(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In 1941, writer Virginia Woolf walks through Richmond, a suburban town in England. She feels ill. She walks to a river, picks up a large stone, and puts it into her pocket. She enters the river and drowns. The water current pulls her body along until it comes to rest, caught on the pillar of a bridge.

Virginia’s story begins in 1923, the year she is considering what she will write about in the manuscript for a novel to be titled Mrs. Dalloway. Her husband watches her constantly, worried that she does not eat or sleep well. Virginia begins writing the manuscript for her new novel.

In New York City in 1999, Clarissa Vaughn (nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway by her friend Richard, a writer) shops for flowers. She will host a party tonight for Richard, who is dying from complications related to AIDS. He had recently received an esteemed literary prize, and Clarissa wants to honor him for the award. Clarissa loves life and the small pleasures it offers.

In 1949 Los Angeles, Laura Brown reads Mrs. Dalloway. Today is her husband Dan’s birthday, but Laura cannot bring herself to stop reading Woolf’s novel to go to the kitchen to make breakfast. While reading, Laura—pregnant for a second time—wonders how someone as bright as Woolf could commit suicide. Laura knows she must go to the kitchen; her husband and son expect her. She decides that she had no option but to accept Dan’s proposal for marriage. In the kitchen, she wishes her husband a happy birthday. Later, she and her son will bake Dan a cake.

Clarissa visits Richard, who lives in a pitiful apartment building. Clarissa reminds him of the party she will host for him tonight, and Richard says he finds it too difficult to be brave and proud in front of everyone. Clarissa tells him he does not need to do anything at the party, just be himself. The two reminisce about a kiss they had shared years ago. Clarissa says she will return later to help Richard dress for the party.

Virginia decides that her protagonist, Mrs. Dalloway, will kill herself. Virginia thinks about returning to the city life of London, even if the city is bad for her health. She would rather die there, where she writes better, than live in the quiet suburb of Richmond.

Clarissa returns home and greets her partner, Sally, who leaves for an appointment. Clarissa thinks about the summer of 1965, when she and Richard were...

(The entire section is 990 words.)