A Stream of Consciousness- Danielle Lawson

by capreviewroom

Published in 1925, Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness novel develops central themes as characters’ thoughts rapidly unweave before the reader.  As the echo of Big Ben strikes throughout this work of fiction, Woolf effectively explores the passing of time, the fear of death and the pressures to conform into a post World War I London.  Mrs. Dalloway, although a challenging read due to multiple narrators and the absence of chapters, Woolf depicts a plausible day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway.

As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for her party in the middle of June, Big Ben’s “leaden circles dissolve in the air” (4) emphasizing the awareness of time.  The chime of the clock intrudes upon the characters’ day, in which Woolf draws the reader’s attention to important actions or moods of the characters.  As Clarissa’s old friend Peter questions why he “had been so profoundly happy when the clock was striking” (43) Woolf impressively draws the reader’s attention to her critical organization of time as Big Ben strikes.

As Big Ben continues to chime “the final stroke tolled for death” (43).  Woolf effectively links the characters together by a common theme, the “horror of death” (129).   As more time passes, the characters as a whole begin to fear the inevitable.  The reader is able to relate to Woolf’s writing as narrators “fear time itself” (29) and anticipate death, as one may do in reality.

Adequately depicted in Mrs. Dalloway is the pressure for one to assimilate into London’s post war society.  While developing war veteran and shell-shocked character Septimus, Woolf credibly depicts the suffrage one encounters when returning from war.  The reader is able to empathize with Septimus’ deteriorating mind, as Woolf continuously states “he could not feel” (74).  Woolf develops a credible internal struggle in the mind of Septimus as society chooses to “not understand him” (75).    Septimus accurately highlights the struggle to adapt to the social norms of society, ultimately leading to his suicide.

From beginning to end Mrs. Dalloway is a credible stream of consciousness novel in touch with the realities of a post World War I London.  However, Woolf’s sophisticated diction without chapters or breaks forces one to often re read passages to thoroughly follow the thoughts of numerous narrators.  Granted that, if one has the time and patience to carefully read Mrs. Dalloway in its entirety, one will greatly appreciate Woolf’s work of fiction. 


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