How is Mrs Dalloway a Modernist novel?
There are several ways in which one can see Mrs. Dalloway as a Modernist novel. The mose dominant is that the novel's premise marks a "shift" in both content and narrative style. When Woolf defines Modernism, herself, she does so in a deliberate and pointed manner: “All human relations shifted,and when human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.” It is here in which her work can be seen as Modernist in scope. The stream of consciousness style of writing marked a shift in how...
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Mrs. Dalloway is a Modernist novel because of the way in which the writing mimics actual human thinking and the book’s story arc is heavily fragmented and non-linear. Although the novel features frequent remembrances from each of its three main characters, the entire novel takes place in a single day. This means that Virginia Woolf spends a tremendous amount of time describing her characters’ thoughts as opposed to the unfolding of events or plot. Throughout the text, Woolf abruptly switches between direct and indirect speech, meaning it is often unclear to whom the character is speaking. Her characters also move between omniscience (being all-knowing) and speaking only of and to themselves. Woolf’s goal was to write in a way that allowed the reader to experience the hyper-awareness, anxiety, and ultimate insanity that plagued her characters.
Modernism was shaped by the aftermath of World War I. One of its tenants was the belief that traditional artistic modes could no longer accurately render the human experience after the atrocity of the “War to End All Wars.” The poet Ezra Pound said of Modernism, “Make it new!” It’s Mrs. Dalloway’s radical mode of storytelling that epitomizes newness and makes this book a landmark Modernist text.