Tag Archives: Mrs. Dalloway

Class and Structure

The texts Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, Their Eyes, and In Our Time are all completely different yet have a theme that runs throughout them. Throughout each one I noticed a reoccurring theme of social class and structure. Each one displays evident class differences and it affects the entire structure of the novel. Mrs. Dalloway Clarissa is consistently affected by social class; she is an upper class woman who hates where she is. She despises being wealthy and upper class because she doubts her decision to marry Richard the entire novel. In Untouchables Bakha is considered a lower class citizen, he is the one who cleans the system and keeps the place clean. He is the lowest of the low and the separation is evident. Their Eyes displays a black community. Already we see a social class separation especially when they had the flood that killed many people. The black men were forced to separate the whites and the black dead people from each other. In Our Time shows some social class differences through the way the different characters speak and where they live. It just shows so much evidence of social class differences and the theme is reoccurring throughout all the books.

Not only that but Mrs. Dalloway, Untouchables, and In Our Time there is a use of parataxis throughout the three.

The Differences in Communities

  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
  • Whose Body, Dorothy Sayers (1923)
  • As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1930)

All these works represent community and social gatherings shown through different cultures and social levels.

The novel Mrs. Dalloway and Their Eyes Were Watching God explicitly portray social gatherings through the meetings of crowds of people whether it is out on the street or outside on the porch of one’s house. During those gatherings the crowd is left to ponder about a situation they are encountering or about a person. In Mrs. Dalloway, the crowds all gather to find out what the loud crash sound was. In Their Eyes Were Watching God the women all gather around the porch to gossip about Janie and the return of her presence sans partner.

Along, with those two novels, the novel As I Lay Dying features a small community of a family and the novel Whose Body features a community of people trying to solve the mystery. Through these four novels, they represent a different version of community.

World War I and the rise of Modernism

After World War I, many novels used characters that related their wartime experiences in a post-war time frame.
This reflects the change of the thoughts and feelings from pre-war sentiments towards modernity. In Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and As I Lay Dying (1930), we have two characters, Septimus and Darl, that have both returned from the war and have gone towards madness in silence. This is also reflected in In Our Time (1925) through the terse style of Hemingway, which is indicative of the reporting of the events of war. This shows that many of the generation that went through this war period became hardened and lost individuals due to it.

Whose Body? (1923) and Mrs. Dalloway both embody the post-war rise of highly concentrated and urban centers that is found in London. This is done in Mrs. Dalloway through the shared experiences found in the fast-paced change in focalization in this work and the shift from scientific deductive methods in traditional detective novels towards an intuitive detective method in Whose Body?.

Recalling Memories

“For it was the middle of June. The war was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed…John, her favorite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven- over”.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. p.5

It is interesting how Woolf takes Clarissa from the present to the past through the narration. The change is quite subtle that readers do not realize the change until you get further into the past presented in this text. This passage is narrated exactly how a person thinks of the past. We usually state a time, event, and the most memorable thing that happened within that event. Also the phrase “but it was over; thank Heaven- over” implies the change to the present recollecting past memories. It is almost as if Clarissa relived that moment briefly than came back to reality.

Realization as a Comment of Style

As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park-odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me-the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past then we do, he though.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc. 1925. Print. p.55

Peter’s remark on how women tend to reminisce on past events is indicative of Woolf’s use of analepsis when Woolf’s narrative is focalized around female characters in the novel.

Focalization

The sun became extraordinarily hot because the motor car had stopped…old ladies on the tops of omnibuses spread their black parasols; here a green, here a red parasol opened with a little pop…

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1925. Page 15.

The entire passage as a whole is quite interesting. The focalization is very fast paced and all over the place.

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.

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

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.