Monthly Archives: October 2013

Multiple-voice reencounter

” And how are you? ” said Peter Walsh, positively trembling; taking both her hands; kissing both her hands. She’s grown older, he thought, sitting down. I shan’t tell her anything about it, he thought, for she’s grown older. She’s looking at me, he thought, a sudden embarrassment coming over him, though he had kissed her hands. Putting his hand into his pocket, he took out a large pocket-knife and half opened the blade.
Exactly the same, thought Clarissa; the same queer look; the same check suit; a little out of the straight his face is, a little thinner, dryer, perhaps, but he looks awfully well, and just the same. (40)

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs Dalloway, Harcourt Editions, 1925

Notes : The scene features the reencounter of Clarissa Dalloway with Peter Walsh. The readers are thrown into the characters’ thoughts, with two alternate points of view. If our previous study of Hemingway’s  In Our Time revealed the emotions as shown and not told, here we can really tell how the process of writing differs, for the emotions are carefully depicted by Virginia Woolf. In The Common Reader, she explains : “In the vast catastrophe of the European war, our emotions had to be broken up for us, and put at an angle from us, before we could allow ourselves to feel them in poetry or fiction.” These shifts of points of view is significant of the author’s wish to break with the realistic Victorian novel.

Woolf setting the atmosphere

“Times without number Clarissa had visited Evelyn Whitbread in a nursing home. Was Evelyn ill again? Evelyn was a good deal out of sorts, said Hugh, intimating by a kind of pout swell of his very well-covered, manly, extremely handsome, perfectly upholstered body (he was almost too well-dressed always, but presumably had to be, with his little job at Court) that his wife had some internal ailment, nothing serious, which, as an old friend, Clarissa Dalloway would quite understand without requiring him to specify. Ah yes, she did of course; what a nuisance; and felt very sisterly and oddly conscious at the same time of her hat. Not the right hat for the early morning, was that it?” (6)
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt, 1925. Print.

Notes: I found this passage interesting because it reflects perfectly the atmosphere/style set by Woolf along this particular work, with a subtle shift in narratives (giving the reader a direct insight in the character’s mind: “Ah yes, she did of course”), and with peculiar hints sparking the reader’s curiosity (long description of Hugh’s body: what for?)

Manhood Vs. Death

They hanged Sam Cardinella at six o’clock in the morning in the corridor of the county jail. The corridor was high and narrow with tiers of cells on either side. All the cells were occupied. The men had been brought in for the hanging. Five men sentenced to be hanged were in the five top cells. Three of the men to be hanged were negroes. They were very frightened. One of the white men sat on his cot with his head in his hands. The other lay flat on his cot with a blanket wrapped around his head.
The came out onto the gallows through a door in the wall. There were seven of them including two priests. They were carrying Sam Cardinella. He had been like that since about four o’clock in the morning.
While they were strapping his legs together two guards held him up and the two priests were whispering to him. “Be a man, my son”, said one priest. When they came toward him with the cap to go over his head Sam Cardinella lost control of his sphincter muscle. The guards who had been holding him up both dropped him. They were both disgusted. “How about a chair, Will?” asked one of the the guards. “Better get one,” said a man in a derby hat.
When they all stepped back on the scaffolding back of the drop, which was very heavy, built of oak and steel and swung on ball bearings, Sam Cardinella was left sitting there strapped tight, the younger of the two priests kneeling beside the chair. The priest stepped back onto the scaffolding just before the drop fell.

Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, Scribner Editions, 2003, Chapter XV (143)

Notes : Interchapters turn out to be the very best of Hemingway’s collection of short stories. Most of the vignettes deal with war concerns, bullfighting and murder and the characters are often confronted to death. This interchapter XV is relevant for its way of featuring manhood and fear, two significant topics for the author. In 1952, Ernest Hemingway will write in The Old Man and the Sea : ” A man is not made for defeat… a man can be destroyed but not defeated”.

Happiness is this, he thought.

“Indeed his own life was a miracle; let him make no mistake about it; here he was in the prime of his life, walking to his house in Westminster to tell Clarissa that he loved her. Happiness is this, he thought.” Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Francisco: Harcourt Inc., 1981. Print. (117)

“For he would say it in so many words, when he came into the room. Because it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels” (116).

“But he could not bring himself to say he loved her; not in so many words” (118).

I found this passage (pp 115-119) to be moving and yet frustrating. Richard Dalloway has been struck with the realization that he loves his wife, that his life and love are a miracle. “Happiness is this, he thought” is repeated several times in the passage. Yet time has passed and time keeps passing (Big Ben) and this epihany gets lost in time, lost in life, and he never expresses it. It seems to be meaning and purpose, yet so elusive and taken for granted.

Unrequited Love

“She looked at Peter Walsh; her look, passing through all that time and that emotion, reached him doubtfully; settled on him tearfully; and rose and fluttered away, as a bird touches a branch and rises and flutters away. Quite simply she wiped her eyes”(43).

Notes: Peter’s love for Clarissa, wasted life, tortured emotions

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





The Dalloways and Flowers

“But he wanted to come in holding something. Flowers? Yes, flowers, since he did not trust his taste in gold: any numbers of flowers, roses, orchids, to celebrate what was, reckoning things as you will, an event; this feeling about her when they spoke of Peter Walsh at luncheon; and they never spoke of it; not for years had they spoken of it; which he thought, grasping his red and white roses (a vast bunch in tissue paper), is the greatest mistake in the world. (115)

Notes: A reference back to the first sentence. “Mrs, Dalloway said she would buy flowers herself” (3). Here, Mr. Dalloway is going to buy them. He see the potential conflict arising in the future, and acknowledges he could have done more. Gifts to soften the situation. Flowers play a part in the plot.  Importance of not talking/communication.

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

Faltered Reality

“How it rejoiced her that! Not for weeks had they laughed like this together, poking fun privately like married people. What she meant was that if Mrs. Filmer had come in, or Mrs. Peters or anybody they would not have understood what she and Septimus were laughing at”

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

Notes: perception of reality faltered,  desire for consistency/normalcy, failed marriage,

expressing context through the text

Lady Bruton stood by Miss Parry’s chair, a spectral grenadier, draped in black, inviting Peter Walsh to lunch; cordial; but without small talk, remembering nothing whatever about the flora or fauna of India. She had been there, of course; had stayed with three Viceroys; thought some of the Indian civilians uncommonly fine fellows; but what a tragedy it was – the state of India!

Virginia Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway,”

Notes: This really speaks to me as a period piece. The names, the references to imperialism and the Gothic descriptions of Lady Bruton.