After class on Thursday I re-read the first portion of Between the Acts, mainly because I missed the gay references concerning William Dodge the first time around and wanted to take a closer look at his character. The gay commentary did seem a little more prominent during a second reading, but another portion of the text actually caught my attention a little more. On page 66, the phrase ‘dispersed are we’ pops up repeatedly and is a looming force over the characters in the novel (Woolf 66). It is continually being heard as the characters are dispersing from their seats toward the end of the play. Although the characters are physically dispersing, I think the phrase has an underlying commentary regarding the range of personalities shown through the characters in the novel.
‘Dispersed are we’ seems to imply some sort of tension or scattering off in different directions. Dispersion is not typically associated with unity; therefore, the phrase implants the idea of brokenness into the mind of the reader. As the reader, I was unsure if this brokenness referred to the break in the play, the physical dispersion of the audience, or the tension between the characters themselves. However, I would like to think that it refers to then tension and differences between characters.
During the pages when the gramophone is wailing ‘dispersed are we,’ Woolf jumps into the minds of many different characters. We see many of them struggling with the idea of following the dispersing crowd led by Mrs. Manresa or staying rooted where they are. It seems as if all of the characters just to follow the crowd, which leads Miss La Trobe to comment on the failure of the play.
From this short scene, I think the reader has a glimpse of one of the main themes within the novel concerning the ability to see yourself and be your own person. All the characters in Between the Acts are very different, but they all seem to have issues with their own identity. There is tension and jealousy throughout the entire first half that upsets the unity of the crowd; however, these issues are not voiced. They are muted and only emerge through the reader’s vision into individual character’s minds. I think Woolf may have been trying to comment on the need for expression as a means of self-cleansing, which also ties in with the mirror being reflected upon the audience at the end of the novel. I think Woolf may have been implying that people must learn to see themselves for who they truly are, (flaws, issues, imperfections and all) and adapt to situations based on what is best for their individual character. In an essence, ‘ the dispersion’ that Woolf mentions is in direct reference to the audience because there cannot be a unified ‘we’ until people collectively voice their thoughts and have a chance to create a unity and comfort of their own individual self. Unity as a crowd seems to come from a loving of yourself as an individual. The phrase ‘dispersed are we’ looms over the crowd as a reminder for the reader that dispersion and differences are a good thing.