Mrs. Dalloway Suggested Essay Topics
by Virginia Woolf

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Suggested Essay Topics

Part 1
1. Summarize what Clarissa does and thinks about. What thoughts and actions in this reading section cause her to feel the happiest? To which thoughts does she have the strongest reactions?

2. Summarize London as it is described in this reading. What information and inferences can be drawn about the city?

Part 2
1. Compare what is known about Clarissa Dalloway with the information and material concerning Septimus Warren Smith. How do their words and actions compare?

2. Consider the scene with Maisie Johnson and Mrs. Dempster. What are your reactions to these characters? What words and actions, or information given about them, created these reactions? What does the scene tell you about people, and about the novel?

Part 3
1. Do Clarissa’s memories of Bourton, in this reading, have in common a mood or subject? Go through this reading section and describe the tone of the memories, drawing comparisons and contrasts along the way. Be sure to include specific points.

2. Clarissa has different reactions to Lady Bruton and her lunch. What does Clarissa’s reactions to Lady Bruton tell us about Clarissa? What do you think of these reactions? Why?

Part 4
1. What factors contribute to the emotions felt by Clarissa and Peter? Which one do you feel has more regrets, and which one is in the better position? Why?

2. How do memories affect Clarissa in this chapter, compared to how they have affected her in the previous chapters? How does memory affect Peter?

Part 5
1. Given what we have seen of their thoughts thus far, how do Clarissa’s and Peter’s memories of Bourton compare? What does each remember, and how do they feel about their memories?

2. What information and viewpoints does the narrator add to the main story of Clarissa and Peter? How do the digressions on time, London, and the solitary traveller relate to the characters?

Part 6
1. Summarize Peter’s memories. What has he tended to remember, both in terms of specific events and the mood that those events left in his mind?

2. These memories are filled with emotions, mostly Peter’s. What are your reactions to his experiences? How did he behave, how could he have handled himself differently, and what do you think he should have done?

Part 7
1. How does Septimus’ unhappiness compare with those of Clarissa and Peter? Are there any ways in which Septimus is at an advantage over these other characters? Why or why not?

2. What are your responses to Septimus’ thoughts and feelings? What choices does he have, and what is the best course of action for him to take? Remember to support your reasoning.

Part 8
1. What new information about Bourton and the past does the reader learn in this reading section? How does it compare with what was known previously?

2. Focus on Sally Seton. How does what Clarissa said about her previously compare with what we learn about her in this reading section? What constitutes her character, and how does she change?

Part 9
1. How is your summary of Septimus altered in this reading section? What new information do you have about him, and how does it affect your feelings about him?

2. Given what you have read in this section and what has come before it, what could you suggest to alleviate the difficulties between Septimus and Lucrezia? On what are their problems of communication based, and what do both characters need to do in order to improve the situation? Remember to be specific, and support your points from the text.

Part 10
1. How are the two doctors, Holmes and Bradshaw, different from each other? Do either or both of them fail the Smiths? How so?

2. What is your impression of Septimus? What new information do you have about him now?

Part 11
1. Describe the lunch and the lunchers. What do they talk about, and what do these topics of conversation, as well as other details, tell us about the participants?

2. Summarize Richard Dalloway based on what we learn about him in this chapter. How does he speak and think? What are his attitudes, and what do you think of him?

Part 12

(The entire section is 1,110 words.)