Tag Archives: Mrs. Dalloway

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.

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?)

Mrs. Dalloway

“It was all over for her. The sheet was stretched and the bed narrow. She had gone up into the tower alone and left them blackberrying in the sun. The door had shut, and there among the dust of fallen plaster and the litter of birds’ nests how distant the view had looked, and the sounds came thin and chill (once on Leith Hill, she remembered), and Richard, Richard! she cried, as a sleeper in the night starts and stretches a hand in the dark for help. Lunching with Lady Bruton, it came back to her. He has left me; I am alone for ever, she thought, folding her hands upon her knee” (Woolf 47).

Woolf, V. (1925). Mrs. dalloway. (p. 99). New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Notes: Clarissa seems to wallow like John Marcher does from The Beast in the Jungle. Both characters lament from what should and could have happened. But not only do they lament, they also have an over-dramatic air in which life as they know it is over for them because of the lost encounter(s).


There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes — so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking to Miss Pym who owed her help, and thought her kind, for kind she had been years ago; very kind, but she looked older, this year, turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness.

Mrs. Dalloway

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.” (3)

Notes: I liked how this passage shows how Clarissa is very wrapped up in her mind. Despite being outside in the bustling city of London, she feels very much alone. It’s interesting to note how she compares this loneliness to being alone at sea. This emphasizes a sort of division between the outside world and the privacy of one’s mind.

the world inside us

“She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that” (5).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1981. Web.

Notes: the idea of being both inside and outside at once; very aware and appreciative of life, yet introspective and internally isolated; struggling between her bustling surroundings and her quiet, overactive mind.


A Brief POV Change in “Mrs. Dalloway”

“To his patients he gave three-quarters of an hour; and if in this exacting science which he has to do with what, after all, we know nothing about – the nervous system, the human brain – a doctor loses his sense of proportion, as a doctor he fails.  Health we must have; and health is a 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…” (99).


Woolf, V. (1925). Mrs. dalloway. (p. 99). New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Note: This is  Rezia’s perspective of Dr. Holmes and the reader goes from third-person narrative in this passage to first-person twice, with references to “we.”  Additionally, there is a mention of “your.” As a reader, I feel as if Rezia herself is talking to someone in a sarcastic tone, perhaps having an internal monologue.

Inability to Control and Express Oneself in Mrs. Dalloway

“But to sit here, unable to think of anything to say; to see Elizabeth turning against her, to be felt repulsive even by her–it was too much… ‘People don’t ask me to parties’–and she knew as she said it that it was this egotism that was her undoing…’Why should they ask me?’ she said. ‘I’m plain, I’m unhappy.’ She knew it was idiotic. But it was all those people passing–people with parcels who despised her, who made her say it… ‘Don’t quite forget me,” said Doris Kilman… One had to pay at the desk, Elizabeth said, and went off, drawing out, so Miss Kilman felt, the very entrails of her body, stretching them as she crossed the room, and then, with a final twist, bowing her head very politely, she went” (Woolf 132-133).

“But he remembered Bradshaw said, ‘The people we are most fond of are not good for us when we are ill.’ Bradshaw said, he must be taught to rest. Bradshaw said they must be separated.’Must,’ ‘must,’ why ‘must’? What power had Bradshaw over him? ‘What right has Bradshaw to say ‘must’ to me?’ he demanded. ‘It is because you talked of killing yourself,’ said Rezia… So he was in their power! Holmes and Bradshaw were on him!” (Woolf 147).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc., 1981. Print.

Notes: This is a very heart-wrenching moment where Miss Kilman wants so badly to confess her love for Elizabeth, but can’t express her true feelings through words. She wants Elizabteh to be with her, but loses control over the situation and ultimately loses her in a gory metaphor of their guts ripping apart.  This inability for a character to control their life occurs again with Septimus, when Lucrezia and the doctors keep saying that he needs medical treatment. Septimus is upset that Bradshaw tells him what he must do, and notes that the doctors are the ones who have control over his life, not himself.