Mrs. Dalloway by Dick King-Smith
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication Date: October 28th 2002 (first published 1923)
Genres: Classic, Fiction, Literature
Date Read: 09/10/2017
Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway–a day that is taken up with running minor errands in preparation for a party and that is punctuated, toward the end, by the suicide of a young man she has never met. In giving an apparently ordinary day such immense resonance and significance–infusing it with the elemental conflict between death and life–Virginia Woolf triumphantly discovers her distinctive style as a novelist. Originally published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete rendering of what she described as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: a dazzling display of the mind’s inside as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.
Virginia Woolf takes us through a single day in 1923 in post-World War I London. She does so with gorgeous prose and a stream of consciousness writing that takes us directly into the minds of both Clarissa Dalloway herself as well as those to whom she comes in contact. It is as if one could hear every little musing and wandering thought process of each person we encounter in any ordinary day.
As Clarissa makes preparations for an evening party, she reflects on her past, her present and her future. Time itself plays a large role in this novel.
“The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.”
When a former lover, Peter Walsh, returns to England from India, Clarissa contemplates her own identity. She examines her view of her inner self in relation to the scrutiny of Peter Walsh and what she believes he thinks of her. She perceives that he thinks of her as being empty and only interested in social concerns, prosperity and parties. She frequently ponders death and what her own death would mean in the context of the life she has lived.
“Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.”
Undeniably, Virginia Woolf is a brilliant writer. I adored her previous work, A Room of One’s Own. Mrs. Dalloway is one I certainly respect as well. However, I found the flow of thought a bit more difficult in this compared to the other one that I’ve read thus far.
Another noteworthy aspect of Woolf’s writing is her acute description of post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD was not formally recognized until the 1970s, and even though documentation of symptoms was common in the 1940s when World War II veterans were being treated for “mental disturbances,” the fact that Woolf delves into this subject as early as 1925 is pretty profound. Back then, shell shock meant that you were suffering from a form of “exhaustion,”
Mrs. Dalloway ultimately builds toward the title character’s dinner party, but I actually found this finale to be somewhat less interesting than the parts that came before. We’re introduced to many new characters in the final 25 pages, which, despite the fact that each one gets no more than a paragraph of time (and some must share), is something of a nuisance after becoming attached to five or six major players.
That’s it for this review! Have you read this? If so, What did you think of it? Is it on your TBR? Tell me in the comments if you agree or disagree with any of this. I’d love to know your opinion.