In the short story by Woolf "The New Dress," it is fascinating that throughout the story Mabel doesn't show herself kindness. Something caused by her sense of timidity when it comes to other people (upper class). Rather than implementing her history (mother's Paris fashion book), Mabel senses that she is worthy to be rebuked for how she is dressed at the event. Rather than being proud of her dress designer's work on the dress and her individuality, there is a sense that Mabel feels embarrassed because she is not the same as everyone else at the party (in fashionable and expensive clothes). Woolf's use of the line 'flies trying to crawl' is also interesting as many critics suggest that by including this line into the story Woolf is making a direct reference to Anton Chekhov's short story 'The Duel' and the character Nadyezhda Fyodorovna. Who in the story feels that just like a fly she kept falling into the ink (darkness) and crawling out into the light again? It is also noticeable that though Mabel compares herself to a character in a story, she is unable to picture the other people at the party in the same light. Rather she sees them as 'dragon-flies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing.' Which in many ways serves to not only further highlight the sense of insecurity (socially) that Mabel feels but also the sense of alienation that she may feel? She feels as if she is unable to connect with those at the party.
Woolf also appears to be exploring the theme of the class. Not only through the insecurity that Mabel feels while at the party but by telling the reader that Mabel (one of ten children) never had enough money when she was growing up 'always skimping and paring.' Throughout her childhood, Mabel dreamt of being taken away from the life she was living and being 'married to some hero like Sir Henry Lawrence, some empire builder.' However, it is interesting that when Mabel begins to further reflect on her life the reader becomes aware that she is, in fact, happy being married to Hubert, living with him and her two children in their small house. Though it is noticeable that Mabel's insecurities or self-doubt return after she thought about her life in the present (at the party).
There is also some symbolism, particularly names, in the story which may be significant. Mabel's surname is Waring, and throughout the narrative, the reader senses the internal conflict that Mabel feels because of her social insecurities. Also, the reader is aware that Mrs. Holman (whole) 'could never get enough sympathy and snatched what little there was greedy as if it were her right.' However, the most important symbolism in the story is probably Mabel's dress itself. Woolf by using the color yellow for the dress could be suggesting, at least symbolically, that the unique person or shining person (yellow representing the sun) is Mabel herself. Something that is more noticeable to the reader when we discover at the end of the story that she decides to leave the party. The fact that the party takes place upstairs in Mrs. Dalloway's home and that Mabel, however, at the end they walk down the stairs to leave the party. They may also be symbolically important as Woolf could be using the stairs to symbolize the differences between Mabel who decides to go to the party and those who remain at the party (upper class upstairs).
The end of the story is also exciting as it would appear that Woolf is further exploring the theme of escape or as some critics might suggest, Woolf is introducing change into the story. By having Mabel decide to do something different the following day, it is possible that Woolf is implying that not only is Mabel escaping from the views held by those at the party, who again are all upper class but she is also being to take control of her life, to embrace her individuality. No longer is she reliant on the opinions of others. Something that is noticeable when she waves to Charles and Rose 'to show them she did not depend on them one scrap.'
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