Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Mrs. Dalloway follows the title character on a typical day, as she plans a party, shops, meets old friends, and makes her grand entrance at the party, all the while rethinking her life, her choices, her problems with identity, her sense of self, and the conflicting demands of love. Like Irish writer James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), this is a “stream-of-consciousness” novel, but the book really illustrates Virginia Woolf’s notion of the webs of humanity, love, hate, and even apathy that connect all people. The book also clearly focuses on the metaphor of “the bubbles of selfhood” that surround people and that even those who love them have difficulty penetrating.
Like Joyce’s, Woolf’s style is impressionistic in the sense that she uses interior monologue (characters’ thoughts and feelings) and individual glimpses that illuminate the hearts and souls of her characters while the pace of the plot pauses. To Virginia Woolf, time, selfhood, existence, and the soul or psyche are interrelated and thus must be dealt with intrinsically, each a component or crucial facet of the other.
By presenting apparently unrelated bits and pieces of characters, their actions and choices, and their interactions with others, Virginia Woolf forged an unforgettable and wonderful new writing style that has changed the direction and focus of much twentieth century literature.
Thus, Mrs. Dalloway’s character may be symbolic of...
(The entire section is 557 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*London. Capital of Great Britain whose diversity of life is characterized by the city’s commercial life, its social order, and national politics. As characters walk through the streets of London, they encounter famous locations and monuments—Whitehall, Westminster, the parks, Big Ben, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. London’s diversity suggests the potential for harmony in society on at least two levels: a union between public and private, epitomized in the characters of Clarissa and Septimus, and among all the diverse social and political factions found in English society.
*Westminster. This upper-class London neighborhood houses many government officials and politicians. The Dalloways’ life in Westminster symbolizes their upper-class social status. Richard Dalloway is a member of Parliament and Elizabeth considers the possibility of membership in Parliament as a career.
*Whitehall. Section of London stretching from Trafalgar Square to the Westminster Bridge that gives its name to the area where the Houses of Parliament stand. Downing Street, the official address of the British prime minister, is off Whitehall, as are many government offices. In the 1920’s, Whitehall was associated with war and government. In Whitehall, Peter Walsh is overtaken by a parade of boys marching to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph, a World War I memorial erected in 1920....
(The entire section is 679 words.)
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Mrs. Dalloway is the first of Virginia Woolf’s successful, mature, experimental novels, one that uses impressionistic techniques and interior monologues like those of James Joyce or European writer Marcel Proust to reveal the personalities of her characters, Mrs. Dalloway, Peter Walsh, and Septimus Smith. For Woolf, the human psyche, one’s sense of self (existence), and time are interrelated. For her, the past and present exist simultaneously in the human mind, and the self is not a precise point, as Mrs. Dalloway would hope, but rather a series of ongoing processes. At any given moment, one is the total of one’s experiences, thoughts, choices, hopes, fears, and fantasies.
Virginia Woolf has emerged as the grande dame of feminist writers. Her essays, such as A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938), have always had a major influence on twentieth century feminist philosophy, but in Mrs. Dalloway she manages to make a great artistic contribution to literature and to reveal the destructive nature of erotic love on the individual, particularly the female. To Woolf, love is dangerous because it threatens to engulf and even submerge the individual self, who must sacrifice its identity to keep the love object happy and fulfilled. For Mrs. Dalloway, then, passion is rejected so that she may remain her own inexorable, psychically virginal self.
Woolf’s success indicates the clarity, purity, and...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
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The New Modern Era
The nineteenth century ushered in developments that profoundly changed European society. Mercantilism and industrialism created a powerful new class. The cultural, political and economic might of this new class, the bourgeoisie or middle-class, soon overtook that of the aristocratic classes that had controlled nations and empires before. The spread of democracy and workers' rights movements also characterized the nineteenth century. It was not until after World War I (1914-1918), however, that a deep sense of how extremely and permanently European society had changed prevailed.
Mrs. Dalloway registers this sense of the end of an era. Clarissa's Aunt Parry, the aged relic who makes an appearance at Clarissa's party, represents this decline and this ending of an old way of life. The old woman likes to remember her days in Burma, a time and place suggestive of the height of British imperialism and colonialism. But, as Lady Bruton's distressed comment about the situation in India makes clear, the old days of paternalistic European colonialism are over. India and other colonies that used to be comfortable homes for colonials like Clarissa's aunt are now uncomfortable places where the beginnings of serious battles for independence are occurring.
Lady Bruton also mentions the Labour Party's ascendancy. (This new party gained a parliamentary majority in England in 1924, the year before Mrs. Dalloway was...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
Part 1 Questions and Answers
1. When she hears the sound of windows opening, how old does Clarissa remember being at Bourton?
2. How does Clarissa remember Peter’s letters?
3. In what part of London has Clarissa lived for twenty years?
4. What street does Clarissa cross as Big Ben strikes the hour?
5. What is Hugh Whitbread carrying when Clarissa sees him?
6. What is Clarissa oddly conscious of while talking with Hugh?
7. To what does Clarissa liken her hatred of Doris Kilman?
8. Why does Clarissa hate Doris Kilman?
9. What color are the hands of Mrs. Pym, the florist?
10. What does Clarissa assume about the car’s backfire?
1. When she hears the sound of windows opening, Clarissa remembers being eighteen at Bourton.
2. Clarissa remembers Peter’s letters as being awfully dull.
3. The part of London in which Clarissa (and her husband and daughter) has lived for twenty years is Westminster.
4. Clarissa crosses Victoria Street as Big Ben strikes the hour.
5. Hugh Whitbread is carrying a despatch box stamped with the Royal Arms when he sees Clarissa.
6. Clarissa is oddly conscious of her hat while talking with Hugh.
7. Clarissa likens her hatred of Doris Kilman to a monster in the woods of her own soul.
8. Clarissa hates Doris Kilman, because...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
Part 2 Questions and Answers
1. Whose car does Edgar J. Watkiss believe has just passed?
2. Who does Lucrezia wonder was in the car?
3. Where does the car proceed?
4. What does Septimus say that so upsets Lucrezia?
5. How does Septimus interpret the smoke letters made by the plane?
6. What does Lucrezia tell her mother, to explain Septimus’ behavior?
7. To where does Maisie Johnson ask Septimus and Lucrezia for directions?
8. What question does Maisie Johnson ask herself?
9. What had Mrs. Dempster always longed for?
10. What does the airplane seem to be a symbol of, as Mr. Bentley sees it?
1. Edgar J. Watkiss believes that the Prime Minister’s car has just passed.
2. Lucrezia wonders if the Queen was in the car, perhaps to go shopping.
3. The car proceeds toward Piccadilly, a famous square in London.
4. What Septimus says to upset Lucrezia is, “I will kill myself.”
5. Septimus interprets the smoke letters made by the plane to be signals sent to him.
6. To explain Septimus’ behavior, Lucrezia tells her mother that “Septimus has been working too hard.”
7. Maisie Johnson asks Septimus and Lucrezia for directions to Regent’s Park Station.
8. Maisie Johnson asks herself why she hadn’t stayed at home, meaning Edinburgh, Scotland....
(The entire section is 222 words.)
Part 3 Questions and Answers
1. What does Clarissa hand to Lucy?
2. Why would Clarissa have liked to have been invited to Millicent Bruton’s lunch party?
3. What word describes Clarissa’s bed in the attic?
4. About which moment in Baron Marbot’s military career is Clarissa reading?
5. What is Clarissa’s first impression of Sally Seton?
6. How had Sally arranged flowers in such a different fashion from what Clarissa’s Aunt Helen was accustomed?
7. What quotation from Shakespeare’s Othello did Clarissa remember in connection with Sally?
8. What did Sally ask from Joseph Breitkopf?
9. What does Clarissa finally decide about her feelings regarding not being invited to Lady Bruton’s lunch?
10. What does Lucy offer to do that so pleases Clarissa?
1. Clarissa hands her parasol to Lucy.
2. Clarissa would have wanted to attend Millicent Bruton’s lunch party because they are said to be extraordinarily amusing.
3. “Narrow” is the word used to describe Clarissa’s bed in the attic.
4. Clarissa reads about Baron Marbot’s retreat from Moscow.
5. Clarissa’s first impression of Sally Seton is of Sally sitting on the floor, with her arms around her knees, smoking a cigarette.
6. Instead of using the many little vases in Bourton, Sally had cut the heads off the...
(The entire section is 319 words.)
Part 4 Questions and Answers
1. Who tries to prevent Peter from going upstairs to see Clarissa?
2. What does Clarissa try to hide as she hears footsteps upon the stairs?
3. With whom does Peter say he often wished he had gotten along better?
4. To whom is Peter’s beloved already married?
5. Who are the solicitors (lawyers) with whom Peter is arranging Daisy’s divorce?
6. From what college was Peter “sent down” (expelled)?
7. To what sudden and odd conclusion does Clarissa come regarding Richard lunching at Lady Bruton’s?
8. What words are used to describe the way that Clarissa introduces Elizabeth to Peter?
9. To what is the sound of Big Ben striking the half hour compared?
10. What does Peter stuff into his pocket immediately before leaving?
1. Lucy tries to prevent Peter from going upstairs to see Clarissa.
2. As she hears footsteps upon the stairs, Clarissa tries to hide the dress she is mending.
3. Peter says he often wished he had gotten along better with Clarissa’s father, Justin Parry.
4. Peter’s beloved, Daisy, is already married to a Major in the Indian Army.
5. The lawyers with whom Peter is arranging Daisy’s divorce are Messrs. Hooper and Grateley.
6. The college from which Peter was expelled is Oxford.
7. The sudden and odd...
(The entire section is 276 words.)
Part 5 Questions and Answers
1. As Peter walks the street after leaving Clarissa’s, what time is it?
2. What question does Peter ask himself regarding Clarissa?
3. At what statue does Peter stare and glare as he thinks of Clarissa and “her set”?
4. What are the boys in uniform carrying?
5. In what famous London square does Peter see the attractive young woman?
6. What does Peter imagine asking the young woman?
7. What does Peter imagine himself to be as he follows the young woman?
8. What does Peter remember about Regent’s Park?
9. To what does the narrator liken the old gray nurse?
10. What is the central image of the meditation that follows Peter’s having fallen asleep?
1. As Peter walks the street after leaving Clarissa’s, the time is half past eleven.
2. Peter asks himself why Clarissa gives her parties.
3. Peter stands staring and glaring at the statue of the Duke of Cambridge as he thinks about Clarissa and “her set.”
4. The boys in uniform are carrying guns.
5. Peter sees the attractive young woman in Trafalgar Square.
6. Peter imagines inviting the young woman to have an ice with him.
7. Peter imagines himself to be an adventurer as he follows the young woman.
8. Peter remembers walking in Regent’s Park when he was a...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Part 6 Questions and Answers
1. How does Peter Walsh awaken at Regent’s Park?
2. How was the married housemaid who visited Bourton dressed?
3. Whose soul had Peter instinctively decided had died, and why?
4. What was the name of Clarissa’s dog?
5. What was the great bond between Peter and Sally?
6. How had Clarissa first introduced Richard Dalloway?
7. What did Sally Seton call Richard Dalloway?
8. What had Peter called Clarissa that caused her discomfort?
9. At what time had Peter asked Clarissa to meet him at the fountain?
10. What had Peter scribbled at the end of the note to Clarissa?
1. Peter Walsh awakens very suddenly at Regent’s Park.
2. The married housemaid who visited Bourton was dressed “like a cockatoo.”
3. Peter had decided, instinctively, that Clarissa’s soul had
died, because of her prudish reaction to the minor scandal of the man and his housemaid.
4. The name of Clarissa’s dog was Rob.
5. The great bond between Peter and Sally was that Clarissa’s father, Justin Parry, disliked both of them intensely.
6. Clarissa first introduced Richard Dalloway as “Wickham.”
7. Sally Seton called Richard Dalloway “My name is Dalloway!”
8. Peter had called Clarissa “the perfect hostess,” where upon she winced....
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Part 7 Questions and Answers
1. What does Peter Walsh decide regarding Regent’s Park?
2. What was little Elise doing before she ran into the woman’s legs?
3. What does Lucrezia Smith do when a small child runs into her legs?
4. What doctor had said that there was nothing wrong with Septimus?
5. What does Lucrezia say has grown so thin?
6. What does Septimus imagine is happening to the dog that sniffs at his trousers?
7. What does Septimus imagine is played among the traffic?
8. What word does Septimus think of as splitting its husk?
9. Where are the dead located in the song that Septimus hears Evans sing?
10. What is the name of the dead man at whom Septimus thinks he is smiling?
1. Peter Walsh decides that Regent’s Park hasn’t changed very much since he was a boy.
2. Little Elise was finding some pebbles to add to her collection when she ran into the woman’s (Lucrezia’s) legs.
3. When a small child runs into her legs, Lucrezia Smith picks her up, dusts her little frock, and kisses her.
4. Dr. Holmes had said that there was nothing wrong with Septimus.
5. Lucrezia says that her hand has grown very thin.
6. Septimus imagines that the dog that sniffs at his trousers is turning into a man.
7. Septimus imagines that a boy’s elegy is played among...
(The entire section is 271 words.)
Part 8 Questions and Answers
1. According to Peter’s experiences, what happened to one’s views about women after coming back from India?
2. What are two of the changes that Peter sees in England in the five years he’s been away?
3. In which city is Sally living with her rich husband, much to Peter’s surprise?
4. About which antediluvian (ancient) topic does Peter remember Sally and Hugh arguing about at Bourton?
5. What does Peter envision Hugh doing in his job at Court?
6. How much does Peter assume that Hugh earns per year?
7. How much does Peter assume that he must earn per year?
8. What specific event at Bourton summarizes Peter’s feelings about Richard?
9. What does Peter remember Sally doing in the garden?
10. Whom does Peter blame for the death of Sylvia, Clarissa’s sister?
1. According to Peter’s experiences, one fell in love with every woman one met after coming back from India.
2. Two of the changes that Peter sees in England in the five
years he’s been away are that people now write about water-closets (bathrooms) in respectable public print, and that young women now apply their makeup in public.
3. Much to Peter’s surprise, Sally is living in Manchester with her rich husband.
4. Peter remembers Sally and Hugh arguing about women’s rights at Bourton....
(The entire section is 316 words.)
Part 9 Questions and Answers
1. From what location does the nonsense song issue?
2. Who gives the old woman a coin?
3. Why had Septimus left home as a mere boy?
4. Off of what road had Septimus lodged once he first got to London?
5. At what firm is Mr. Brewer, Septimus’ supervisor, a managing clerk?
6. What would Lucrezia say matters most?
7. What did Septimus, staring through a train window, think might be possible?
8. Off what road did Septimus and Lucrezia take admirable lodgings in London?
9. What did Septimus decide that Shakespeare loathed?
10. To what did Septimus compare the sound of Lucrezia crying?
1. The nonsense song issues from the Regent’s Park Tube (subway) station.
2. Peter Walsh gives the old woman a coin.
3. Septimus left home as a mere boy because of his mother, who lied.
4. Septimus had lodged near Euston Road once he first got to London.
5. Mr. Brewer is a managing clerk at Sibleys and Arrowsmith’s.
6. Lucrezia would say, “It is the hat that matters most.”
7. Staring through a train window, Septimus thought it might be possible that the world was without meaning.
8. Septimus and Lucrezia took lodgings off the Tottenham Court Road in London.
9. Septimus decided that Shakespeare loathed humanity....
(The entire section is 210 words.)
Part 10 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Dr. Holmes go when he feels the way he thinks Septimus feels?
2. How many children does Dr. Holmes have?
3. What was the great revelation that Septimus had, and where was Rezia at the time?
4. What did Septimus call Dr. Holmes, when the latter came to visit after Septimus’ revelation?
5. Where does Holmes suggest the Smiths go if they have no confidence in him?
6. Where does Bradshaw’s son go to school?
7. What did Bradshaw realize the moment he saw Septimus?
8. What gives Bradshaw the impression that Septimus is successful in his career?
9. What, just before leaving, does Bradshaw suggest to Septimus?
10. What observation did Septimus make, once Bradshaw left?
1. When he feels the way that he thinks Septimus feels, Dr. Holmes goes to the Music Hall.
2. Dr. Holmes has four children.
3. Septimus’ great revelation was of Evans’ voice speaking to him from behind a screen. Rezia was out shopping at the time.
4. When Dr. Holmes came to visit after Septimus’ revelation, the latter called him a brute.
5. Holmes suggests that if the Smiths have no confidence in him (and are rich), they should go to Harley Street (a London street renown for its doctors).
6. Bradshaw’s son goes to school at Eton.
7. The moment he...
(The entire section is 279 words.)
Part 11 Questions and Answers
1. Is Hugh described as one who “goes deeply”?
2. Is Miss Brush’s brother doing well in South Africa?
3. How does Lady Bruton express her preference for Richard Dalloway over Hugh Whitbread?
4. How old is Lady Bruton?
5. What is Richard Dalloway’s opinion of Bruton’s idea in the letter?
6. What has Richard Dalloway always meant to do when he has “a moment of leisure”?
7. On the corner of what street do Richard and Hugh pause?
8. What pieces of information is Richard surprised to find that the head jeweler possesses?
9. What does Hugh do that disgusts Richard?
10. What would Richard have said to his son, if he had one?
1. No, Hugh Whitbread is not described as one who “goes deeply.” Hugh is one who only brushes the surfaces of ideas and things.
2. No, Miss Brush’s brother is not doing well in South Africa; he is doing poorly in Portsmouth.
3. Lady Bruton prefers Richard Dalloway to Hugh Whitbread because, as she puts it, he is “made of much finer material.”
4. Lady Bruton is 62-years-old.
5. Richard Dalloway’s opinion of Bruton’s idea in the letter is that it is “all stuffing and bunkum,” but that there was no harm in it.
6. Richard Dalloway has always meant to write a history of Lady Bruton’s family,...
(The entire section is 299 words.)
Part 12 Questions and Answers
1. Whom had Richard and Clarissa not spoken of in years?
2. What does Richard see in Piccadilly Circus (a famous London landmark, comparable to New York’s Times Square) that particularly makes him irate?
3. What is Richard doing about the police?
4. How is Richard carrying the flowers for Clarissa?
5. What building does Richard think cannot be denied a certain dignity?
6. What is Richard’s response when asked about Ellie Henderson?
7. Where does Clarissa place the flowers Richard brought?
8. What does Clarissa imagine that people do, or will, say about her?
9. About what does Clarissa feel after Peter and Richard had criticized her very unjustly?
10. Of what basic pieces of geographic information is Clarissa ignorant?
1. Richard and Clarissa had not spoken of Peter Walsh in years.
2. In Piccadilly Circus, Richard sees several small children crossing the street alone.
3. Richard is compiling evidence of police wrongdoings and malpractices.
4. Richard bears the flowers for Clarissa as though they are a weapon.
5. Richard thinks that Buckingham Palace cannot be denied a certain dignity.
6. When asked about Ellie Henderson, Richard is sympathetic, and he implies that she should be invited.
7. Clarissa places the flowers...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Part 13 Questions and Answers
1. What kind of flower is Elizabeth compared to?
2. With what words does Miss Kilman sum up Richard’s and Clarissa’s attitudes toward her?
3. What exactly has Miss Kilman been hired to do?
4. Where does Miss Kilman think that Mrs. Dalloway, and all the other fine ladies, should be?
5. What did Clarissa yell to Elizabeth as the latter left?
6. When Clarissa thinks about the destructive power of love, who in particular occurs to her as an example?
7. Why and for how long does Miss Kilman think about Russia?
8. What does Elizabeth feel is the one pleasure left to Miss Kilman?
9. What does Kilman say about parties?
10. What does Kilman say just before Elizabeth leaves?
1. Elizabeth is compared to a hyacinth.
2. Miss Kilman considers that Mr. Dalloway had been kind, but Mrs. Dalloway had been merely condescending.
3. Mr. Dalloway had hired Miss Kilman to teach Elizabethean history.
4. Miss Kilman thinks that Mrs. Dalloway, and all the other fine ladies, should be working in factories or behind counters.
5. As Elizabeth left, Clarissa yelled to her from the top of the stairs “Remember the party!”
6. When Clarissa thinks about the destructive power of love, Peter Walsh occurs to her as an example.
7. Upset about Clarissa, Kilman...
(The entire section is 250 words.)
Part 14 Questions and Answers
1. When Elizabeth leaves, whom does Kilman feel has triumphed?
2. Where are the trunks Kilman runs into meant to be taken?
3. Why, according to the narrator, does Mr. Fletcher not stop and talk with Kilman?
4. On what street does Elizabeth wait for an omnibus?
5. According to Clarissa, what does Elizabeth’s friendship with Kilman prove?
6. Where is Clarissa as she thinks this?
7. What did Kilman say regarding Elizabeth’s future?
8. Why, exactly, does Elizabeth have to be going home?
9. Toward what does Elizabeth walk a little?
10. In what manner does Elizabeth board the Westminster omnibus?
1. When Elizabeth leaves, Miss Kilman feels that Mrs. Dalloway has triumphed.
2. The trunks Kilman runs into are meant to be taken to India.
3. According to the narrator, Mr. Fletcher does not stop and talk with Kilman because she is unkempt. Besides, he has to be on his way.
4. Elizabeth waits for an omnibus on Victoria Street.
5. According to Clarissa, Elizabeth’s friendship with Kilman proves that Elizabeth has a heart.
6. As she thinks this, Clarissa is reading in bed at three in the morning.
7. Regarding Elizabeth’s future, Kilman said that every profession is open to women of her generation.
8. Elizabeth must be going...
(The entire section is 224 words.)
Part 15 Questions and Answers
1. Exactly what, according to Septimus’ perceptions, is Nature signifying?
2. What did both Holmes and Bradshaw say was the worst thing for Septimus?
3. What did Mrs. Filmer give Rezia that morning?
4. What does Septimus say about the hat for Mrs. Peters?
5. Why does working on the hat make Septimus proud of it?
6. What was the doom that Septimus had sensed in Milan?
7. Of what had Septimus reminded Rezia when she first saw him?
8. With what does Rezia tie up the bundle of Septimus’ drawings?
9. What does Dr. Holmes call Septimus?
10. Whom does Dr. Holmes say is to blame for the suicide?
1. According to Septimus’ perceptions, Nature is signifying an elusive gold spot.
2. Both Holmes and Bradshaw said that excitement was the worst thing for Septimus.
3. Mrs. Filmer gave Rezia grapes that morning.
4. Septimus says that the hat for Mrs. Peters is too small.
5. Working on the hat makes Septimus proud because it is real and substantial.
6. The doom Septimus had felt in Milan was that he would be alone forever.
7. Septimus reminded Rezia of a young hawk when she first saw him.
8. Rezia ties up Septimus’ drawings with a piece of silk.
9. Dr. Holmes calls Septimus a coward.
10. Dr. Holmes says...
(The entire section is 212 words.)
Part 16 Questions and Answers
1. What does Peter think that one might do in privacy?
2. Who had influenced Peter more than Clarissa had?
3. Did Peter need much effort to read one of Clarissa’s letters?
4. What does Peter think he would do when he retires?
5. What does Peter realize has been his undoing?
6. Does Peter decide that he is jealous by temperament?
7. What specific words uttered by Peter win him the respect of others?
8. What does Peter want to ask Richard at the party?
9. What news are the paperboys proclaiming?
10. What does the narrator say the brain and body must do, as Peter approaches the party?
1. Peter thinks that one might do as one chooses in privacy.
2. No one had influenced Peter more than Clarissa had.
3. Yes, Peter needs “a devil of an effort” to read one of Clarissa’s letters.
4. Peter thinks he would write books when he retires.
5. Peter realizes that his being dependent on others has been his undoing.
6. Yes, Peter decides that he is uncontrollably jealous by temperament.
7. The specific words that win Peter the respect of others are “bartlett pears.”
8. Peter wants to ask Richard what the conservatives are doing about India.
9. The paperboys are proclaiming a heat wave.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
Part 17 Questions and Answers
1. What is Lucy’s reaction to seeing Elizabeth dressed for the party?
2. What has Mr. Dalloway sent for from the Emperor’s cellars?
3. How does Clarissa greet everyone at the party?
4. Is Peter pleased that he came to the party?
5. What is the minor gesture that reassures Clarissa about the party?
6. What is the main thing that makes Ellie Henderson afraid and nervous?
7. How are Ellie and Clarissa related?
8. What do the guests feel as they see the Prime Minister enter?
9. What does Clarissa say that she would like to have had at the party?
10. What does Lady Bruton feel that Richard Dalloway’s marriage cost him?
1. Seeing Elizabeth looking so lovely, Lucy couldn’t take her eyes off her.
2. Mr. Dalloway has sent for tokay (a variety of brandy) from the Emperor’s cellars.
3. Clarissa greets everyone at the party with “how delightful to see you!”
4. No, Peter is not pleased that he came to the party. He tells himself he should have stayed in and read, or gone to the music hall.
5. The minor gesture that reassures Clarissa about the party is when someone pushes a curtain that billowed with air.
6. The main thing that makes Ellie Henderson afraid is living on three hundred pounds a year.
7. Ellie and Clarissa are...
(The entire section is 280 words.)
Part 18 Questions and Answers
1. Is Bradshaw making a connection between what delayed him and politics?
2. About what had the Prime Minister and Lady Bruton been talking?
3. Into what had Clarissa once thrown a shilling?
4. What surprised Clarissa when she looked out her window?
5. How had Sally once described the cauliflower leaves at Bourton?
6. What is the only thing that Peter knew about Sally’s husband?
7. According to Sally, had Hugh once kissed her?
8. Had Sally ever invited the Dalloways to come for a visit?
9. What does Peter say has spoiled his life?
10. What does Sally say about Clarissa and Richard that made Peter protest on Richard’s behalf?
1. Yes, Bradshaw is making a connection between what delayed him and politics. He is talking to Richard about a Bill concerning the victims of shellshock, which influenced the suicide.
2. The Prime Minister and Lady Bruton had been talking about India.
3. Clarissa had once thrown a shilling (a small coin) into the Serpentine River.
4. When she looked out her window, Clarissa was surprised to see the old woman whom she had observed before staring back at her.
5. Sally had once described the cauliflower leaves at Bourton as being “like rough bronze.”
6. The only thing that Peter knew about Sally’s husband was...
(The entire section is 278 words.)
Narration and Point of View
From the very first sentence, Mrs. Dalloway shows the secure meshing of a third person (external) narrator's point of view with a first person, character's point of view, such that it is not possible to separate or distinguish the two: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." If the two had been clearly separated the sentence would read: "Mrs. Dalloway said, 'I will buy the flowers myself’," or would have included the word "that": "Mrs. Dalloway said that she would buy the flowers herself." In this second case, the reader would assume that the words following the word "that" were not necessarily faithful to Mrs. Dalloway's thought or speech, but rather that they are a narrator's interpretation or summary. Instead, what Woolf perfected in this novel is a style of narration that literary critics have called "represented thought and speech," capturing the motions of a mind thinking in the past tense, third person. A narrator presents character thought and speech, but the narrator's words are wholly and immediately imbued by the voice and style of the particular character in question; there is no way to separate narrator and character. Woolf invented an elegant and efficient way of moving between and representing multiple characters' speech and thought; the clumsiness of excessive dialogue or of switching between sequences of different characters' thoughts presented in the first person is avoided....
(The entire section is 572 words.)
Several critics have noted that Woolf's fourth novel marks a moment in Woolf's own sense of artistic independence and maturity; most notably, it is Clarissa Dalloway's interior monologue or stream-of-consciousness that, when mingled with the urban scene, that heralds a new phase in Woolf's mastery of literary technique. She also incorporates flashbacks and photographic techniques of recalling childhood experiences, and shows that external events are only given significance because of the internal or subjective associations which the perceiver makes with the event. These narrative techniques of montage show Woolf's desire to experiment with the representations of consciousness as well as the importance of perspective in any three-dimensional narrative in which the author desires to explore the psychology of her characters and the psychological time which drives them through their life stories.
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Compare and Contrast
1920s: In Britain, the Labour Party rises to power, women get the right to vote, and the first major wave of communication and travel technologies are incipient or, in some cases, widely established (radio, telephone, telegraph communications; automobile and airplane travel).
Today: International communications and connections have progressed to such an extent, due to computer technology and the Internet, that the term "globalization" is in common use. The modern world foreseen in the 1920s has definitively arrived.
1920s: Modernism, the set of artistic movements that try to express, through form and style, the cultural and social changes of a brand new century, is flourishing. The modernists profess internationalism.
Today: Art at the close of the twentieth century is defined by postmodernism. The name of this new set of movements suggests how its forms are both tied to modernism (postmodernism), and in some ways defined against modernism (postmodernism. Postmodernists examine and question globalization and transnationalism.
1920s: While the American colonies of Europe (i.e., the United States and the nations of South and Central America) have long since established themselves as independent nations, the twentieth century is characterized by nationalist and independence movements in Europe's remaining colonies (in Asia and Africa). These movements are not brought to a...
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Topics for Further Study
Research shell shock in relation to WWI. How do treatments for war trauma today differ from those used then?
What was the role of women during WWI? How did women contribute to the war effort in Britain?
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James Joyce's Ulysses, finally published in 1922 after many difficulties with the censors, was celebrated by intellectuals at the time, and since, for its achievement is advancing the form of the novel. Taking place during the course of a single day, the novel develops its themes through flashbacks and interior monologues, Woolf, along with Joyce and Marcel Proust, are credited with using style and technique to inagurate the modern psychological novel.
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Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf's second stream-of-consciousness novel; Jacob's Room (1922) is the first. Jacob Flanders is a quiet seeker of reality, whose room or sequence of rooms represents his attempt to construct meaning for himself. Plotless, this novel remains one of the world's most sensitive perceptions of unrequited passage to adulthood. Woolf's third stream-of-consciousness novel, To the Lighthouse (1925, see separate entry) demonstrated her mastery of the new art form that changed the direction of modern fiction.
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Mrs. Dalloway was adapted into a film of the same name in 1997, directed by Marleen Gorris. It stars the venerated British actor Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway.
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What Do I Read Next?
To the Lighthouse (1927) was Woolf's next novel, after the success of Mrs. Dalloway. It concerns a large family spending a summer at the seaside, much like Woolf's own family did during her childhood.
Ulysses (1922), by James Joyce, is a challenging book. The title refers to the famous classical Greek story of a man's epic travels (those of Odysseus, also called Ulysses). The epic journey, it has been said, refers less to the main character's (Ulysses'/Leopold Bloom's) perambulations through Dublin and more to the journey the reader experiences as he or she reads through the extraordinary stylistic shifts that make up this modernist novel. Like Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses takes place within a single day and characterizes a city as well as its characters.
The Hours (1998), by Michael Cunningham, is a recently published novel based on Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. It interweaves the lives of three women in three times: Virginia Woolf in 1923, a 1949 Woolf fan in Los Angeles, and a present day Clarissa, planning a party.
The Sound and the Fury (1929), by William Faulkner, is a novel whose stylistic beauty and experimentation represent an American modernism contemporaneous to the experiments of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce abroad.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Allen, Walter, The Modern Novel in Britain and the United States, EP Dutton & Co., New York. 1964.
Forster, E. M., Aspects of the Novel, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1927.
----, Virginia Woolf, Cambridge University Press, 1942.
Hawthorn, Jeremy, Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway": A Study in Alienation, Sussex University Press, 1975.
Henke, Suzette A., "Mrs. Dalloway: the Communion of Saints," in New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf, edited by Jane Marcus, University of Nebraska Press, 1981, pp. 125–47.
Jensen, Emily, "Clarissa Dalloway's Respectable Suicide," in Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant, edited by Jane Marcus, University of Nebraska Press, 1983, pp. 162-79.
Johnson, Manly, Virginia Woolf, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., New York. 1978.
Naremore, James, The World Without A Self: Virginia Woolf and the Novel, Yale University Press, New Haven CT. 1973.
Page, Alex, "A Dangerous Day: Mrs. Dalloway and Her Double," in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. VII, No. 2, Summer 1961, pp. 115-24.
Woolf, Virginia, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, edited by Anne Olivier Bell with Andrew McNeillie, 5 vols., Hogarth Press, 1977-1984.
Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway, Harcourt Brace & World, NewYork. 1953.
Woolf, Virginia, A Writer’s...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Abel, Elizabeth. “Narrative Structure(s) and Female Development: The Case of Mrs. Dalloway.” In Virginia Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Margaret Homans. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993. Analysis of Mrs. Dalloway as a “typically female text” that hides its “subversive impulses,” which resist the typical narrative structure. Points out that Clarissa’s real passion was not for Peter but for Sally, whose kiss gave Clarissa “a moment of unparalleled radiance and intensity.”
Blackstone, Bernard. Virginia Woolf: A Commentary. London: Hogarth Press, 1949. An older but excellent essay on Woolf’s use of time, “the insistent hours pressing on,” to create a sense of the pressures felt by Septimus and Clarissa. Blackstone claims that the characters’ loneliness and the pity they evoke are keys to Mrs. Dalloway.
Brower, Reuben Arthur. “Something Central Which Permeated: Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway.” In The Fields of Light: An Experiment in Critical Reading. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1951. Excellent analysis of Woolf’s use of metaphor to convey a sense of suspense and interruption. Woolf creates a sense of the “terror of entering the sea of experience and of living life,” so that the reader feels both the loveliness and the...
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