The Man Who Loved His Kind by Virginia Woolf
In The Man Who Loved His Kind by Virginia Woolf we have the theme of ego, insecurity, resentment, recognition, loneliness and change. Taken from her The Complete Shorter Fiction collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Woolf may be exploring the theme of ego. Rather than Prickett Ellis showing any contentment with his life he appears to be more focused on wanting to tell others (Miss O’Keefe and those at the party) about his successes when it comes to winning the Brunners’ case. Rather than Ellis being driven by any sense of altruism towards others it is possible that what is driving Ellis is his need to boost his own ego. It is also noticeable that Ellis is protective of his status among those at the party. Though he does not view them as his peers and if anything considers them to be obnoxious he still nonetheless lives a very comfortable life as too do the people at the party. He seems to justify his extravagances (the yacht) by being proud of the fact that he buys cheap tobacco. There is a sense that Ellis considers the fact that he buys cheap tobacco to in some ways place him among those who may be less fortunate than him (working class people). It may also be symbolically important that Ellis has borrowed his suit for the party as it is possible that Woolf is attempting to suggest that Ellis believes that by borrowing the suit he is not the same as those at the party.
There is also a sense that Ellis’ ego is driven by his need to feel secure about himself. As an outsider he is looking in and may not necessarily feel as though he is able to make a connection with others (Dalloway). Which in turn may make Ellis feel resentful about his circumstances. Though Ellis may like to consider himself better than others (those at the party) the reality may be that this is not necessarily how he really feels. He may long to be part of the life that he very much wishes to attack. It may not necessarily be the class of people that Ellis wishes to attack but rather the individuals which he believes may be part of that class. Ellis himself is upper class and has enough money to be able to afford a yacht and to take on cases without a fee. It may also be a case that Ellis is striving for recognition from others. He is happy that the Brunners have thanked him by way of the clock yet he may still strive for the same recognition from his peers. Though he is not yet ready to admit that those at the party are his peers.
It is also interesting that Ellis is prepared to call others pompous but at the same time cannot see that his own desire for recognition is also driven by his belief in his own self-importance. Rather than Ellis being a bastion for the working classes he is no different from the very people that he longs to ridicule in some way. While at the same time boosting his own ego. If anything Ellis’ way of thinking only leads to him feeling lonely. He throughout the story is unable to mix with others and when he does engage in conversation with Miss O’Keefe he manages to ostracize her. He is blinded by not only his own belief in his worth as an individual but his arrogance also hinders him from making any progress with others. Ellis longs to be considered to be an ‘ordinary’ person yet he is unable to constructively engage with others. There is a sense of aloofness with Ellis due to his belief system and his consideration that he is better than others. Which in many ways is ironic considering he wishes to be seen as an ‘ordinary’ person.
The end of the story is also interesting as there appears to be no change in Ellis’ attitude towards his peers. He attempts to take the higher moral ground yet does not really listen to Miss O’Keefe. If anything he focuses on himself rather than engaging in any productive manner with her. Throughout the conversation Ellis is set on portraying himself as a defender of ‘ordinary’ people. His people. Yet he cannot see past himself and in many ways lacks empathy towards others (Miss O’Keefe) though still attempts to paint a picture of himself as a saviour of ‘ordinary’ people. The reader is also left in little doubt that what is driving Ellis is his desire for recognition from others. It may also be important that Miss O’Keefe and Ellis part ways at the end of the story as it suggests that things will remain the same for Ellis. He will continue to remain on the outside of society (upper class society) not because of his social position but because of his inability to really connect with others and because of his belief that he is better than others. Rather than being a saviour to ‘ordinary’ people Ellis appears to use them as a tool to promote himself. The most important person in Prickett Ellis’ life is Prickett Ellis. He is no different from those that he wishes to moralize.