Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway has a unique narrative style, salient for its shifts in the streams of consciousness, from one character to another. The characters spend the majority of the novel in a state of self-contemplation. This manifests in the form of memories, what if's, and through the constant desire of being let "be".
Often, Woolf allows the shifts in point of view to occur within one same paragraph, accentuating the psychological and analytical nature of the narrative. To achieve the quick transitions, Woolf uses a literary technique called free indirect speech. This is an effective technique in a narrative such as that of Mrs. Dalloway's because it has all the elements of a third person narrative while still allowing the use first person traits such as the use of "I" as part of the first person direct discourse. This is what allows the plot to come in and out of the main characters' innermost thoughts.
The first example of shift in the point of view comes in part one, which narrates a typical day in Mrs. Dalloway's life. Through her thoughts, we get to know that the simple dynamics of her day (shopping for flowers, looking at stores, taking a stroll in the city) contrast dramatically with the depth and complexity of her thoughts.
Regardless, the transition comes when "a motor car" with a conspicuously secretive look stops in the middle of the street and everyone looks at it in wonder. Mrs. Dalloway looks at it as well. Then, out of nowhere, the narrator tells us that Septimus is also looking at that same car. From that moment, the point of view switches entirely to Septimus, and his shell-shocked and traumatized consciousness.
Mrs. Dalloway, ... looked out..in enquiry. Every one looked at the motor car. Septimus looked... there the motor car stood, with drawn blinds, and upon them a curious pattern like a tree, Septimus thought, and this gradual drawing together of everything ...terrified him
Another shift occurs between Clarissa and Peter Walsh. A former love interest, Peter unexpectedly visits Clarissa that very morning. Naturally, the former lovers would have a lot to think about! Again, the shifts in point of view help the reader learn what each of the lovers thinks of the other. Since Clarissa and Peter are nevertheless "failed" lovers, their thoughts are not always going to be pleasant.
He’s very well dressed, thought Clarissa; yet he always criticises ME.
Here she is mending her dress; mending her dress as usual, he thought; here she’s been sitting all the time I’ve been in India...he thought, growing more and more irritated.
That incident was the conduit that brought in the shift in point of view, from Clarissa's, to Peter's.
One last instance that is not related necessarily to Clarissa occurs in section 8. An argument between Lucrezia and Septimus triggers a memory in Peter, who is watching them argue, of Peter's own experiences with women. Again, the point of view switches from Lucrezia and Septimus, to Peter.
Basically, the narrative in Mrs. Dalloway can be compared to a modern multi-plot movie, such as Love, Actually, or Crash in that the stories of more than one character are featured and shifted throughout the narrative.