The Relatability of Mrs. Dalloway

Regent's Park Lake - From Flickr: By irishtravel
Regent’s Park Lake – From Flickr: By irishtravel

This is my second reading of Mrs. Dalloway, and in my first encounter with Virgina Woolf’s novel my professor made a point to present a mapping that was completed in 2011. Therefore, I am well aware of the long and confusing physical journey that each character takes around London and where they intersect after witnessing the same events or hearing the bells ring. Perceiving life from within the minds of each character is a significant piece of Woolf’s narrative form. For example, Septimus and Clarissa both are present for the backfiring of the car but they react in very different ways, revealing a great deal about their personalities. I found it interesting that Peter and Clarissa both have long streams of consciousness detailing exactly how they felt about each other and shows how a long period of time apart alters their feelings.

 

Naturally the pair imagines how life would have been different with each other as spouses with Clarissa first thinking to herself, “…If I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day!” (63). Just a page later those thoughts are nearly spun into motion before Peter’s inquiry on the state of Clarissa’s marriage is interrupted by Elizabeth’s entrance and introduction. Despite Clarissa’s apparent change of heart and regret of not marrying Peter, she is still easily agitated by Peter’s habit of playing with his knife just as he is bothered by her introduction of her daughter simply because she said “Here is my Elizabeth” (35). After thinking through these contradictions, it can be said that Woolf’s characters could be labeled as complicated. However, the complexity of the internal arguments Peter and Clarissa conduct with themselves is surprisingly relatable. Anyone who has had to make a major decision about anything from relationships, to school selections, to job offers can understand the tedious process that is decision making. Additionally, unless you’ve never made a mistake in your life it is easy to comprehend the pangs of regret the pair feels. I am pleased to say that after focusing more on the characters during this reading I found the story more enjoyable than I did the first time when it was tough just to follow the logistics of the novel.

1 thought on “The Relatability of Mrs. Dalloway”

  1. John, while I’ll admit to being a bit chagrined that you’ve beat me to the punch in having seen the novel mapped before, I’m glad that you’re getting the chance to read it through a second time. It makes a real difference to, as you say, understand what’s happening in what is for most people an off-putting beginning to the novel.

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