Updated July 22, 1997
Created July 22, 1997
Abel, Elizabeth. "Narrative Structure(s) and Female Development: The Case of Mrs. Dalloway." The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development. Eds. Elizabeth Abel, Marianne Hirsch, and Elizabeth Langland Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1983. 161-85. Mrs. Dalloway contains a "layering of plots" which writes subversive stimuli while hiding it. Abel combines Freud’s analysis of women with Woolf’s impulse of writing the female plot and showing in her novel feminine growth and development through absences and gaps in the story. Clarissa’s development arises from "an emotionally pre-Oedipal female-centered natural world to the heterosexual male-dominated social world" (96). But her development is intentionally obscured by various subplots within the text. By explaining Freud’s ideas concerning female development, Abel is able to illustrate Woolf’s use of Clarissa’s loss of the female world. Beker, Mirslav. "London As A Principle of Structure in Mrs. Dalloway." Modern Fiction Studies 18 (1972): 375-85. Woolf uses the city of London to "define and test the characters, and show how it reveals them and prompts the action of the novel" (376). Beker then explicates how the city defines the characters of Clarissa, Richard, Elizabeth, Peter, Septimus, and Rezia. Yet, despite the various influences upon the various characters, the city also works to bind the characters together. Woolf’s primary strategy for achieving this cohesion is demonstrated through the use of Regent’s Park. Carlson, Julia. "The Solitary Traveller in Mrs. Dalloway." Virginia Woolf. Ed. Thomas S. W. Lewis. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1975. 56-62. Ms. Carlson examines the often-forgotten scene "where Virginia Woolf describes a solitary traveller’s homeward journey from a wood to his landlady’s kitchen" (56). She postulates that this scene is a method for revealing Peter’s experience by paralleling his movement through society with the lonely traveler. Additionally, the traveler’s inability to handle relationships with women reveals Peter’s failure to integrate with society and to effectively commune with Clarissa, his former wife, and Daisy, his mistress. Guth, Deborah. "Rituals of Self-Deception: Clarissa Dalloway’s Final Moment of Vision." Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 36:1 (1990): 35-42. Guth believes that Clarissa achieves a final vision through "three prominent frameworks: the romantic, the pagan, and the Christian" (36). Through these frameworks Clarissa’s character is able to evolve through her imaginative devices. She can substitute herself for Septimus’ death without actually being a victim. Clarissa’s use of "imaginative self-evasion" (41) keeps her from actually having to confront the reality of Septimus’ madness because she does not allow him to enter her life on a personal level. Henke, Suzette A. "Mrs. Dalloway: The Communion of Saints." New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1981. 125-147. This article compares Clarissa’s party to a communion which is similar to the Catholic Mass, culminating in a celebration of life. Septimus’ suicide is likened to a sacrifice that is offered, bringing a renewed sense of life’s value. Henke notes the use of contrast within the text: the satirical and the tragic; political power and artistic creativeness; death and life; evil and good; public demands and individual preservation; patriarchal dominance and maternal love; homosexuality and androgyny; possessiveness and privacy. This article claims that "Mrs. Dalloway offers a scathing indictment of the British class system and a strong critique of patriarchy" (125). Jensen, Emily. "Clarissa Dalloway’s Respectable Suicide." Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983. 162-179. This article shows that Clarissa is linked to Septimus by his tragic suicide. By denying herself the life that love for Sally Seton could have provided, Clarissa chooses instead destruction of her true desires. Jensen claims that Mrs. Dalloway’s "fear of interruption is the most important feature of her personality" (162). The kiss at Bourton is interrupted by Peter Walsh. Thoughts of marrying Peter are interrupted by Clarissa’s decision to marry Richard. The link between Clarissa and Septimus is strengthened: his life is interrupted by a plunge, as is his attraction to Evans interrupted by the war. This article points to the ambiguities within the text, especially of Clarissa’s feelings concerning Richard’s role in her life and of her feelings concerning Miss Kilman. The conventions of society force Clarissa to choose the only respectable way, "destruction of the self in the interest of the other" (178). This is not uncommon for women. In spite of Clarissa’s suicide, a contrast is evident: she is also shown as being "enthusiastically involved in the process of living" (162). McPherson, Karen S. "Speaking Madness: Mrs. Dalloway." Incriminations: Guilty Women/Telling Stories. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. 130-157. McPherson connects Mrs. Dalloway with mysteries and detective stories, declaring that though the novel seems mundane enough, it actually incorporates police, crime, and punishment due to the "‘charged’ past that intrudes almost immediately upon the present" (130). The past is traumatic history powerfully connected with the present. This is revealed through Septimus’ preoccupation with his own sad history which is so totally in his present. Through Clarissa’s development paralleled with Septimus, we are able to see how society is policed in the presence of Sir William and Dr. Holmes. Mezei, Kathy. "Who is Speaking Here? Free Indirect Discourse, Gender, and Authority in Emma,Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway." Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers. Ed. Kathy Mezei. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966. 66-92. Mezei defines free indirect discourse (FID) in segments and explains its controversial usage derived from its flexible nature. Mezei explains how FID provides the "appropriate space for interchange between author, narrator, character-focalizer, and reader" (67). The article then describes how the author uses FID in Emma, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway to move the focus away from the author and places it on the narrator. However, the voice and gender of the narrator may also be difficult to distinguish with the use of FID. The narrator may focalize through the characters using FID. This allows the narrator to be in control while "effacing him/her at the same time" (81). Miller, J. Hillis. "Mrs. Dalloway: Repetition as the Raising of the Dead." Modern Critical Views: Virginia Woolf. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. 169-190. Reprinted from Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982. This article shows new and complex means and methods used by Woolf in her narrative. Repetition and the function of the all-knowing narrator are the significant aspects of this type of storytelling. He can move from mind to mind and relate to the reader the thoughts and feelings of any character. Time is used in a unique manner, with the narrator relating the story after the event has happened. He speaks, however, in the present tense, "Which moves forward toward the future by way of a recapitulation or repetition of the past" (170). This repetition is achieved by relating first the mind of one character and then the mind of another. In addition, one character can relate what he thinks another character is thinking. By going deeply into each mind, there is a point when the mind of one character and the minds of all characters become one. There comes at this point a "general mind," unity as evidenced in common images throughout the narrative (173). As a mode of transportation from one mind to another, Woolf uses "external objects as "a means of transition from the mind of one character to the mind of another" (172). By repetition of event from the past that are being called forth by many minds, Woolf permits her narrator to remove the "usual boundaries between mind and world" (169). Ruotolo, Lucio. "Mrs. Dalloway: The Unguarded Moment." Virginia Woolf: Revaluation and Continuity. Ed. Ralph Freedman and Maria DiBattista. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. 141-160. Ruotolo states that "Clarissa is the vehicle for her reproof in criticizing the social system" (141). Woolf demonstrates Clarissa’s dissatisfaction with the social system through her sympathy over a shop girl’s life. Clarissa’s ability and "willingness to question the given…calls for ever-renewed acts of re-creation" (144). Woolf uses illness as a means of demonstrating how the characters of Septimus and Clarissa can either destroy themselves or renew themselves. Although both characters retreat during difficult times, Clarissa is glorified by her ability to "grow in her mind" (148). Clarissa can face reality renewed. She has the gift of being an excellent hostess, to "be in charge and yet remain unseen, just like a good writer" (158). Wang, Ban. "’I’ on the Run: Crisis of Identity in Mrs. Dalloway." Modern Fiction Studies 38 (1992): 177-191. Wang reveals how the private consciousness is developed according to societal expectations, and examines "the ways in which the individual tries or fails to establish his or her identity as the subject of the state" (179). The order of the state is revealed through symbols such as the motor car and the airplane. Everyone reacts to them differently, but only according to the rules society imposes: "social structure, ideology, language" (180). Septimus, however, is unable to assimilate into society because he cannot follow the rules of language and perception. Because he poses a threat to rationality, the medical men, who "work to make sure that everybody submits to and internalizes the laws and becomes the perfect subject of the state," decide to separate him from society (186). Zwerdling, Alex. "Mrs. Dalloway and the Social System." Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 92 (1977): 69-82. This article interprets Mrs. Dalloway as Woolf’s strong yet indirect criticism of the ruling class in England during the period following World War I. Peter Walsh’s return home functions to show the tremendous changes: "People looked different. Newspapers seemed different; and morals and manners have changed" (70). Political issues are enmeshed within the narrative: emigration, imperialism, government party struggles. Septimus is destroyed by the realities of the war, while society in general is in denial of its repercussions. Ambiguity is seen in Clarissa, whom Zwerdling describes as "an ‘animated mirror’ of the shallow world she reflects" (79). Mrs. Dalloway shows how society and history influence ones life and "how class, wealth, and sex help to determine his fate" (69).
Back to Virginia Woolf Seminar Home Page