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  1. #1
    Senior Member wedekit's Avatar
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    Default Clarissa Dalloway from Mrs. Dalloway

    Well, I've always wondered what Clarissa Dalloway's personality type was because it is my favorite book. Her character just really reached for my heart and snatched it. I originally pegged her as an ESFJ, since she was considered to be an "excellent hostess". However, I kind of forgot that one of the main points of the story is that she is Mrs. Dalloway; tied down by society and money as a housewife.

    She starts out the story reminiscing about the past and taking a walk in June to "pick up the flowers herself". She seems very excited about the party she will be throwing. On the way to the flower shop, she runs into a couple of friends and we discover how shy she actually is through the contrast between her internal thoughts and the the internal thoughts of those she encounters. She is very reserved on the outside while on the inside things are very exciting and busy. While some may see her as shallow, we as the audience are able to see her rich inner life and constant contemplation, not to mention how her mind wanders from topic to topic fluidly with no focus. The environment around her triggers these memories as well as the people she encounters.

    So basically I'm going to argue this:

    1) The environment around her seems to almost electrify her mind, causing a flood of vivid memories and internal thoughts. Throughout the story she falls into this kind of thinking, often resulting in her suddenly being pulled back into reality by interrupting external stimuli (example: Big Ben striking the hour).

    2) She seems to idealize her party, as she enjoys doing this for not only her sake but for others. She insists on everything be perfect at her party, and when things are looking bad she feels like she as a person is threatened because her "vision" has been tainted. At the end of the book certain events cause her to think that her party is ruined. From what I discerned, she had been waiting to throw this party for so long when it finally happened she was not as satisfied with it as she though she would be. She walks upstairs and stands on the balcony and contemplates suicide. Since she is tied down by society, all she can really turn to are "gloves and shoes" and her parties, and all she ever wishes is to attain perfection in these kinds of things.

    3) We see such a huge contrast in Clarissa's actual character and her character as perceived by others. This reserved nature she is known for leads me to believe she is an introvert. This is also supported by her wish to spend time alone inside her solitary room. She has also been shown to express "prudish remarks". For example, when she was young she heard about a young girl who had a baby outside of marriage. "Her reaction seemed not only prudish but also arrogant, judgmental, and unimaginative, and others who were at the table at the time were uncomfortable with her blatant scorn of and lack of sympathy for the woman." These people became uncomfortable because of how her usual sweet nature had suddenly disappeared.

    4) We also learn that Clarissa prefers discussions about things that have nothing to do with ordinary life, and this is one of the things she values about parties. "Clarissa imagined her party as a forum for discussion of topics that people would not normally discuss, and people are indeed emerging somewhat from their usual selves. "

    5) Her best friend when she was younger, Sally, had come the party. She hadn't seen her since she was young. She had spent so much time imagining Sally in her mind over the years that this "new" Sally seemed less real than the one in her mind.

    6) At the end of the novel, Clarissa feels extreme guilt after hearing about the suicide of another main character of the novel that she had never actually met. One of the people invited to her party was this man's (Septimus) psychologist. Septimus was a victim of shell-shock from the war, and basically suffered from manic/schizophrenic systems. He ends up throwing himself out of a window and onto a metal fence. Clarissa responds like this:

    "Clarissa feels that Septimus’s death is her own disgrace, and she is ashamed that she is an upper-class society wife who has schemed and desired social success. His death is also her disgrace because she compromised her passion and her soul when she married Richard, while Septimus preserved his soul by choosing death. "

    This final point I think is one of the strongest to support my theory that Clarissa Dalloway is an INFJ. I believe she shows a preference for Ni (her vivid thoughts, which are even intuitive to future events), followed by her Fe (which she expresses by putting together parties). I can't believe I never really thought about all of this until today, but I believe that she is the strongest example of an INFJ character I have ever encountered.

    I would be interested to see if anyone else thinks otherwise. I don't want to let my own personal bias get in the way of determining her personality type, since this was my original intention.
    Last edited by wedekit; 04-15-2008 at 03:32 PM.
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  2. #2
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    I always interpreted her as INFJ. Likewise for the author herself.

    What do you think?

  3. #3
    Senior Member wedekit's Avatar
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    Well, they she based the character of Clarissa on her friend (commonly believed to be her past lover) Kitty Maxse. I searched "virginia woolf's personality" and found a page full of other people's perceptions about here, and I the following suggested to me that she is at least has some INFJ qualities:

    - Frances Marshall says 'Argument was not her forte, but wild generalizations based on the flimsiest premises and embroidered with elaborate fantasy...'


    - She 'was shy and awkward, often silent, or, if in the mood to talk, would leap into fantasy and folly and terrify the innocent and unprepared.' (Angelica Garnett).

    - Mystical experience was not part of her public persona, but she had strange feelings of unreality when she was a child in 1894, looking at a puddle in Hyde Park Gardens.

    - She was 'enormously generous.' 'Shop assistants made her feel shy and out of place.' (Angelica Garnett).

    - Away from social life, she was a workaholic like her father. 'Leonard has said that of the sixteen hours of her waking life, Virginia was working fifteen hours in one way or another.' (John Lehmann).

    - "She was awfully naughty. She was fiendish. She could say things about people, all in a flash, which remained with one. Fleetingly malicious, rather than outright cruel.'"

    - In a television interview in 1967 her husband said: '.....the way that her mind worked when she was perfectly sane. First of all, in her own conversation she would do what I called "leaving the ground". Suddenly she would begin telling one something quite ordinary, and incident she'd seen in the street or something like that; and when her mind seemed to get completely off the ground she would give the most fascinating and amusing description of something fantastic, quite unlike anything that anyone other than herself would have thought of, which would last for about five or ten minutes.'

    - She loved to talk about social class divisions, and about the Royal Family, sometimes to the point of tedium, Spender thought.

    - At times carried away by her fantastical imagination, she had difficulty in projecting herself into others work and lives and feelings.

    - Her love of fantasy led her to tease. If someone gave her a humdrum account of a holiday abroad, she would invent adventures they must have had, which became more and more extravagant and unlikely as they developed.

    - Friends delighted in her conversation, and many thought her the wittiest conversationalist of a highly articulate circle.

    Sounds like an INFJ to me... and if not, I'm not sure what to classify her as.
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  4. #4
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    I don't think Clarissa Dalloway is an INFJ. Really. Do you think you may be reading the inner workings of an ESFJ or at least EFJ? She's a static fictional character so we're not going to get any more of her than what we already have, but anytime you see introspection or an inner monologue in a character doesn't mean you're seeing intuition at work.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wedekit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    I don't think Clarissa Dalloway is an INFJ. Really. Do you think you may be reading the inner workings of an ESFJ or at least EFJ? She's a static fictional character so we're not going to get any more of her than what we already have, but anytime you see introspection or an inner monologue in a character doesn't mean you're seeing intuition at work.
    Her introspection is no what makes me believe she is intuitive; it's what she thinks about, how she thinks about it, and why she thinks about it. She is very idealistic, and when things in reality don't match up with how she pictures it in her mind (the party, her daughter, her marriage, Sally, etc.) she wonders what happened to reality. Ni.
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    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    But how would you know that an ESFJ wouldn't think like that in the privacy of their own mind?

  7. #7
    Senior Member wedekit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    But how would you know that an ESFJ wouldn't think like that in the privacy of their own mind?
    How would you know that an ESFJ would? I can't form an opinion about her being an ESFJ without some kind of textual evidence suggesting it. Could you provide some for me?

    Also, I just want to say that Clarissa has little chance of being an extravert. Answers.com addresses this nicely.

    "The overwhelming impression Clarissa gives is that she is a solitary, even isolated, being, and that she is often consumed with thoughts or feelings of death and mortality. This is not only because her thoughts of friends are for those of her youth and not present ones, but also because she seems to desire isolation. She chooses Richard Dalloway over Peter Walsh as a husband not because she loves him more, but because she believes Richard will not consume all of her personality and time, or all of her emotional and intellectual reserves. Clarissa sleeps in her own room, in a small single bed that is likened to a coffin, and such suggestions and imagery of isolation and death surround her throughout the book."
    (Mrs. Dalloway (Characters): Information and Much More from Answers.com)

    "ESFJs are warmly caring people who give their intimate relationships a lot of special care and attention. They're usually traditional and take their commitments very seriously. Once the ESFJ has said "I do", you can bet that they will put forth every effort to fulfill their obligations to the relationship."

    Sleeping in different rooms doesn't appear to be very "traditional", and she doesn't seem to provide and special care or attention to Richard. In fact, she talks about Peter way more than she talks about Richard.

    But like I said. I'm open to the idea of her being an ESFJ if you can show me some proof.
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  8. #8
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    It's not that I particularly think she's an INFJ or ESFJ it's just the thought that if most of the book revolves around her stream of conscious thinking, how would we know an ESFJ doesn't do that in their mind? I'm not talking about how they outwardly behave I'm talking about what an ESFJ or INFJ might think. I've had several experiences with ESFJs when they share how they really feel about something and discuss the fears and concerns they have and what it means and I don't see how what Mrs. Dalloway does is a uniquely INFJ activity when you're ruminating/retrospecting over major life events. Using the context of a book, she could very much be a middle-aged ESFJ re-examining her life and becoming quite philosophical about it.

    IIRC, Mrs. Dalloway had just gotten over the flu which nearly killed her. There was a flu epidemic that time that killed millions of people around the world. WWI had just ended. It was a time when death and mortality was standing on the welcome mats of people's homes. Who wouldn't wax philosophic?

    If anything her need to keep up appearances so much would lead me to believe that she is Fe dominant. I just don't see an INFJ going through that much trouble to keep the facade in tact. An ESFJ (or ENFJ) trapped in the cycle of needing to keep the lid on everything and tightly control their feelings that they feel won't be well received is very likely to drown themselves in a whirlwind of social activity to keep themselves from thinking about what's really bothering. We could be witnessing a moment of truth within her life.

    ...struggles constantly to balance her internal life with the external world. Her world consists of glittering surfaces, such as fine fashion, parties, and high society, but as she moves through that world she probes beneath those surfaces in search of deeper meaning.
    Is that what makes you think she's an INFJ? If so, wouldn't it be more likely that she's an ENFJ rather than INFJ?

    However, she is always concerned with appearances and keeps herself tightly composed, seldom sharing her feelings with anyone. She uses a constant stream of convivial chatter and activity to keep her soul locked safely away, which can make her seem shallow even to those who know her well.
    This ties into how much misinformation there is about Fe running around. I don't see this as sign that she's an introvert. Also, maybe what we're witnessing is Si in action and not necessarily Ni. Si also looks for meaning it's just oriented towards the past.
    The introverted sensation type is captivated by the vibrations that the outside world of the senses sets off within them. The reverberation and repercussions of the object on his inner world are what his attention focuses on... It is as if a pebble has been thrown into a pond and the ripples spread out throughout the whole inner world of subjectivity, revealing not so much the qualities of the pebble but those of the water it has been thrown in...

    The introverted sensation type takes what his senses tell him, brings those details into his inner world, weighs them, experiences them in the depth of his inner self, and only after this process has been completed does the world see an outward reaction.
    She seems to do a lot of reminiscing doesn't she? Are we reading a description of Si or Ni?

    I haven't read the book in a few years, so I'm going to use sparknotes as support.

    The major themes in the book are:
    Communication vs. Privacy
    Disillusionment with the British Empire
    The Fear of Death
    The Threat of Oppression

    How do you think an ESFJ would think about such things? Or do you think they wouldn't think about it at all? My basic point is how would you differentiate an INFJ thinking about such thoughts vs. an ESFJ? I don't think you really can when it gets this microscopic.

    I admit that it frustrates me whenever I see these typing threads and since most of the time when you're dealing with a fictional character and you get to see their inner world it's assumed the character is intuitive. I'm not necessarily trying to prove that she's an ESFJ, I just don't want you to assume she's an INFJ. I think we can both agree on the FJ part?

  9. #9
    Senior Member wedekit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    It's not that I particularly think she's an INFJ or ESFJ it's just the thought that if most of the book revolves around her stream of conscious thinking, how would we know an ESFJ doesn't do that in their mind? I'm not talking about how they outwardly behave I'm talking about what an ESFJ or INFJ might think. I've had several experiences with ESFJs when they share how they really feel about something and discuss the fears and concerns they have and what it means and I don't see how what Mrs. Dalloway does is a uniquely INFJ activity when you're ruminating/retrospecting over major life events. Using the context of a book, she could very much be a middle-aged ESFJ re-examining her life and becoming quite philosophical about it.

    IIRC, Mrs. Dalloway had just gotten over the flu which nearly killed her. There was a flu epidemic that time that killed millions of people around the world. WWI had just ended. It was a time when death and mortality was standing on the welcome mats of people's homes. Who wouldn't wax philosophic?

    If anything her need to keep up appearances so much would lead me to believe that she is Fe dominant. I just don't see an INFJ going through that much trouble to keep the facade in tact. An ESFJ (or ENFJ) trapped in the cycle of needing to keep the lid on everything and tightly control their feelings that they feel won't be well received is very likely to drown themselves in a whirlwind of social activity to keep themselves from thinking about what's really bothering. We could be witnessing a moment of truth within her life.



    Is that what makes you think she's an INFJ? If so, wouldn't it be more likely that she's an ENFJ rather than INFJ?



    This ties into how much misinformation there is about Fe running around. I don't see this as sign that she's an introvert. Also, maybe what we're witnessing is Si in action and not necessarily Ni. Si also looks for meaning it's just oriented towards the past.

    She seems to do a lot of reminiscing doesn't she? Are we reading a description of Si or Ni?

    I haven't read the book in a few years, so I'm going to use sparknotes as support.

    The major themes in the book are:
    Communication vs. Privacy
    Disillusionment with the British Empire
    The Fear of Death
    The Threat of Oppression

    How do you think an ESFJ would think about such things? Or do you think they wouldn't think about it at all? My basic point is how would you differentiate an INFJ thinking about such thoughts vs. an ESFJ? I don't think you really can when it gets this microscopic.

    I admit that it frustrates me whenever I see these typing threads and since most of the time when you're dealing with a fictional character and you get to see their inner world it's assumed the character is intuitive. I'm not necessarily trying to prove that she's an ESFJ, I just don't want you to assume she's an INFJ. I think we can both agree on the FJ part?
    Yes, definitely FJ. Maybe the problem with books (especially non-traditional ones like this) is that the author's writing style adds a second layer over the characters that fogs things up. Maybe Clarissa is a character with an ESFJ outline (or xxFJ) and an INFJ (or whatever Virginia Woolf may be) author coloring in the rest. That would make a lot of sense. Like I said before, I originally thought of her as an ESFJ because she was described as "the perfect hostess" (even if it was a sarcastic comment on Peter's part).

    Another problem is that the best way to type someone is by exploring their preferred cognitive processes, which is very hard to do in a book. First, we can't really know for sure which is her dominate; we only know what the author concentrates on. Plus, we supposedly develop our other functions as we age, and Clarissa was roughly 50. If she was an ESFJ, she could definitely be using her third process, Ne, like you mentioned.

    Anyways, the list of problems go on, but I like my "coloring" theory. Clarissa being the outline of an ESFJ with an INFJ author adding the color.

    And as far as her preferring such solitude... fictional characters are often never that realistic. That could just be Woolf adding a piece of her own personality into Clarissa, if that makes sense, since Woolf did spend quite a lot of time alone from what I've read.

    Thanks for the good discussion!
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  10. #10
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wedekit View Post
    Yes, definitely FJ. Maybe the problem with books (especially non-traditional ones like this) is that the author's writing style adds a second layer over the characters that fogs things up. Maybe Clarissa is a character with an ESFJ outline (or xxFJ) and an INFJ (or whatever Virginia Woolf may be) author coloring in the rest. That would make a lot of sense. Like I said before, I originally thought of her as an ESFJ because she was described as "the perfect hostess" (even if it was a sarcastic comment on Peter's part).
    Yes, that's what I thought after I finished my post and was too lazy to go back and edit in. I think Virginia Woolf may be an NFJ writing an SFJ character or a generic FJ/EFJ character. You see the NFJ temperament peeking through and it's probably muddying the typing.

    Glad to be of service!

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