What effect is Woolf striving for in Mrs. Dalloway? How does she create that effect?

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Virginia Woolf is trying to capture the subjectivity of knowledge and experience inMrs. Dalloway. She reacted quite strongly against Edwardian novelists like Arnold Bennett, who created realism through a piling on of outward details about what people were wearing and what their houses were like as seen through...

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Virginia Woolf is trying to capture the subjectivity of knowledge and experience in Mrs. Dalloway. She reacted quite strongly against Edwardian novelists like Arnold Bennett, who created realism through a piling on of outward details about what people were wearing and what their houses were like as seen through the eyes of an omniscient, seemingly objective narrator. Woolf objected strongly to the idea of a normative omniscient narrator who would tell the "truth" of a story that the audience would then accept as "reality."

To her mind, different people can perceive the same setting and the same people very differently. As we process our encounters with reality through our individual consciousnesses, we notice different details and interpret the world around us in very different ways. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf tries to capture that reality by following a variety of characters through the same day in London. She uses the stream of consciousness technique, simply recording the thoughts that go through their minds. This shows that "objective" reality is interpreted very differently by different people.

Woolf especially wanted to show that the male interpretation of the world was not necessarily the correct one. For example, in Mrs. Dalloway, Lucrezia Smith has a very different perception of the poor old woman singing near the park than does Peter Walsh. Mrs. Smith's greater compassion and sense of connection to the woman reflects her own experience as a woman and an immigrant to England. Walsh's far more dismissive attitude towards the old woman reflects his gender and class privilege. Woolf strongly felt that if we ever wanted to truly "get at" reality, we had to layer these multiple perspectives, as she does in this experimental novel.

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