Student Question

What are the first impressions of Mrs. Dalloway in the initial twenty pages of Mrs. Dalloway?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Clarissa Dalloway first impresses the reader as a middle-aged woman who is quite class-conscious and introspective about her status. She enjoys living in post-war London, and her thoughts drift among the distant past, the recent past, and the present as she sets out on errands to prepare for a party she will host that evening.

Like many people in middle age, Clarissa thinks about the metaphoric roads not taken. She thinks about what her life would have been like if she had married Peter Walsh. It is clear that she is conflicted about it; Peter was not willing to give her the space that her husband Richard does, and yet she is jealous and dismissive of Peter's wife whom she describes in unflattering racial terms. Clarissa comes off as insecure and prone to second-guessing herself and then swinging to feeling pride in the rightness of her decisions.

There are many paradoxes in Clarissa's thinking:

She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on.

She does not present herself as especially grounded or self-assured. It is fair to say that a first impression of Clarissa is that she is rather superficial. She thinks of life in materialistic and social terms and admits to her own lack of intellectual accomplishment. She defines herself mainly by her country upbringing and seems to look for others as a model of how to present herself in London society.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial