Tag Archives: subconscious

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.