Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flowers at Work

The opening line of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf reads, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." 

When I first read it, this sentence had no resonance for me, even after watching Meryl Streep airily declare, "I'm going to buy the flowers myself" in The Hours, a screen adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel which was based on Woolf's book.  But several years later, unbiden, this very sentence burbled up in my consciousness as the most important and defining sentence of the whole novel.

It says,  "I chose."  I chose not only to have things, people, work... in my life and surroundings which nourish me but also to take responsibility to get them and put them there.

Cunningham traces the varying degrees that 3 women in very different times were able to live that; Laura Brown in Los Angeles in the 1950s who is reading Mrs. DallowayClarissa Dalloway in New York in perhaps the 1990s as she is being Mrs. Dalloway, and Virginia Woolf in a suburb outside London in the 1920s as she is writing Mrs. Dalloway.

Consigned to living where she does not want to live and in a manner not suited to her, Virginia choses suicide.  Laura, circumscribed by a narrow role, determines that she will leave both loving husband and children forever. Clarissa decides, after the death of a former boyfriend with whom she was enmeshed, to take life by both hands and live it.

I'll buy the flowers myself.

1 comment:

Paul Henderson said...

Nice picture! That would make a nice business card!