Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf



Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf


       The twentieth century really begins before the end of the nineteenth century. Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 was felt by many to represent the end of an era.
The century was the period of one hundred years that started on January 1, 1901 and ended in December 2000. It was marked by several technological advances, achievements of civilization and dispultas for power. However, this period can be described as the "time of the great massacres", since that was many conflicts and many killed in that period. In many countries of Europe and Asia, the twentieth century was widely dubbed "Bloody Century."
A strong social ethic, continued from the Victorian times of Dickens and Disraeli, began increasingly to influence the political character of the country and its institutions. The Gladstone Parliament of 1880-85 was the 'no-man's land` between the old Radicalism and the new Socialism, but thereafter the aristocracy and upper classes exerted less influence. The state began to organise itself more in the interests of majority community needs. Institutions became more democratic. The Socialist Party grew as Liberalism declined. In 1928 universal suffrage for woman was obtained, paradoxically during a time when growing economic depression and slump appeared to lend increasing weight to Marxist analyses of the inevitable failure of capitalist economic systems.
Culturally too, increasing access to literacy, and to education in general, led to profound changes in the reading public. By the time of the First World War there was a whole new generation of young soldiers, who not only could read but, very important, were able for the first time in the history of war to write letters home describing war in all its unheroic horror. The twentieth century saw more and more of this broadening of artistic trends, extending into the other cultural forms of radio, television, cinema and popular music. Some writers reacted to this situation by concentrating on a narrow, highly educated audience who would understand their alienation from this changing world; thus, the avant-grade era in writing began. This ´intellectualisation` has been criticised as restricting literature by other writers who have made use of popular forms in order to communicate with a wider audience.
A tension in writing between the popular and the esoteric, and the popular an specialised, the commercial and the avant-garden, became a feature of twentieth – century literature. Isolation and alienation, together with experimental forms of expression, came to characterise serious literature, while cinematic techniques and the elaboration of popular genres came to dominate other forms of cultural expression. To some writers, the alienation they felt and depicted was an exploration of the individual sensibility in a world which it was felt was becoming ever more standardised and uniform, an age of the masses.
Looking back on the nineteenth century, it is easy to see it as falling into distinct moments: before and after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815; before and after the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 (in effect, she gives her name to almost the whole century); and, in intellectual terms, before and after Darwin. Although On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, its ideas had been circulating for some thirty years before then, and their currency and effects define the later years of the century.
It is less easy to define the twentieth century. The First and the Second World Wars( 1914 – 18 and 1939 – 45 respectively) mark , in time and in their effects, momentous changes on a global scale: this kind of worldwide effect is a phenomenon of the century. Before 1914, English literature and ideas were in many ways still harking back to the nineteenth century: after 1918, Modern begins to define the twentieth century. But as literacy increase after the 1870 Education Act and, as a result, many more people could read and write, the effect on literature was to expand its range, to fragment its solidity, to enlarge and profoundly change its audience, its forms and its subject matter.
It is precisely here, between wars, in this interval of time that our writer writes, this period between the end of the First World querra on November 11, 1018 until the beginning of World War II on 1 September 1939.



Virginia Woolf - (London, January 25 of 1882 – Sussex, March 28 of 1941). Was one of the most important writers UK.

On a page of her diary, written between 1915 and 1941, Virginia Woolf refers to "the enemy hiding behind the curtain of everyday life." For her, this enemy was a constant presence. Tormented, living in the midst of a series of depression bouts, attempted suicide three times. But all the terrible difficulties she had, had not been able to prevent it from exercising its creative power and build one of the most innovative works of the twentieth century.
Virginia Woolf was born into a large, talented, upper-class, intellectual family in London. She was the daughter of Leslie Stephen, a famous Victorian biographer, critic, and philosopher. Adolescent health fragile and vulnerable, not regular studying, and has received special attention of Sir Leslie. These precautions were redoubled when, at fourteen because Virginia suffered a mental shock caused by the death of her mother, Julia Duckworth. This time, she suffered another shock when she was almost raped by her half-brother, George and Then, witnessed the madness of Laura, her half sister. However, it happened in the family that Virginia has found a loyal ally, her sister Vanessa.
Her father exerted a  inhibiting power influence over her, and she later confessed that she could never has written her stories and novel while he was alive.
In his house in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, formed a circle of intellectuals and artists who would influence a renewal in the cultural environment of England. These changes would amount to art, science and behavior at the beginning of the century were the subject of the conversations and discussions within the "circle of Bloomsbury”. During these meetings, including subjects ranging from Freud's theories, to the emancipation of women and the achievements of avant-garde, Virginia was often with the journalist Leonard Woolf, a socialist, whom he married in 1912.
The two lived in Sussex for many years, Virginia has found peace there to write, in 1915, launched its first book: "The Voyage Out", Story of a woman who leaves security home in search of a life more authentic and rewarding and then would have made a series of remarkable works, which will be worth the title of "the Proust English”. During World War II, the "circle of Bloomsbury" broke up temporarily, but after its members met again if deepening the commitment to spiritual freedom, social nonconformity and artistic renewal.
In 1917, Virginia and Leonard founded a publishing house, Hogarth Press, which published the works of Proust, Freud, Katherine Mansfield, T. S. Eliot, Rilke and others.
His second novel, "Night and Day" (1919), is anticipating the essential elements of the narrative structure of the author. The objectivity of the report gives way to deep exploration of movement of the innermost consciousness of his characters. The heroine, Katherine Hilbery, wonders about the value of marriage and the limitations it brings to the independence of women. Although he was aloof to political issues, attended the Virginia League of Working Women. From "The fourth of Jacob" (1922), the use of interior monologue illuminating the immediate presentation of the stream of consciousness is consolidated in the fiction of a writer.
The work of Virginia is classified as modernist. The Stream of consciousness was one of her best-known brands and which is considered one of the creators. Her reflections on the literary art - the creative freedom to the pleasure of reading

Stream of consciousness is a literary technique introduced by James Joyce, where monologue within one or more characters is transcribed. In this technique, the consciousness there is a breakdown of linear narrative, where it is not so clear to distinguish between memories of the character and the situation now narrated.

With the violence and misery of the Second World War, the precarious balance of Virginia psychological collapse, her anxiety and depression becomes unbearable for Virginia, and on 28 March 1941, he threws hermself into the River Ouse
In 1941, left a note for her husband, Leonard Woolf, and her sister, Vanessa. In this note,  she left a message to the people who loved  in her life, and kills hermself triumphantly.
I'm sure to be going crazy again. I feel that we can not pass through new times. I do not want to relive them. I begin to hear voices and can not concentrate. So I am doing what I believe is the best thing to do. You gave me many opportunities to be happy. You were present like no other. I do not think two people can be happy living with this terrible disease. I can not fight. I know I'll be taking a weight from his back, because without me, you can work. And you will, I know. You see, I can not even write. Not read. Anyway, what I mean is it to you that I owe all my happiness. You have been good to me, as no one could have been. I wanted to say this - everyone knows. If anyone could save me, that someone would be you. Everything is gone for me but what will be sure of his goodness, without equal. I can not mess up your life. No more. I do not think two people could have been as happy as we were.”

FULL TITLE – Mrs Dalloway

The life of Virginia Woolf was confused with her work. In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia has a character like her, that have visions, sees enemies and is plagued by depression bouts  and  at the end also commits suicide.
In this book the plot is almost dissolved, reducing to a minimum wire is a kind of atmosphere that connects the characters. An external event triggers any ideas and sequences of ideas that lead the character to move with freedom of conscience, moving from past to present and vice versa.



London, 1923. Clarissa Dalloway is a woman of fifty-somethings, married to an influential and wealthy member of British Parliament, Richard Dalloway. She is known for promoting parties for English high society.
One day in June of that year, she was preparing another of her famous receptions, when it hits your door a man named Peter Walsh, recently arrived from India. Walsh is an old friend of more than thirty years whom she had a romance. His arrival makes Clarissa recall the events that occurred during the summer of 1890 and to question whether made the right of choice to prefer the security of a comfortable marriage with a successful politician, instead opting for a life with the adventurer Peter.
In addition, it develops the story of Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the First World War , traumatized by the death in front of a friend, and ending by taking him to suicide. Although Mrs. Dalloway has no relation with him, his death is cause for reflection and questioning on her part.


AUTHOR – Virginia Woolf


GENRE – Modernist; formalist; feminist

LANGUAGE – English



Woolf began Mrs Dalloway in Sussex in 1922 and completed the novel in London in 1925


Hogarth Press, the publishing house created by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917


 Anonymous. The omniscient narrator is a commenting voice who knows everything about the characters. This voice appears occasionally among the subjective thoughts of characters. The critique of Sir William Bradshaw's reverence of proportion and conversion is the narrator's most sustained appearance.


 Point of view changes constantly, often shifting from one character's stream of consciousness (subjective interior thoughts) to another's within a single paragraph. Woolf most often uses free indirect discourse, a literary technique that describes the interior thoughts of characters using third-person singular pronouns (he and she). This technique ensures that transitions between the thoughts of a large number of characters are subtle and smooth.
In this book the plot is almost dissolved, reducing to a minimum wire, a kind of atmosphere that connects the characters. An external event triggers any ideas and sequences of ideas that lead the character to move with freedom of conscience, moving from past to present and contrariwise. What became this narrative important was a result of such experiments that have a sense of the fluidity and flexibility both of time and memory. Virginia Woolf, in particular, utilizes this experiments getting very successfull  the concept of ´Time on the clock and time in the mind'.



 The narrator is against the oppression of the human soul and for the celebration of diversity, as are the book's major characters. Sometimes the mood is humorous, but an underlying sadness is always present.

SETTING (time) –

 A day in mid-June, 1923. There are many flashbacks to a summer at Bourton in the early 1890, when the Clarissa was eighteen.

SETTING (Place) –

London, England. The novel takes place largely in the affluent neighborhood of Westminster, where the Dalloways live.


In Virginia Woolf her character's process is not a direct linear progress from their original feeling, we can see its inside Sally, Clarissa and Peter.
Her character's  thought often seem to contradict their feelings, or their actions and speach are disconected from or contradict their thoughts.
Looking Peter for example , himself is trying to convince his independence on the others people, but he is lying to himself because he depends on his establishment friends such as ´The Dalloways, the Whitbreads, and their set' to provide him a job.
“Though it was true he would have, some thime or other, to see Whether Richard couldn´t help him to some job”.
Peter Walsh´s vagueness about some time or other asking for some job reveals that he is unwilling to admit to himself that he dependes on the Dalloways.


Clarissa Dalloway,  is the heroine of the novel, struggles to balance her life as a wife with the outside world. She is a woman of high society, but it moves through this world in search of a deeper meaning to the superficial life she lives, the fruit of your choice from the past. Always concerned with appearances, rarely shared her feelings with someone.
"... It was not the thing itself, but for what others thought this or that. As she needed people expressing their satisfaction when it came ..."
Exactly the attitudes of Clarissa is not seen as a modern woman  she fearfull and she was not strong, such as Sally was. For that reason she admired her friend and felt attracted  for Sally. When Clarissa met Sally, he learned that her parents had fought, leaving Clarissa shocked.
The death of Septimus for Clarissa awake her reality, she finally realized that her marriage was in fact a farce. She preferred to marry Richard, opposite to her true feelings, leaving her soul. Already Septimus preserved his soul to choosen the  death. But Why Clarissa had acted in this way? In some ways it was a punishment for Clarissa to see a man sink in that deep darkness and forced her to stay there with her  evining dress. She was never really happy because she simply had "fear".


 Sally, is spontaneous, inprevisível. She says descendant of French and one of her ancestors had been with Marie Antoinette. Sally kisses Clarissa in the garden, this kiss wakes Clarissa in a deeper sense in relation to Sally, but it does not do the same by Sally, I believe in Clarissa awake a deeper admiration.
Ultimately, Clarissa and Sally thought that would change the world together, but just like all women of her time fineshed  married and submissive.


Peter Walsh, is the most consistent character, middle-aged and had fear that has wasted his life. He is still attracted to Clarissa, even after so many years, however, attempts to have a new love. He is like a storm, completely unpredictable.
He hates the bourgeois lifestyle of Clarissa, and blame Richard. Despite his criticism of others, can not see his faults and does not realize that he was the main guilty for Clarissa had not accepted his marriage proposal. The  critical nature of the distance of the others.
He wakes Clarissa's fear, then with Peter everything had to be shared, and it would choke her. Richard does not require  Clarissa as  Peter requires. With Richard she has a certain independence, otherwise, a "fake independence".
Peter annoyed Clarissa with his lack of manners, his absolute lack of concern about what others think. In short, what Clarissa admired Sally, she criticized in Peter.

Richard, a key feature mentioned by Richard in the book. "... Type of person who did things for themselves ..."


Septimus, he is a veteran of First World War, suffered a shock with the death of his friend during the war. Feeling guilty living in a world outside of reality, he sees things and listen things that does not happening, and talk with his deceased friend Evans. Both Clarissa and Septimus have the same feelings, like love, fear and oppression. But Clarissa is a society that preserves the interest of war while Septimus represents the working class, which puts the legitimacy of war and question the true values. Both Clarissa and Septimus are moving between the present and the past for answers to their internal conflicts.

Rezia, a woman in a wide-eyed face thin and pale, an Italian girl. Lucrezia had been married for 4 years with Septimus, had left her home to live in England with Septimus, without friends, she was not happy, was so thin that the alliance slipped on his finger.



MAJOR CONFLICT - Existential – Clarissa and other characters try to preserve their souls after the First World War, after that the society became fragmentary.

  • Feminism


Virginia Woolf, with lucid passion examines the position of women imprisoned by family:
Such as Sally Seton, who Clarissa greatly admired, for look an independent woman when they meet again, Sally became “The type just the perfect housewife” and very happily married with 5 children. With this, our author makes clear how this domination has prevented the development of women. Clarissa highlights the role of women as the proverbial "Angel in the House” and incorporates both sexual and economic repression. She herself is part of that repression.

  • Homosexuality

Clarissa Dalloway is strongly attracted to Sally at Bourton and she still considers the kiss they shared to be the happiest moment of her life, but she does not recognize these feelings as signs of homosexuality.
The relationship between Doris Kilman and Elizabeth Dalloway demonstrates that the older may have certain lesbian feelings towards Clarissa's daughter
Evans is Septimus's commanding officer, is described as “undemonstrative in the company of women”. Woolf describes Septimus and Evans behaved together like "two dogs playing on a hearth-rug" who, inseparable, "had to be together, share with each other, fight with each other, quarrel with each other..."

  • Mental illness


Septimus, operates as a pointed criticism of the treatment of mental illness and depression. Woolf lashes out at the medical discourse through Septimus' decline and ultimate suicide



Clarissa spends the day organizing a party that will bring people together, while Septimus Warren Smith eventually commits suicide due to the social pressures that oppress his soul.


At her party, Clarissa goes to a small room to contemplate Septiums's suicide. She identifies herself  with him and is glad he did it, believing that he preserved his soul but this time Clarissa perceive that Septimus had committed suicide, but she was there, and continued to live, and the most important is  to continue,  exactly not has afraid of life. "Not fear the heat of the sun ..." She should go downstairs to her friends Sally and Peter and meet the heavy circles that were dissolving in the air, had to meet his friends again and just live.



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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf


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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf