Mrs Dalloway

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Mrs Dalloway_table_infobox_0

Mrs DallowayMrs Dalloway_table_caption_0
AuthorMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_0_0 Virginia WoolfMrs Dalloway_cell_0_0_1
CountryMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_1_0 United KingdomMrs Dalloway_cell_0_1_1
LanguageMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_2_0 EnglishMrs Dalloway_cell_0_2_1
PublisherMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_3_0 Hogarth PressMrs Dalloway_cell_0_3_1
Publication dateMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_4_0 14 May 1925Mrs Dalloway_cell_0_4_1
Media typeMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_5_0 Print (hardback & paperback)Mrs Dalloway_cell_0_5_1
ISBNMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_6_0 0-15-662870-8Mrs Dalloway_cell_0_6_1
OCLCMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_7_0 Mrs Dalloway_cell_0_7_1
Dewey DecimalMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_8_0 823/.912 20Mrs Dalloway_cell_0_8_1
LC ClassMrs Dalloway_header_cell_0_9_0 PR6045.O72 M7 1990bMrs Dalloway_cell_0_9_1

Mrs Dalloway (published on 14 May 1925) is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_0

It is one of Woolf's best-known novels. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_1

Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel addresses Clarissa's preparations for a party she will host that evening. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_2

With an interior perspective, the story travels forward 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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_3

In October 2005, Mrs Dalloway was included on Time's list of the 100 best English-language novels written since Time debuted in 1923. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_4

Plot summary Mrs Dalloway_section_0

Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_5

The nice day reminds her of her youth spent in the countryside in Bourton 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 a close female friend, Sally Seton. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_6

Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_7

Septimus Warren Smith, a First World War veteran suffering from deferred traumatic stress, spends his day in the park with his Italian-born wife Lucrezia, where Peter Walsh observes them. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_8

Septimus is visited by frequent and indecipherable hallucinations, mostly concerning his dear friend Evans who died in the war. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_9

Later that day, after he is prescribed involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, he commits suicide by jumping out of a window. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_10

Clarissa's party in the evening is a slow success. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_11

It is attended by most of the characters she has met throughout the book, including people from her past. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_12

She hears about Septimus' suicide at the party and gradually comes to admire this stranger's act, which she considers an effort to preserve the purity of his happiness. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_13

Characters Mrs Dalloway_section_1

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_0

Sir William Bradshaw is a famous psychiatrist to whom Septimus' physician, Dr Holmes, refers Septimus. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_14

Bradshaw notes that Septimus has had a complete nervous breakdown and suggests spending time in the country as a cure. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_15

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_1

Clarissa Dalloway is the 51-year-old protagonist of the novel. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_16

She is Richard's wife and Elizabeth's mother, and, while reminiscing about her past, spends the day organising a party that will be held that night. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_17

She is self-conscious about her role in London high society. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_18

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_2

Elizabeth Dalloway is Clarissa and Richard's 17-year-old daughter. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_19

She is said to look "oriental" and has great composure. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_20

Compared to her mother, she takes great pleasure in politics and modern history, hoping to be either a doctor or farmer in the future. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_21

She would rather spend time in the country with her father than at her mother's party. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_22

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_3

Richard Dalloway is Clarissa's practical, "simple" husband, who feels disconnected from his wife. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_23

He is immersed in his work in government. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_24

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_4

Miss Doris Kilman, originally "Kiehlman", is Elizabeth's schoolmistress for history and is a born-again Christian. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_25

She has a degree in history and during the Great War was dismissed from her teaching job because "Miss Dolby thought she would be happier with people who shared her views about the Germans". Mrs Dalloway_sentence_26

She has a German ancestry and wears an unattractive mackintosh coat because she is uninterested in dressing to please others. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_27

She dislikes Clarissa intensely but loves to spend time with Elizabeth. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_28

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_5

Sally Seton is a love interest of Clarissa's, with whom she shared a kiss, who is now married to Lord Rosseter and has five boys. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_29

Sally had a strained relationship with her family and spent substantial time with Clarissa's family in her youth. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_30

She once could be described as feisty as well as a youthful ragamuffin, although she has become more conventional with age. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_31

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_6

Lucrezia "Rezia" Warren Smith is Septimus' Italian wife. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_32

She is burdened by his mental illness and believes she is judged because of it. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_33

During most of the novel she is homesick for her family and country, which she left to marry Septimus after the Armistice. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_34

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_7

Septimus Warren Smith is a World War I veteran who suffers from "shell shock" and hallucinations of his deceased friend, Evans. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_35

Educated and decorated in the war, he is detached from society and believes himself to be unable to feel. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_36

He is married to Lucrezia, from whom he has grown distant. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_37

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_8

Peter Walsh is an old friend of Clarissa's who has failed at most of his ventures in life. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_38

In the past, Clarissa rejected his marriage proposal. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_39

Now he has returned to England from India and is one of Clarissa's party guests. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_40

He plans to marry Daisy, a married woman in India, and has returned to try to arrange a divorce for his current wife. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_41

Mrs Dalloway_description_list_9

Hugh Whitbread is a pompous friend of Clarissa's, who holds an unspecified position in the British Royal household. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_42

Like Clarissa, he places great importance on his place in society. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_43

Although he believes he is an essential member of the British aristocracy, Lady Bruton, Clarissa, Richard, and Peter find him obnoxious. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_44

Style Mrs Dalloway_section_2

In Mrs Dalloway, all of the action, aside from the flashbacks, takes place on a day in "the middle of June" of 1923. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_45

It is an example of stream of consciousness storytelling: every scene closely tracks the momentary thoughts of a particular character. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_46

Woolf blurs the distinction between direct and indirect speech throughout the novel, freely alternating her mode of narration between omniscient description, indirect interior monologue, and soliloquy. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_47

The narration follows at least twenty characters in this way, but the bulk of the novel is spent with Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_48

Woolf laid out some of her literary goals with the characters of Mrs Dalloway while still working on the novel. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_49

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". Mrs Dalloway_sentence_50

Comparisons with Joyce's Ulysses Mrs Dalloway_section_3

Because of structural and stylistic similarities, Mrs Dalloway is commonly thought to be a response to James Joyce's Ulysses, a text that is often considered one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century (though Woolf herself, writing in 1928, denied any deliberate "method" to the book, saying instead that the structure came about "without any conscious direction"). Mrs Dalloway_sentence_51

In her essay "Modern Fiction", Woolf praised Ulysses, saying of the scene in the cemetery, "on a first reading at any rate, it is difficult not to acclaim a masterpiece." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_52

At the same time, Woolf's personal writings throughout her reading of Ulysses are abundant in criticisms. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_53

While in the initial reading process, she recorded the following response to the aforementioned passages, Mrs Dalloway_sentence_54

Woolf's distaste for Joyce's work only solidified after she completed reading it. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_55

She summed up her thoughts on the work as a whole: Mrs Dalloway_sentence_56

The Hogarth Press, run by her and her husband Leonard, 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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_57

Themes Mrs Dalloway_section_4

The novel has two main narrative lines involving two separate characters (Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith); within each narrative there is a particular time and place in the past that the main characters keep returning to in their minds. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_58

For Clarissa, the "continuous present" (Gertrude Stein's phrase) of her charmed youth at Bourton keeps intruding into her thoughts on this day in London. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_59

For Septimus, the "continuous present" of his time as a soldier during the "Great War" keeps intruding, especially in the form of Evans, his fallen comrade. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_60

Time and secular living Mrs Dalloway_section_5

Mental illness Mrs Dalloway_section_6

Septimus, as the shell-shocked war hero, operates as a pointed criticism of the treatment of mental illness and depression. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_61

Woolf criticises medical discourse through Septimus' decline and suicide; 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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_62

Rezia remarks that Septimus "was not ill. Dr Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_63

Woolf goes beyond commenting on the treatment of mental illness. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_64

Using the characters of Clarissa and Rezia, she makes the argument that people can only interpret Septimus' shell shock according to their cultural norms. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_65

Throughout the course of the novel Clarissa does not meet Septimus. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_66

Clarissa's reality is vastly different from that of Septimus; his presence in London is unknown to Clarissa until his death becomes the subject of idle chatter at her party. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_67

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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_68

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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_69

Her use of Septimus as the stereotypically traumatised veteran is her way of showing that there were still reminders of the First World War in London in 1923. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_70

These ripples affect Mrs. Dalloway and readers spanning generations. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_71

Shell shock, or post traumatic stress disorder, is an important addition to the early 20th century canon of post-war British literature. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_72

There are similarities in Septimus' condition to Woolf's struggles with bipolar disorder. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_73

Both hallucinate that birds sing in Greek, and Woolf once attempted to throw herself out of a window as Septimus does. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_74

Woolf had also been treated for her condition at various asylums, from which her antipathy towards doctors developed. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_75

Woolf committed suicide by drowning, sixteen years after the publication of Mrs Dalloway. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_76

Woolf's original plan for her novel called for Clarissa to kill herself during her party. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_77

In this original version, Septimus (whom Woolf called Mrs. Dalloway's "double") did not appear at all. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_78

Existential issues Mrs Dalloway_section_7

When Peter Walsh sees a girl in the street and stalks 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." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_79

By focusing on characters' thoughts and perceptions, Woolf emphasises the significance of private thoughts on existential crisis rather than concrete events in a person's life. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_80

Most of the plot in Mrs Dalloway consists of realisations that the characters subjectively make. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_81

Fuelled by her bout of ill health, Clarissa Dalloway is emphasised as a woman who appreciates life. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_82

Her love of party-throwing comes from a desire to bring people together and create happy moments. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_83

Her charm, according to Peter Walsh who loves her, is a sense of joie de vivre, always summarised by the sentence: "There she was." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_84

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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_85

Feminism Mrs Dalloway_section_8

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 of bourgeois women who have never known the hunger and insecurity of working women. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_86

She keeps up with and even embraces the social expectations of the wife of a patrician politician, but she is still able to express herself and find distinction in the parties she throws. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_87

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. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_88

When Clarissa meets her in the present day, Sally turns out to be a perfect housewife, having accepted her lot as a rich woman ("Yes, I have ten thousand a year"-whether before the tax was paid, or after, she couldn't remember...), married, and given birth to five sons. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_89

Homosexuality Mrs Dalloway_section_9

Clarissa Dalloway is strongly attracted to Sally Seton at Bourton. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_90

Thirty-four years later, Clarissa still considers the kiss they shared to be the happiest moment of her life. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_91

She feels about Sally "as men feel," but she does not recognise these feelings as signs of same-sex attraction. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_92

Similarly, Septimus is haunted by the image of his dear friend Evans. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_93

Evans, his commanding officer, is described as being "undemonstrative in the company of women." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_94

The narrator 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, which shows the word's use in this period to describe homosexual relations. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_95

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." Mrs Dalloway_sentence_96

Film adaptation Mrs Dalloway_section_10

Main article: Mrs Dalloway (film) Mrs Dalloway_sentence_97

Dutch film director Marleen Gorris made a film version of Mrs Dalloway in 1997. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_98

It was adapted from Woolf's novel by British actress Eileen Atkins and starred Vanessa Redgrave in the title role. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_99

The cast included Natascha McElhone, Lena Headey, Rupert Graves, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, and Katie Carr. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_100

Main article: The Hours (film) Mrs Dalloway_sentence_101

A related 2002 film, based on Michael Cunningham's novel of the same name, is The Hours, starring Meryl Streep as New York editor Clarissa, Julianne Moore as Los Angeles housewife Laura, and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_102

The Hours is about a single day in the lives of three women of different generations who are affected by Mrs Dalloway: Woolf is writing it, Laura is reading it, and Clarissa is living it out. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_103

Other appearances Mrs Dalloway_section_11

Mrs Dalloway also appears in Virginia Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, as well as five of her short stories, in which she hosts dinner parties to which the main subject of the narrative is invited: Mrs Dalloway_sentence_104

Mrs Dalloway_unordered_list_10

  • "The New Dress": a self-conscious guest has a new dress made for the eventMrs Dalloway_item_10_0
  • "The Introduction": whose main character is Lily EveritMrs Dalloway_item_10_1
  • "Together and Apart": Mrs Dalloway introduces the main protagonistsMrs Dalloway_item_10_2
  • "The Man Who Loved His Kind": Mrs Dalloway's husband Richard invites a school friend, who finds the evening uncomfortable in the extremeMrs Dalloway_item_10_3
  • "A Summing Up": a couple meet in her gardenMrs Dalloway_item_10_4

The stories (except for "The Introduction") all appear in the 1944 collection A Haunted House and Other Short Stories, and in the 1973 collection Mrs Dalloway's Party. Mrs Dalloway_sentence_105


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs Dalloway.