During her initial meeting with Peter, both Clarissa and Peter hold sharp objects (Clarissa’s knitting needle and Peter’s pocket knife). These objects seem to hint at the hostility and aggression that is bubbling just under the surface of this conversation (as we see when Clarissa reflects on how Peter is always [exact quote]). I’d like to close-read this passage and see what it can tell us about how Woolf is thinking about such issues as gender, marriage, friendship, and the relationship between the past and the present. I’d also like to talk about Peter’s pocket knife. Why does he keep fiddling with this? And why is it important that it is a knife that he is playing with (as opposed to some other object)?
At times, this novel almost feels like it is two completely different stories stitched together. On the one hand, we have Clarissa’s story, which revolves around her party and her memories of Bourton. On the other hand, we have Septimus’s story, which more directly concerns shell shock and the legacies of World War I. Note that there is very little overlap between the overt themes of these two sections–Clarissa rarely thinks about the war, and Septimus has little experience of the upper-class world inhabited by Clarissa. So what, then, is Woolf doing by combining these two stories in her novel? How do these two tales connect with one another? What similar themes are they speaking to? And why might Woolf have decided to approach these themes through two somewhat disconnected stories?
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