How are feelings about love revealed in ‘Mrs Dalloway’
‘Mrs Dalloway’ was written by Virginia Woolf, first published in 1925 and falls into the modernist style of literature. ‘Mrs Dalloway’ was written in post World War One England. Within the novel the narrator uses discontinuous narrative to travel back and forth through time and multiple narrative viewpoints to move in and out of the characters’ minds to construct an image of Clarissa’s life and of the inter-war social structure, typical for a modernist piece.
The extract on which I am focusing on also has several thematic characteristics of modernist criteria – frustration, as seen when Mr. Dalloway thinks things like “but it did make his blood boil… ” and also the First World War’s affect on humanity in general and this shows Richard Dalloway’s unique characteristics and his love for his wife. Because of the structural and stylistic choices many believe ‘Mrs Dalloway’ to be a response to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, an example of intertextuality. Mrs Dalloway’ is focused on one day in June, and is an example of stream of consciousness storytelling: every scene tracks the momentary thoughts of a particular character. Woolf uses omniscient description and interior monologue for different characters but in this extract we see the viewpoint of Richard Dalloway and his concern for the love of his wife. The form and structure in which the extract is written is very much hand in hand with the stream of consciousness style it takes.
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We see very long sentences with many semi colons to break down the clauses as Mr. Dalloway thinks. By using stream of consciousness to tell the story from different people’s perspectives the novel creates an unbiased overview of all the events that happen and helps allow the reader to form their own opinions after receiving each viewpoint. Richard Dalloway’s perspective, although written in third person narrative allows the reader to see Richard Dalloway’s opinions on events as they happen to him.
We see in this extract the main thing that is playing on his mind as he talks is what he is going to say to his wife – he is going to tell her that he loves her. The questioning we see examples of “Flowers? ” Show a natural human instinct to question in ones own mind to reach a good decision. Stream of consciousness is perhaps a device limited mostly to modernist literature because of it’s hardness to capture.
When a stream of consciousness is recorded that is natural, it cannot be natural at its fullest because simply the thought of attempting to record a stream of consciousness interrupts a stream of consciousness. The act of writing a pretend stream of consciousness for a fictional character requires intense skill but when written well and made to seem natural it is un-rivalled as a method to show the characters own thoughts and feelings, and furthermore, their love. The love in general in this piece is mainly focused around marriage love, and rather unexciting love.
This extract out of the whole book shows a pivotal moment however in Clarissa and Richards’s relationship, and the many semi colons and long sentences also add to the tension and emphasise the nervousness Richard is feeling. This nervousness is a reflection of his love for his wife, and his concern for her love of Peter Walsh. The tone in which ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ is written is, again, following with the stream of consciousness. At times we see an interior monologue from inside Mr.
Dalloway’s mind with the more structured thoughts “But he wanted to come in holding something. ” But then we see as he looses his train of thought throughout “But it did make his blood boil to see little creatures of about five or six crossing Piccadilly alone. ” And in statements like that we see his frustration, we as the reader of course know that Mr. Dalloway’s true frustration is not that the children are crossing the road alone, he is in fact frustrated about the situation he is in with his wife.
The negative adjectives used to describe things which he is upset about to do with his job as an MP – “detestable social system” again building the reader to Richard’s feelings of anxiousness for his love for Clarissa, and if their relationship will survive Peter Walsh. We also see the use of parentlock as an addition to the stream of consciousness which is very much used in this extract to speed up the prose when read aloud “(a vast bunch in tissue paper)” and to add things which might not have been said in the general stream.
This helps the reader build imagery in their mind and paint a more vivid picture of the scene in their minds. We also see irony when Richard Dalloway mentions Peter Walsh, because his wife Clarissa is always thinking of him and the love she lost in her own stream of consciousness. And because we as the reader know both sides of their relationship we are able to make our own decisions almost in a ‘hes behind you’ pantomime style and this is another way in which love is shown.
The language used throughout the extract is typical of post-modernism, it is English as we understand it now but with some phrases that we now consider to have been semantically narrowed and not used as much – “Partly ones lazy; partly ones shy. ” But can be very easily understood today. The word ‘miracle’ is repeated many times throughout, partly to reflect his love and other times for situations which are not in fact ‘miracles’ but his nervousness is making him think they are.
The diction is advanced, words like “pertinacious” and “undebauched” which would still be understood today if researched, but reflect the high levels of education Richard Dalloway has received, which was of course one of the deciding factors of why Clarissa married him instead of for love. Words like “luncheon” also reflect Richard’s high-class upbringing. In conclusion, in the extract Virginia Woolf uses many methods to show love. Many are typical of the modernist period she writes in but many are her own.