Woolf and Friendship.

Whilst reading Mrs Dalloway, a particular paragraph was impressed in my mind:

The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man. It was completely disinterested , and besides, it had a quality which could only exist between women, between women just grown up. It was protective, on her side; sprang from a sense of being in league together, a presentiment of something that was bound to part them (they spoke of marriage always as a catastrophe), which led to this chivalry, this protective feeling which was much more on her side than Sally’s. For in those days she was completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was – very absurd. But the charm was overpowering, to her at least, so that she could remember standing in her bedroom at the top of the house holding the hot-water can in her hands and saying aloud, ‘She is beneath this roof…She is beneath this roof!’

Of this type of friendship, I have always lacked a way of describing it till I read the above paragraph in Mrs Dalloway. Woolf fleshes this out with some panache. I was taken aback reading it. Woolf reaches into the psyche and lays bare not even Clarissa’s motivations but her being at that very moment of time. Sally is more than just a reflection, but a point in the world for her to pour her soul into, and love unconditionally and have no expectation of any return. It is a love somewhere between what the Greeks would call¬†philia and agape. This feeling is seemingly ephemeral and Woolf captures that so vividly in the above passage. This part of the novella is one I may return to later.

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