Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway

Overview
Mrs Dalloway is a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway in post-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is one of Woolf's best-known novels.

Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel's story is of Clarissa's preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess. With the interior perspective of the novel, the story travels forwards and back in time and in and out of the characters' minds to construct an image of Clarissa's life and of the inter-war social structure.

In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present.

Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Mrs Dalloway'
Start a new discussion about 'Mrs Dalloway'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Mrs Dalloway is a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway in post-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is one of Woolf's best-known novels.

Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel's story is of Clarissa's preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess. With the interior perspective of the novel, the story travels forwards and back in time and in and out of the characters' minds to construct an image of Clarissa's life and of the inter-war social structure.

In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present.

Plot summary


Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening. The nice day reminds her of her youth at Bourton
Bourton
Bourton is the name of more than one place in England:* Bourton, Buckinghamshire* Bourton, Dorset* Bourton, North Somerset* Bourton, Cherwell, Oxfordshire* Bourton, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire* Bourton, Shropshire* Bourton Westwood, Shropshire...

 and makes her wonder about her choice of husband; she married the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the enigmatic and demanding Peter Walsh and she "had not the option" to be with Sally Seton. Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning.

Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 suffering from deferred traumatic stress, spends his day in the park with his Italian-born wife Lucrezia, where they are observed by Peter Walsh. Septimus is visited by frequent and indecipherable hallucinations, mostly concerning his dear friend Evans who died in the war. Later that day, after he is prescribed involuntary commitment
Involuntary commitment
Involuntary commitment or civil commitment is a legal process through which an individual with symptoms of severe mental illness is court-ordered into treatment in a hospital or in the community ....

 to a psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

, he commits suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 by jumping out of a window.

Clarissa's party in the evening is a slow success. It is attended by most of the characters she has met in the book, including people from her past. She hears about Septimus' suicide at the party and gradually comes to admire the act of this stranger, which she considers an effort to preserve the purity of his happiness.

Characters


Clarissa Dalloway The fifty-two-year-old protagonist of the novel. She is the wife of Richard and mother of Elizabeth. She spends the day organizing a party that will be held that night while also reminiscing about the past. She is self-conscious about her role in London high society.

Richard Dalloway The disconnected and haughty husband of Clarissa. He is immersed in his work in government.

Elizabeth Dalloway Seventeen-year-old daughter of Clarissa and Richard. She is said to look "oriental" and has great composure. Compared to her mother, she takes great pleasure in politics and modern history, hoping to be either a doctor or farmer in the future.

Septimus Warren Smith A World War I veteran who suffers from "shell shock" and hallucinations of his deceased friend, Evans. Educated and decorated in the war, he is detached from society. He is married to Lucrezia from whom he has grown distant.

Lucrezia "Rezia" Smith The Italian wife of Septimus. She is burdened by his mental illness and believes that she is judged because of it. During most of the novel she is homesick for family and country, which she left to marry Septimus after the Armistice.

Sally Seton A love interest of Clarissa. She had a strained relationship with her family and spent much time with Clarissa's family in her youth. Sally is married to Lord Rosseter and has five boys. She can be described as feisty as well as a youthful ragamuffin.

Hugh Whitbread The pompous friend of Clarissa. Like Clarissa, he places much importance on his place in society. He holds an unspecified position in the British Royal household. Although he believes himself to be an essential member of the British aristocracy, Lady Bourton, Clarissa, Richard, and Peter find him to be obnoxious.

Peter Walsh He is an old friend of Clarissa. In the past, she rejected his marriage proposal. Now he has returned to England from India and is one of the guests at Clarissa's party. He is planning to marry Daisy.

Sir William Bradshaw Septimus is referred to the famous psychiatrist, Sir William Bradshaw, by his physician, Dr. Holmes. Bradshaw notes that Septimus has had a complete nervous breakdown and suggests spending time in the country as a cure.

Miss. Kilman Miss. Kilman is Elizabeth's history teacher, who has a degree in history and was fired from a teaching job during the war. She has a German ancestry. She wears an unattractive mackintosh coat because she does not care enough to dress to please others. She is a born-again Christian. She dislikes Clarissa intensely but she loves to spend time with Elizabeth.

Style


In Mrs Dalloway, all of the action, except flashbacks, takes place on a day in June. It is an example of free indirect discourse storytelling (not stream of consciousness because this story moves between the consciousnesses of every character in a form of discourse): every scene closely tracks the momentary thoughts of a particular character. Woolf blurs the distinction between direct and indirect speech throughout the novel, alternating her narration with omniscient description, indirect interior monologue, direct interior narration follows at least twenty characters in this way but the bulk of the novel is spent with Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith.

Because of structural and stylistic similarities, Mrs Dalloway is commonly thought to be a response to James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

, a text that is often considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century (though Woolf herself, writing in 1928, apparently denied this).
In her essay 'Modern Fiction', Woolf praised James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

, saying of the scene in the cemetery, "on a first reading at any rate, it is difficult not to acclaim a masterpiece". The Hogarth Press, run by her and her husband Leonard
Leonard Woolf
Leonard Sidney Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.-Early life:...

, had to turn down the chance to publish the novel in 1919, because of the obscenity law in England, as well as the practical issues regarding publishing such a substantial text.

Woolf laid out some of her literary goals with the characters of Mrs Dalloway while still working on the novel. A year before its publication, she gave a talk at Cambridge University called "Character in Fiction," revised and retitled later that year as "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown."

Mental illness


Septimus, as the shell-shocked
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Posttraumaticstress disorder is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity,...

 war hero, operates as a pointed criticism of the treatment of mental illness
Mental illness
A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. Such a disorder may consist of a combination of affective, behavioural,...

 and depression
Clinical depression
Major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities...

. Woolf lashes out at the medical discourse through Septimus' decline and suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

; his doctors make snap judgments about his condition, talk to him mainly through his wife and dismiss his urgent confessions before he can make them. Rezia remarks that Septimus "was not ill. Dr Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him".

Woolf goes beyond criticizing the treatment of mental illness
Mental illness
A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. Such a disorder may consist of a combination of affective, behavioural,...

. Using the characters of Clarissa and Rezia, she makes the argument that people can only interpret Septimus' shell-shock according to their cultural norms. Throughout the course of the novel Clarissa does not meet Septimus. Clarissa's reality is vastly different from that of Septimus; his presence in London is unknown to Clarissa until his death becomes idle chat at her party. By never having these characters meet, Woolf is suggesting that mental illness can be contained to the individuals who suffer from it without others who remain unaffected ever having to witness it. This allows Woolf to weave her criticism of the treatment of the mentally ill with her larger argument, which is the criticism of society's class structure. Her use of Septimus as the stereotypically traumatized man from the war is her way to show that there were still reminders of the First World War in 1923 London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. These ripples affect Mrs. Dalloway and readers spanning generations. Shell shock or post traumatic stress disorder is an important addition to the early 20th century canon of post-war British Literature.

There are similarities in Septimus' condition to Woolf's struggles with bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or...

 (they both hallucinate
Hallucination
A hallucination, in the broadest sense of the word, is a perception in the absence of a stimulus. In a stricter sense, hallucinations are defined as perceptions in a conscious and awake state in the absence of external stimuli which have qualities of real perception, in that they are vivid,...

 that birds sing in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Woolf once attempted to throw herself out of a window as Septimus does). Woolf eventually committed suicide by drowning.

Woolf's original plan for her novel called for Clarissa to kill herself during her party. In this original version, Septimus (whom Woolf called Mrs. Dalloway's "double") did not appear at all.

Existential issues


When Peter Walsh sees a girl in the street and stalks
Stalking
Stalking is a term commonly used to refer to unwanted and obsessive attention by an individual or group to another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person and/or monitoring them via the internet...

 her for half an hour, he notes that his relationship to the girl was "made up, as one makes up the better part of life." By focusing on character's thoughts and perceptions, Woolf emphasizes the significance of private thoughts rather than concrete events in a person's life. Most of the plot in Mrs Dalloway is realization that the characters subjectively make.

Fueled by her bout of ill health, Clarissa Dalloway is emphasized as a woman who appreciates life. Her love of party-throwing comes from a desire to bring people together and create happy moments. Her charm, according to Peter Walsh who loves her, is a sense of joie de vivre, always summarized by the sentence "There she was." She interprets Septimus Smith's death as an act of embracing life and her mood remains light even though she hears about it in the midst of the party.

Feminism


As a commentary on inter-war society, Clarissa's character highlights the role of women as the proverbial "Angel in the House" and embodies sexual and economic repression and the narcissism
Narcissism
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...

 of bourgeois women who have never known the hunger and insecurity of working women. She keeps up with and even embraces the social expectations of the wife of a patrician politician
Politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 but she is still able to express herself and find distinction in the parties she throws.

Her old friend Sally Seton, whom Clarissa admires dearly, is remembered as a great independent woman: She smoked cigars, once ran down a corridor naked to fetch her sponge-bag and made bold, unladylike statements to get a reaction from people. When Clarissa meets her in the present day, she turns out to be a perfect housewife, having married a self-made rich man and given birth to five sons.

Homosexuality


Clarissa Dalloway is strongly attracted to Sally at Bourton
Bourton
Bourton is the name of more than one place in England:* Bourton, Buckinghamshire* Bourton, Dorset* Bourton, North Somerset* Bourton, Cherwell, Oxfordshire* Bourton, Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire* Bourton, Shropshire* Bourton Westwood, Shropshire...

 — 34 years later, she still considers the kiss they shared to be the happiest moment of her life. She feels about women "as men feel" (from "Mrs Dalloway", Penguin Popular Classics 1996, page 36 OR Harcourt, Inc. (2005), Page 35) but she does not recognize these feelings as signs of homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

.

Similarly, Septimus is haunted by the image of his dear friend Evans. Evans, his commanding officer, is described as being "undemonstrative in the company of women". Woolf describes Septimus and Evans behaving 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..." Jean E. Kennard notes that the word "share" could easily be read in a Forsteran manner, perhaps as in Forster's Maurice
Maurice (novel)
Maurice is a novel by E. M. Forster. A tale of homosexual love in early 20th century England, it follows Maurice Hall from his schooldays, through university and beyond. It was written from 1913 onwards...

which shows the word's use in this period to describe homosexual relations. Kennard is one to note Septimus' "increasing revulsion at the idea of heterosexual sex", abstaining from sex with Rezia and feeling that "the business of copulation was filth to him before the end."

Film adaptation



A film version of Mrs Dalloway was made in 1997
1997 in film
-Events:* The original Star Wars trilogy's Special Editions are released.* Production begins on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.* Titanic becomes the first film to gross US$1,000,000,000 at the box office making it the highest grossing film in history until Avatar broke the record in 2010.*...

 by Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 film director Marleen Gorris
Marleen Gorris
Marleen Gorris is a writer-director from the Netherlands. Gorris is known as an outspoken feminist and supporter of gay and lesbian issues which is reflected in much of her work....

. It was adapted from Woolf's novel by British actress Eileen Atkins
Eileen Atkins
Dame Eileen June Atkins, DBE is an English actress and occasional screenwriter.- Early life :Atkins was born in the Mothers' Hospital in Clapton, a Salvation Army women's hostel in East London...

 and starred Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave, CBE is an English actress of stage, screen and television, as well as a political activist.She rose to prominence in 1961 playing Rosalind in As You Like It with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since made more than 35 appearances on London's West End and Broadway, winning...

 in the title role. The cast included Natascha McElhone
Natascha McElhone
Natascha McElhone is an English actress of stage, screen and television, best known for her roles in Ronin, The Truman Show and Solaris. McElhone also plays a leading role in the Showtime series Californication....

, Lena Headey
Lena Headey
Lena Headey is an English actress. Headey's performance in a one-off show when she was 17 caught the attention of a casting agent, who took a photo and asked her to audition and eventually she got a supporting role alongside Jeremy Irons and Ethan Hawke in the 1992 British drama film Waterland and...

, Rupert Graves
Rupert Graves
Rupert Graves is an English film, television and theatre actor. He is best known for his role as DI Lestrade in the critically acclaimed television series Sherlock.-Early life:...

, Michael Kitchen
Michael Kitchen
Michael Kitchen is an English actor and television producer, best known for his starring role as DCS Foyle in the British TV series Foyle's War.-Early life:...

, Alan Cox
Alan Cox (actor)
-Biography:He is the son of the Emmy Award winning actor Brian Cox and his first wife Caroline Burt. Cox was educated at St Paul's School in London. He has a sister, Margaret, and a half brother Torin Kamran Charles....

, Sarah Badel
Sarah Badel
Sarah Badel is a British stage and film actress. She is the daughter of actors Alan Badel and Yvonne Owen.-Theatrical career:...

 and Katie Carr
Katie Carr
Katie Carr is an English actress and underwear model. She may be best known for her appearances in Dinotopia as Marion and in Heroes as Caitlin.-Filmography:- External links :...

.

Mrs Dalloway was an important element of the plot of both the Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham is an American writer, best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999.-Early life and education:...

 novel The Hours
The Hours (novel)
The Hours is a 1998 novel written by Michael Cunningham. It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 1999 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was later made into an Oscar-winning 2002 movie of the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.-Plot introduction:The book...

and its subsequent screen adaptation
The Hours (film)
The Hours is a 2002 drama film directed by Stephen Daldry, and starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. The screenplay by David Hare is based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham....

. Cunningham's title was derived from Woolf's original title for Mrs Dalloway.

Auction Record


On 1 October 2009, Swann Galleries
Swann Galleries
Swann Galleries is a New York auction house founded in 1941. It is a specialist auctioneer of antique and rare works on paper, and it is considered the oldest continually operating New York specialist auction house....

 auctioned a first edition in the scarce dust jacket of Mrs Dalloway, London, 1925, for $18,000—a record price for the book at auction.

Other appearances


Mrs Dalloway also appears in Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out
The Voyage Out
The Voyage Out is the first novel by Virginia Woolf, published in 1915 by Duckworth; and published in the U.S. in 1920 by Doran.Rachel Vinrace embarks for South America on her father's ship and is launched on a course of self-discovery in a kind of modern mythical voyage. The mismatched jumble of...

, as well as four of her short stories, in which she hosts dinner parties to which the main subject of the narrative is invited:
  • "The New Dress
    The New Dress (short story)
    The New Dress is a short story by the English author Virginia Woolf.It was written in 1924 whilst Virginia Woolf was writing Mrs. Dalloway . It is possible that it was originally to have been a chapter in the novel with which it shares some characters and events....

    " - a self-conscious guest has a new dress made for the event.
  • "The Introduction" - whose main character is Lily Everit
  • "Together and Apart" - Mrs Dalloway introduces the main protagonists
  • "The Man Who Loved His Kind" in which her husband Richard invites a school friend who finds the evening uncomfortable in the extreme.
  • "A Summing Up" - a couple meet in her garden.

The stories (except for "The Introduction") all appear in the 1944 collection A Haunted House and Other Short Stories, and also in the 1973 collection Mrs Dalloway's Party.

External links


  • Mrs. Dalloway, at wikilivres.info
  • Mrs. Dalloway at the Polyglot Project
  • Mrs. Dalloway e-book, in 105 pages, at "grabafreebie.com"
  • Analysis of Characters in Mrs Dalloway: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/dalloway/canalysis.html