Female Identity Revealed Mainly Through Opposition to Male Identity

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Mabel Waring, with her new dress, exposes the thoughts of a few hours, focused on herself, apparently driven by an obsessive inferiority complex. Celie exemplifies a woman escaping the patriarchal order, winning the right to be her own person, no longer socially, sexually, or psychologically enslaved. Mabel progresses some way along that road, identifying what is good in her life, and by that process, finding a resolution. Both achieve self-realization and peace. The stories will be examined separately, exploring the male-female interactions and the women’s development towards liberation.The New Dress (Woolf, 1927): Told as a stream of consciousness, in the third person, the narrator allows access to all thoughts and feelings. What Mabel Waring wore, symbolically represents her need for acceptance as a witty, beautiful woman in the social setting of a party, a microcosm of society. She craved this from the men in particular. Unable to afford to be fashionable, fashion.., meant thirty guineas at least – but why not be original? (Woolf, 1927, p. 296), Mabel convinced herself of the possibility with Miss Milan, her dressmaker. That was discounted when Mabel was confronted by the ordinary people (p.296) at the party, for which the dress had been made.Mabel interpreted Mrs. Barnet’s offer of mirror and brush on arrival as confirmation of how ‘wrong’ she looked, and Rose Shaw’s compliment But my dear, it’s perfectly charming! (p.296) meant the opposite, as Rose was dressed in the height of fashion, precisely like everybody else, always. (p. 297). Metaphorical imagery of Flies trying to crawl (p.297, applied to the company as a self-protective mantra, failed for Mabel. in her yellow silk dress, she defined herself as ..some dowdy, decrepit, horribly dingy old fly, while the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming. (p.297) Mabel’s feelings of social and economic inferiority made her unable to accept reassurance from other women.