Repetition is Key – Wendelyn Ramos

by capreviewroom

Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Mrs. Dalloway” is a novel that’s entirety surrounds a single day of the protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway’s life. The novel is set in post-World War I England, specifically in Clarissa’s neighborhood of Westminster.  On this particular June day in 1923, Clarissa is preparing for an extravagant party that she will be hosting. Clarissa Dalloway’s character seems to have everything, a loving family and wealth. However, she faces many inner conflicts such as her decision to marry her husband and her struggle in a high-class society. Although Clarissa is the protagonist, there are additional main characters that are critical to the novel. The first one, Peter Walsh is Clarissa’s old friend and past love interest whom she turned down his proposal and married her current husband, Richard Dalloway. Peter’s character is filled with insecurity with the path he has taken in life. The second main character is Septimus Smith. Septimus is a shell-shocked veteran of World War I that now has to carry on with life after witnessing the horrible evils of war.  He lives with guilt and paranoia. Although the novel is mainly focused on Clarissa’s day, Woolf ties in all the main characters together and expresses the relationship and inner conflict, they all possess.

Woolf’s clever way of adding a stream of consciousness to her novel makes this novel unique but can also confuse the reader. The use of a stream of consciousness helps the reader look into Clarissa’s past as well as the minds of the main and minor characters. As a reader we can see this as both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantages are learning what happened in the past for some characters as well as understanding what is happening in the characters current thoughts. However, the disadvantages are the confusion on what is in present or past time and whose thoughts and mindset we are currently reading about. When reading the novel, the reader must be aware of the often switching of tenses. Rereading numerous passages can be tiresome to some however; the luxury of rereading some passages allows readers to develop a better understanding as well as noticing Woolf’s subtle ways in tying in symbolism and foreshadowing.

In the sentence structure of this novel, Woolf uses an abundance of commas, semicolons, and lengthy sentences. When you read the quote, “For the Dalloway’s, in general, were fair-haired; blue-eyed; Elizabeth, on the contrary, was dark; had Chinese eyes in a pale face; an oriental mystery; was gentle, considerate, still” (134) seems like a very long, run-on sentence. It’s filled with a lot of information that the reader must grasp without breaks. This also ties in with how Woolf fails to separate her novel into chapters. This causes the reader some difficulty deciding where to take a break.

The unique writing techniques Woolf uses in “Mrs. Dalloway” give readers a new way to read a novel. The novel is definitely not the typical read and can be challenging at times, however Woolf does prepare the reader at the beginning of the novel as to what to expect on her narration. With patience and optimism this novel is a great read that collects all the characters and themes together.


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