A Memorable Read With Memorable Characters–Ava Ashrafian

by capreviewroom

Mrs. Dalloway is a stream of consciousness novel that takes you through the lives of several characters during the short tenure of a simple day. Clarissa (Mrs. Dalloway) is the stories main character. She is a woman who seemingly has it all: wealth, influence, prestige, and everything that comes along with those eternally desired qualities. Despite these facts she, confusingly enough, remains unhappy—and, even more, unfulfilled. The next central character is Peter Wash. Peter is an entertaining fellow who, even though he attempts to convince himself otherwise, cares about and loves Clarissa irrevocably. Lastly, there is Septimus. Septimus proves himself to be a disturbed man, still recovering from the horrors he’d witnessed during WW1. These characters successfully shape the novel, and, most significantly, define it.

Because Mrs. Dalloway is written in free indirect discourse, parts of the novel prove to be particularly confusing and slightly hard to follow. For example, on the first page Clarissa finds herself raving on about the beautiful day: “fresh, as if issued to children on a beach” were her exact words, when suddenly she sees something that reminds her of a distinct moment from her past, and as a result she begins to think about that moment without any warning. Although throughout the novel things like that are ever present, the reader does get used to it. One thing that the reader does not get used to is the sudden switch in characters. Most novels have a paragraph that signals the ending of one characters point of view, or perhaps even a chapter; this novel, however, gives no clear indication of when a characters train of thought ends. Even though this is sometimes infuriating, it also stays true to the novels genre; and it is the genre of this novel that makes the story memorable.

Another thing that makes this book predominantly enjoyable is its characters. Clarissa and Peter together provide moments of much angst, nostalgia, and comedy. It is rare when two characters can create such a rare combination. Here, Peter remembers their unique relationship: “she knew directly he criticised her. Then she would do something quite obvious to defend herself, like this fuss with the dog — but it never took him in, he always saw through Clarissa. Not that he said anything, of course; just sat looking glum. It was the way their quarrels often began.” This quote conveys quite perfectly the amusing relationship between the two.

Septimus Smith is also instrumental to the stories and its development. He and Clarissa appear to be opposites from the outside, but the two share some very momentous similarities.  First of all, they both seem to yearn for the past. In addition they both possess a deep perplexity with their life, with its direction, and with their respective partners. Their main difference is the reasoning behind their unhappiness. While Clarissa’s reasoning is more vain and superficial (ie wanting to be young again), Septimus’s reasoning comes rightfully from the pain and gore he witnessed while at war.

Even though the novel did have its fair share of confusing moments—it remains to this day a classic, and for good reason.



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