Monday, March 23, 2009

Secondary Reading,The Man Who Saw Himself Drown, Mrs. Dalloway

"The Man Who Saw Himself Drown" by Anita Desai was published in 2000, decades and decades after Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. In the story, a man who is out of in town on business witnesses his own drowning and the ramifications of his death as he walks dazedly through them. The protagonist battles with the consequences of his death, the loss of his wife and children, while also examining what oppurtunities comes with getting a fresh start, ridded of responsibility and identity. As he comes to terms with the realization of his situation, the main character is faced with a choice, "to drown this self that had remained, to drown the double of the self that had already died" (Desai 98) or "to go on with another life, a new life?" (Desai 98)  The story ends with a young boy discovering the body of our narrator, drowned by the timid trickle of a small stream. This story, like Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, uses a character to weigh and explore the meaning of life and death. Similar to the man in Desai's story, Woolf uses Septimus, an emotional ex-soldier struggling with life after battle. Both Desai's character and Woolf's struggle with the challenge of returning to life after it has, essentially, been taken away from them. For Desai, this robbery of life is literal, but Woolf creates a similar dilemma for Septimus and the hollowing out effect that the war has on him, stealing his idealistic youth, his naive mind. Though Desai doesn't refer to Woolf or Septimus in her story, her character's deliberate choice, his thoughtful acceptance of death in order to escape a life he can no longer fully live is reminiscent of Septimus, listening to the futile and imprisoning cures of Dr. Holmes downstairs, before he urgently "flung himself vigorously" (Woolf 164) from the window sill. Both writers use their characters to ask and observe the same question- when life is no longer full, when our grasp of it's beauties and realities, it's quiet pleasantries and joys has been broken, can relief only be found in death?

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