Connecting London’s multiple personalities in the early 20th century

by capreviewroom

The bustling streets of the city are filled with lavish shops, dramatic walks and war weary people. Such a city is bound to be full of adventure, even the simple act of taking a walk in the park yields many encounters and shows us the many faces of the city; however, the simple act of just walking in the park and seeing “those” individuals can only give a small sight of what really lurks in the city . There are many faces that have not been seen, many individuals that have not been met. Even though the city is very connected in a physical sense with every person playing a role, like cogs of a Swiss Watch, the adventures in the city was never about how physically connected we are, the adventure lies with how connected we are to the disconnected.

               Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway shows that very side of the city. The confusing streets, the sounds, the smells and the thoughts of the character made reading this novel quite the ride. We explore the city of London primarily through the eyes of 3 individuals, Clarissa Dalloway, Peter Walsh, and Septimus Warren Smith. As we explore the city through their eyes, many minor connecting pieces are mentioned; however, the mergers and blurs between the normal city scape and the characters’ thoughts seep in with the use of stream-of-consciousness and the invisible connection to the disconnected sides of society.

The indirect and subtle connections Clarissa has with the unknowns of the city and how the unknowns are connected to Clarissa. There are many connection that appear later on that address certain aspects of the city as well as Clarissa’s life  as she continues her preparation for her evening party.

One of many of these subtle connections was evident when the two good friends Peter (who is still unmarried) and Clarissa, (who has been happily married to Richard, a member of parliament) catch up and talk of love. Peter then speaks of new love, whose situation looks quite similar to Clarissa since she is “’A married woman unfortunately,’ he [Peter] said; ‘the wife of a Major in the Indian Army.’” (pg. 49)

We then stray away from the dramatic love scene and enter the mind of war veteran Septimus, who is suffering from shell shock. The ironic hero home to a new world and cannot escape from the horrors of the war, thus finally giving in to the “Shell Shock” and the doctors lose him. This tragedy eventually makes its way into Clarissa’s party, the details being discussed by Richard and Sir William, a doctor who tried to treat Septimus.

Clarissa’s connection with the disconnected aspects of the city shows us the same city in a different way. The bustling city of London is not just filled with just the people we at the park or on the street. There are many others who exist in a different face of the city or others who may know you and have an unknown connection. Mrs. Dalloway’s presentation of the city really does show its multi-personality attributes and how connected it can be.

– Howard

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