Monthly Archives: October 2014

Focalization in Mrs. Dalloway

“The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man. It was completely disinterested and besides it had a quality which could only exist between women, between women just grown up. ”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. p.34


“Away and away the aeroplane shot, till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol […] of man’s soul; of his determination, […] sweeping round the cedar tree, to get outside his body, beyond his house, by means of thought, Einstein, speculation, mathematics, the Mendelian theory – away the aeroplane shot.” (28)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print.

The widening of subject as the aeroplane goes further and further away is a clue to the way we ought to view the novel – the seemingly mundane widening out to encompass the human condition.

Homesickness and Loneliness

“Far was Italy and the white houses and the room where her sisters sat making hats, and the streets crowded every evening with people walking, laughing out loud, not half alive like people here, huddled up in Bath chairs, looking at a few ugly flowers stuck in pots!

‘For you should see the Milan gardens,’ she said aloud.  But to whom?

There was nobody.  Her words faded” (23).

I think that this passage conveys the feelings of homesickness and isolation really well.  It is terrible to feel like there is nobody who you can talk to, who would want to listen to you, and that your words mean nothing to anyone and disappear.

Woolf, Virginia.  Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1925. Print.

Contemplative Clarissa

“For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say?–some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning–indeed they did.” (7)

“If he were with me now what would he say?” Clarissa is very contemplative and self-reflective. Even after several years of rejecting Peter’s marriage proposal, she still thinks about it and him often.

Everyone is Looking, Too

“What are they looking at?” said Clarissa Dalloway to the maid who opened her door.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. p.29

In the entirety of the previous pages, we are shown the dozens of people who look, whether it is the motorcar, Septimus and his wife, or the plane making letters that no one can agree upon. This statement from Clarissa, as a result, comes off rather curious because it implies that she might not be completely acknowledging how much she, herself, looks and pays attention to different events. Another way of viewing this is that there are many small events happening, but she is not consciously paying attention to them. It is as if she is moving thoughts around in her own mind and then suddenly realizes that other people are looking around, too.

Shifting perspectives

“It was wonderful. Never had he done anything which made him feel so proud. It was so real, it was substantial, Mrs. Peters’ hat.
“Just look at it,” he said.
Yes, it would always make her happy to see that hat. He had become himself then, he had laughed then. They had been alone together. Always she would like that hat.”

Virginia Woolf often uses free indirect discourse, (though there is direct dialogue here as well in the middle),  in her writing which makes it rather difficult trying to determine whose perspective (as it always seems to be changing), or mind you are really getting a piece of, or if it even might just be the unknown narrator.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. pp. 144

Time and Authority

“Shredding and slicing, dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day, counselled submission, upheld authority, and pointed out in chorus the supreme advantages of a sense of proportion, until the mound of time was so far diminished that a commercial clock, suspended above a shop in Oxford Street, announced, genially and fraternally, as if it were a pleasure to Messrs. Rigby and Lowndes to give the information gratis, that it was half-past one” (111).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997. Print.

The striking clocks in Mrs. Dalloway appear multiple times throughout the novel to allude to time as a controlling force as it “upheld authority.” As the people of London walk through expensive, aristocratic Harley Street, Woolf illustrates that all the people of London, despite which class they belong to, will eventually fall to the fate of time and temporality.

Love and Religion

“Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing room, tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are!”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925.

Clarissa, or Mrs. Dalloway, is a proud and well-mannered woman that in conflicted with a flux of wide array of various emotions, and she is constantly reflecting on herself and re-visiting old memories, despite the fact that many of them brings her pain and an overbearance of grief.  She has lost faith in love and has her own ideology that pertains to God. A female patron that is not living in regret, but a woman that questions her decisions and personal identity.  Possible, the central reason why Mrs. Dalloway feels so morbidly against the concept of love is because she was not able to be with the man she truly loved. The one that got away. Mrs. Dalloway finds self-expression through her hosting of elegant parties as well as self-identification and not through religion.

Daily Life

“…that Sir William was master of his own actions, which the patient was not. There some weakly broke down; sobbed, submitted; others, inspired by Heaven knows what intemperate madness, called Sir William to his face a damnable humbug; questioned, even more impiously, life itself. Why live? they demanded. Sir William replied that life was good. Certianly Lady Bradshaw in ostrich feathers hung over the mantelpiece, and as for his income it was quite twelve thousand a year. But to us, they protested, life has given no such bounty. He acquiesced. They lacked a sense of proportion. And perhaps after all, there is no God? He shrugged his shoulders. In short, this living or not living is an affair of our own? But they were mistaken” (Woolfe 101).


I think this is a daily issue people deal with. Those that struggle greatly in life tend to question it and it’s necessity while those that have it a bit easier tend to find bliss in life. It’s not that they haven’t seen pain; everyone goes through pain. However some people just go through a deeper pain than others and so they don’t find life as blissful.


Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1981. Print.

Consciousness in Mrs. Dalloway

“Here he was walking across London to say to Clarissa in so many words that the loved her. Which one never does say, he thought. Partly one’s lazy; partly one’s shy. And Clarissa–it was difficult to think of her; except in starts, as at luncheon, when he saw her quite distinctly; their whole life. He stopped at the crossing; and repeated–being simple by nature, and undebauched, because he had tramped, and shot; being pertinacious and dogged, having championed the downtrodden and followed his instincts in the House of Commons; being preserved in his simplicity yet at the same time grown rather speechless, rather stiff–he repeated that it was a miracle he should have married Clarissa; a miracle–his life had been a miracle, he thought; hesitating to cross. But it did make his blood boil to see little creatures of five or six crossing Piccadilly alone.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. 115-116.

In Mrs. Dalloway, the narrator seems to flow freely in and out into each character’s deepest levels of thought. On a deliberate plane, Richard is thinking about his love for Clarissa and his job, but the voice is distinctly not Richard’s (perhaps it sounds like Woolf or Clarissa?). The narrator seems to express Richard’s most innermost thoughts–thoughts even Richard may not be aware of–in describing him as “pertinacious and dogged” and having “championed the downtrodden.” Woolf then immediately switches to a more straightforward example of free indirect discourse when Richard “repeats” that “it was a miracle he should have married Clarissa.” It seems to me Woolf is interested in just recording the influx of sensory details into the mind but she wishes to delve into the subconscious and bring to awareness thoughts that the characters themselves can’t know.