Mrs. Dalloway, which was published on 14 May 1925, is a Novel by Virginia Woolf, an English writer regarded as one of the greatest modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. The whole novel is the detailed and meticulous explanation of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, but the innovative treatment of time and the different types of narrator have established this work as one of the reference modernist novels.
This is the story of a high class woman who lives in London with her husband Richard Dalloway and her daughter Elizabeth. The whole novel is a description of one only day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. At the beginning, she is going around the city in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening, and the history ends that same day together with the end of the party. Yet, as the narration goes on, different issues take place, just like the appearance of Peter Walsh, who was Clarissa’s former boyfriend, and Sally Seton, her first true love who was also her best friends. These reunions make her wonder what would had happened if she has decided to marry the enigmatic and romantic Peter in except of the reliable Richard, and she also revives the feelings she had to Sally which seem not to be completely forgotten.
Together with Clarissa’s history, we also find Septimus Warren Smiths case. He was a veteran of World War I suffering from physiological problems due to the death of her best friend Evans. He lives with her Italian-born wife Lucrezia, who takes care of him, but although she was always looking after him she couldn’t avoid his suicide.
Clarissa’s party in the evening is a 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, and makes her think about which is the sense of her live.
It is important to know that the main characteristic of the novel isn’t what it happens but how it is narrated. Virginia decided to leave apart the external actions to dive into the inside world of every character, so most part of the work is just meditation and thinking of the protagonists. Hence, it is important to recognize the themes of the novel, as they are considered the essence of all Virginia Woolf’s works.
There is a vast diversity of themes in the novel Mr. Dalloway, but some of them are much more important than others. The problems and themes analyzed in this novel are not particular issues like they used to be in the 19TH century novel, they are problems concerning the human being, common worries, and although she introduced them using a single character, she used them as a symbol of what she wanted to transmit. These are some of them:
Firstly, she speaks about the situation of women in the Victorian society. The idea of a woman in that time was based on the concept of a perfect lady to be shown to the society; the lady is only the one that goes with an important man. But Clarissa shows a different view of this issue, she doesn’t think a women is nobody without a man, she knows that a woman can be successful for herself.
Secondly, we find the issues concerning death and suicide, and Septimus is considered the great symbol. This character thinks he is able to see a truth anyone else is able to appreciate, and it is such cruel that he ends up committing suicide. By this fact we can understand how difficult life was for the writer, and what her point of view of humanity and world was.
The third important theme is the time. This is an important issue due to the way in which it is used, changing the traditional notion of time as a chronologic structure based novel, intro a fragmentary novel with different techniques to show us which are the consequences of time in human life. The time and how the time changes a person were some of the obsessions of Virginia Woolf, and they are very important to understand the novel.
Overall, it is clear that Mrs. Dalloway is a highly representative novel, as it shows how Virginia Woolf lived and felt; like a woman born in a time that just didn’t suit her.
- La Señora Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, Alianza Editorial S.A. (2004)
- Mrs. Dalloway, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs_Dalloway