Annotated Bibliography for Mrs. Dalloway

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).

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