Tag Archives: virgina woolf

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.

Woolf’s syntax

“But, thank you, Lucy, oh, thank you,” said Mrs. Dalloway, and thank you, thank you, she went on saying (sitting down on the sofa with her dress over her knees, her scissors, her silks), thank you, thank you, she went on saying in gratitude to her servants generally for helping her to be like this, to be what she wanted, gentle, generous-hearted. Her servants liked her. And then this dress of hers – where was the tear? and now her needle to be threaded. This was a favourite dress, one of Sally Parker’s the last almost she ever made, alas, for Sally had now retired, living at Ealing, and if ever I have a moment, thought Clarissa (but never would she have a moment any more), I shall go and see her at Ealing.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. p.38

In this particular example, one can see how Woolf uses syntax to reflect Clarissa’s character. Clarissa is shown here to be vivacious as she thanks the servants numerous times. Also, the way she moves from one idea to the next (the dress to Sally Parker), it shows the quickness to her thinking. The language of this paragraph (the sound of it) shows the liveliness in her thinking and the positive energy she is trying to maintain in her life.

Woolf’s Language/Technique

“The Lord had shown her the way. So now, whenever the hot and painful feelings bolded within her, this hatred of Mrs. Dalloway, this grudge against the world, she thought of God. She thought of Mr. Whittaker. Rage was succeeded by calm. A sweet savor filled her veins, her lips parted, and, standing formidable upon the landing in her mackintosh, she looked with steady and sinister serenity at Mrs. Dalloway, who came out with her daughter.”

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

In this passage, Clarissa’s internal distress fuels a range of metaphors, from the “hot and painful feelings” she experiences, to the “sweet savor [that fills] her veins.” However, Woolf’s ability to emphasize emotions comes at the cost of dragging them out in text, arguably, through awkward phrasing. Really, “steady and sinister serenity”? Is that not a little much?

Feeling Old

“She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs Richard Dalloway”.

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

Throughout Mrs. Dalloway, there is sense of society and class. Clarissa holds herself with high morals from the start of the book and you can feel the high classiness coming off her. In this quote you see Clarissa doubting herself, wishing to be young again. Her youth is behind her and she is no longer known as a beautiful maiden; she is known as Mrs. Richard Dalloway. She may be upper class but she can never regain her youth.

The Meaning

“If we tried to formulate our meaning in one word we should say that these three writers are materialists. It is because they are concerned not with the spirit but with the body that they have disappointed us, and left us with the feeling that the sooner English fiction turns its back upon them, as politely as may be, and marches, if only into the desert, the better for its soul”.

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 149. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

Who knew that finding the meaning of a book could only be found through the soul of the book? And even so, the author themselves may not even know the true meaning.

Woolf’s Words on Modern Writers

“We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is keep moving, now a little in this direction, now in that, but with a circular tendency should the whole course of the track be viewed from a sufficiently lofty pinnacle.  It need scarcely be said that we make no claim to stand, even momentarily, upon the vantage ground.  On the flat, in the crowd, half blind with dust, we look back with envy to those happier warriors, whose battle is won and whose achievements wear so serene an air of accomplishment that we can scarcely refrain from whispering that the fight was not so fierce for them as for us. ” (Woolf 146) Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.”  Web.  9 Sept 2014. To my understanding, during this time period, much of what existed of the industry was not a fan of fiction.  It was not considered an art form, and was often thoughts of as no more than a common drug of the youth. Here, Virginia Woolf, vocalizes her opinions of  writing as a whole; she sees it from it’s roots and traces it to her time, in her present, and claims that her and her contemporaries are as innovative as anyone has ever been in writing and are pushing in a general direction to further the development of literature, even with many against them.