeone like Mrs. Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart outbecause that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to acousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram inher hand, John, her favorite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven — over.'(8). But in Austen’s Pride and Prejudiceis far away from hopelessness and pessimism, there is only love romanticism andhope.Finally,another characteristic of modernist novel is that there is a strong reactionagainst established social taboos and social and religious views.
Clarissa’sidea of suicide is a social taboo in the 20th century. The idea ofsuicide is morally false. But Woolf handles suicide as a psychological fact andnot normalizing but showing that this is a breakdown that every people can live.Moreover, there is another character, Sally who shows interest in women and doesnot want to marry. her behavior is not accepted in the society. Being alesbian, bisexual, transsexual, or gay is something that is not accepted andexpected in 20th century. Women are expected to marry with agentleman who is educated and has money.
As it is shown in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, women in the 19thand 20th century are in a rush to marry with a rich man. And in Pride and Prejudice there is no sign ofhomosexuality. Tosum up, it is seen that there are some differences and shifts in moral andsocial issues and in the general structure and narration of a novel in the 20thcenturies modernist novel in contrast with the 19th centuriesrealistic novel.