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Analysis of a Passage in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Uploaded by tmjsnbrd95 on Oct 27, 2011

This essay analyzes a passage from the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

I Introduction

Not many novels published in 1925 make the New York Times bestseller list in 2003, but Mrs. Dalloway has been on it for eight weeks, thanks to “The Hours,” the film suggested by the book.
The book itself is richly textured; what’s going on on the surface is not nearly as important as what’s happening underneath. The novel is purportedly a simple story of how Clarissa Dalloway spends her day getting read for the party she’s giving that night; but death is ever-present, and so is the horrible tragedy of World War I, which had only been over for six years when she wrote. She lets us see the inner lives of these characters, their thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. All of this is far more important than what they actually do.

II Discussion

The scene under discussion beings “As, said St. Margaret’s,” (on page 49 of the Harcourt edition) and ends at the bottom of page 50, with the words, “The future lies in the hands of young men like that, he thought.”
The passage overall deals with the passage of time; specifically, Peter Walsh, who is in his early 50’s, is trying to convince himself that he still has enough time to make a success of his life. And yet he envisions Clarissa’s death, a stark reminder of his mortality, and the common fate of all men. The passage is told from his point of view.
It is structured as an interior monologue in which we hear his thoughts. But this is not the type of “stream of consciousness” writing we’re used to; that is, Woolf doesn’t have write something like, “Peter Walsh thought to himself, Where did it all go?” Instead, she lets us hear his thoughts the way most of us think, first as “I,” then in the third person. This is the way the human brain actually functions, skipping around from topic to topic, making connections between wildly disparate topics, sometimes thinking of “me” sometimes of “him.”
Stylistically, Woolf switches from first to third person within Walsh’s viewpoint. Again, this is because we think this way. For example, I might think of myself as either “me” or “her,” depending on the scene I’m envisioning: (“I wonder how I’ll look,” compared to “She swept into the room...

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Uploaded by:   tmjsnbrd95

Date:   10/27/2011

Category:   Literature

Length:   5 pages (1,048 words)

Views:   2876

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