How does this excerpt from Mrs. Dalloway relate to the conflict between public and private image?

Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.

Quick answer:

This quote from Mrs. Dalloway relates to the conflict between public and private image by showing the contrast between the character's outward actions and inward thoughts. She is calm on the outside, but worrying about her own mortality in her mind. In her thoughts, Mrs. Dalloway also addresses the idea that reality can be based on inner or outer interpretation.

Expert Answers

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Mrs. Dalloway is a character very much concerned with outward appearances. The passage can be thought of as evidence of the publicā€“private divide in that her thoughts about her own mortality are clearly private and that Woolf's narration here is clearly internal. Her concern about the relationship of her existence as a person to the reality of "the streets of London" is another expression of this public/private problem. For someone concerned with the external, the problem becomes one of whether reality is created by our existence in the world or if our existence is the result of external relations with things around us. Mrs. Dalloway, of course, has no answer to this, but it is a significant aspect of her character that this is a source of anxiety.

Woolf, on the other hand, is interested in the connectedness of the inside and the outside. Mrs. Dalloway's feeling that somehow she must "survive" in the "ebb and flow of things" is one of those remarkably double phrases in Woolf that requires substantial unpacking. In a way, Mrs. Dalloway's continuing on after death in the reality of things is an affirmation of her own external orientation. At the same time, this thought is both evidence of her private sensibility, something unshared with others, and a marker of Woolf's philosophic and aesthetic contention that "reality" is created by the interaction of the public and private.

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