The Rereading Effect

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Photo by Jayel Aheram of Flickr

With the conclusion of our reading of Mrs. Dalloway, I have identified the one passage and quote that I feel best encapsulates the overall theme of Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Strangely enough, I do not recall going over the particular passage I have in mind during my first encounter with Mrs. Dalloway in another Emory English class. I believe that extended focus of our project on places and relationships caused Clarissa’s thoughts on understanding people to stand out to me more than before, “Clarissa had a theory in those days…It was to explain the feeling of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known…So that to know her, or any one, on must seek out the people who completed them; even the places” (117 ).

It stuns me that my attention was not drawn to this passage in my previous read through and I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I struggled, as many do, to comprehend the peculiar writing style that Woolf employs. Overwhelmed by her tendency to write out her characters’ thoughts in a stream of consciousness format, I glossed over the internal reflections of some characters in order to simplify the many different interactions and crossing of plot points in my mind. Obviously, that style of reading was a critical error in this context.

This rereading experience has proved to me yet again that books can be rediscovered over and over again, much like watching a movie over again allows a viewer to focus on extraneous details that could otherwise be ignored. I credit the mapping assignment with restructuring my reading focus and I look forward to seeing how other assignments this semester might further affect the way I approach a writing from now on.

2 thoughts on “The Rereading Effect”

  1. Glad to hear that re-reading the novel produced some new insights, John. This is my third time through it, and I found new passages that I hadn’t noticed before and that seemed so obvious in hindsight. The prose becomes more manageable, and I can find time to look around and see how she has built the whole thing.

    I agree with you that this is one of the key passages within the novel. Hopefully we talk a bit about some more of them tomorrow.

  2. I’ve read the novel before, as well. I had a similar difficulty rereading. I think, in part, I had trouble this time around because when I first read the novel, I read it in a high school classroom. My high school English teacher essentially translated this book for us line by line. This time around, I read it all on my own. While I definitely may have understood it “quicker” when I had my English teacher’s constant clarification, I never gained the important thought process I had this time around.

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