Monthly Archives: October 2013

Living in the Past

“There was Regent’s Park. Yes. 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 than we do, he thought. They attach themselves to places; and their fathers – a woman’s always proud of her father. Bourton was a nice place, a very nice place, but I could never got on with the old man, he thought. There was quite a scene one night – an argument about something or other, what, he could not remember. Politics presumably.”

Woolf, V. (1925). Mrs. Dalloway.  New York: Harcourt.

Notes: Irony; direct, indirect, and free indirect discourse; “voice”.

Superiority of Luxury

Why live? they demanded. Sir William replied that life was good. Certainly 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.

Notes: abruptness in sentence structure = sense of superiority; good life = material – postwar mentality?; profession as authority

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), 101.

Sir William’s Racing Thoughts

“Health we must have; and health is proportion; so that when a man comes into your room and says he is Christ (a common delusion), and has a message, as they mostly have, and threatens, as they often do, to kill himself, you invoke proportion; order rest in bed; rest in solitude; silence and rest; rest without friends, without books, without messages; six months’ rest; until a man who went in weighing seven stone six comes out weighing twelve.”

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

Notes: The lack of periods in this passage makes it easy for the reader to see how quickly Sir William’s mind works. His thoughts fly by, and Woolf does a good job showing that with the lack of breaks in his thoughts.

Everyday Life In Mrs. Dalloway

“And so there began a soundless and exquisite passing to and fro through swing doors of aproned white-capped maids, handmaidens not of necessity, but adepts in a mystery or grand deception practised by hostesses in Mayfair from one-thirty to two, when, with a wave of the hand, the traffic ceases, and there rises instead this profound illusion in the first place about the food — how it is not paid for; and then that the table spreads itself voluntarily with glass and silver, little mats, saucers of red fruit; films of brown cream mask turbot; in caseroles severed chickens swim; coloured, undomestic, the fire burns; and with the wine and the coffee (not paid for) rise jocund visions before musing eyes; gently speculative eyes; eyes to whom life appears musical, mysterious; eyes now kindled to observe genially the beauty of the red carnations which Lady Bruton (whose movements were always angular) had laid beside her plate, so that Hugh Whitbread, feeling at peace with the entire universe and at the same time completely sure of his standing, said….”

p. 104

Notes: the remarkable qualities of the everyday, imagery, this is all one sentence…

Post War Mindset

“For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft at theta the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John her favourite killed; but it was over; thank Heaven—over. It was June. The King and Queen were at the Palace” (Woolf 5).

Notes: The fact that “The War” just occurred is important the story. World War I greatly influenced the mindset of the characters. They lived through fear and turmoil during the war and many experienced what it was like to lose a loved one. The character’s lives are not the same as it was before the war but there’s a sense of hope. The repetition of June emphasizes the sense of hope for a new beginning and the end of a war state of mind.

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

The Shattered Mind of a Roman

“I am alone; I am alone! she cried, by the fountain in Regent’s Park (staring at the Indian and his cross), as perhaps at midnight, when all boundaries are lost, the country reverts to its ancient shape, as the Romans saw it, lying cloudy, when they landed, and the hills had no names and rivers wound they knew not where —- such was her darkness;”

Woolf, Virginia.  Mrs. Dalloway.  New York: Harcourt, 1981.

Septimus’ thoughts hark back to Conrad’s line “This too, was one of the dark places of the earth.”  However, the paragraph is littered with allusionary diction like Indian, cross, Romans, and darkness. Where in Conrad there is the implicit assumption the dark place is not dark any more because it “was” and is not “is,”  Woolf seems to suggest the darkness is constantly encroaching itself upon people. The ease with which Septimus jumps from the words of his wife to an allusion to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is unsettling to readers, because it is not an easy leap at all; it is almost insane.  However, perhaps Septimus is not insane, but the only sane one?

Liberal Views from the 1920s

She resented it, had a scruple picked up Heaven knows where, or, as she felt, sent by Nature (who is invariably wise); yet she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, come folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some accident — like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.:, 1990), 31-2.

Notes: sexual liberty; Woolf is very liberal in her writing of the (believed by many to be, but we cannot ascribe a sexual orientation to a character) bisexuality of Clarissa Dalloway — this is surprising considering the time the novel was written in, but not too surprising given Woolf’s beliefs and experiences. This also depicts the feelings of confusion and certainty that Clarissa experiences in regards to her sexual orientation.

characters’ physical & mental connectedness

“That was satisfying; that was real. Ah, how she hated her — hot, hypocritical, corrupt; with all that power; Elizabeth’s seducer; the woman who had crept in to steal and defile (Richard would say, What nonsense!). She hated her: she loved her. It was enemies one wanted, not friends…”

Notes: hate/love synonymous? are these actually extremes/ opposites or more similar than we tend to think? both very strong human emotions wanting to connect to another person; esp. Miss Kilman’s intense desire for connection (ex: “Her large hand opened and shut on the table”) with Elizabeth; touches on book’s themes of connection between humans, how are people drawn to/away from others, one way this is done is the structure of the physical space of the novel, also interconnected minds of all characters, overlapping/ sharing thoughts, etc. (image of spider’s thread illustrates these connections, both physical & mental)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Australia: University of Adelaide. 2012. Web.

confinement and past regrets in Mrs Dalloway

It was fascinating to watch her, moving about, that old lady, crossing the room, coming to the window.  Could she see her?  It was fascinating, with people still laughing and shouting in the drawing-room, to watch that old woman, quite quietly, going to bed.  She pulled the blind now.  The clock began striking.  The young man had killed himself; but she did not pity him; with the clock striking the hour, one , two, three, she did not pity him, with all this going on, she repeated, and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun.  She must go back to them.  But what an extraordinary night!  She felt somehow very like him–the young man who had killed himself.  She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away.  The clock was striking.  The leaden circles dissolved in the air.  He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.  But she must go back.  She must assemble.  She must find Sally and Peter.  And she came in from the little room.  (186)

Woolf, Virginia.  Mrs. Dalloway.  New York: Harcourt, 1981.

Notes:  The old woman in the room that Clarissa sees through her window symbolizes the confinement that she experiences in her life due to her past decision.  She chooses to marry  Richard because of societal pressures instead of following her heart.  She would have been happier marrying peter, or, more importantly, she would have been the happiest if she would have been with Sally, as she found her to be truly exciting and exuberant.  However, she does not consummate her relationships with neither of these people; hence, she has lost her identity and she is “not even Clarissa anymore; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (11).  The fact that Clarissa and Septimus does not meet in the story signifies their parallel lives.  Like Clarissa, Septimus is tormented by the past–as evidenced by him suffering from post-traumatic stress from the war.  Nonetheless, Septimus is able to free himself from his past and any potential confinements.  When the doctor is about to institutionalize him, Septimus jumps out the window and commits suicide.  This signifies that even though he is dead, his essence, his soul is free because he is not willing to abide by societal expectations and restrictions.  On the other hand, Clarissa is confined by societal pressures.  Septimus is able to free himself from his past, while Clarissa supresses her past by engaging in trivial pursuits.

Mrs Dalloway

“A small crowd meanwhile had gathered at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Listlessly, yet confidently, poor people all of them, they waited; looked at the Palace itself with the flag flying; at Victoria, billowing on her mound, admired her shelves of running water, her geraniums; singled out from the motor cars in the Mall first this one, then that; bestowed emotion, vainly, upon commoners out for a drive; recalled their tribute to keep it unspent while this car passed and that; and all the time let rumour accumulate in their veins and thrill the nerves in their thighs at the thought of Royalty looking at them; the Queen bowing; the Prince saluting; at the thought of the heavenly life divinely bestowed upon Kings; of the equerries and deep curtsies; of the Queen’s old doll’s house; of Princess Mary married to an Englishman, and the Prince — ah! the Prince! who took wonderfully, they said, after old King Edward, but was ever so much slimmer. The Prince lived at St. James’s; but he might come along in the morning to visit his mother.

So Sarah Bletchley said with her baby in her arms, tipping her foot up and down as though she were by her own fender in Pimlico, but keeping her eyes on the Mall, while Emily Coates ranged over the Palace windows and thought of the housemaids, the innumerable housemaids, the bedrooms, the innumerable bedrooms. Joined by an elderly gentleman with an

Aberdeen terrier, by men without occupation, the crowd increased. Little Mr. Bowley, who had rooms in the Albany and was sealed with wax over the deeper sources of life but could be unsealed suddenly, inappropriately, sentimentally, by this sort of thing -poor women waiting to see the Queen go past — poor women, nice little children, orphans, widows, the War — tut-tut — actually had tears in his eyes. A breeze flaunting ever so warmly down the Mall through the thin trees, past the bronze heroes, lifted some flag flying in the British breast of Mr. Bowley and he raised his hat as the car turned into the Mall and held it high as the car approached; and let the poor mothers of Pimlico press close to him, and stood very upright. The car came on.” (p. 19-20)

Notes: minor characters; narrative shift b/w characters; indirect/direct discourse (how is this classified?); British patriotism following WWI; monarchical hierarchy vs. egalitarian population; “common” people; who says/thinks what part of the passage (e.g. who “tuts”? Is it Mr. Bowley?)