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The Importance of Time in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway” Sample

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    Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is a modernist novel. which shows new techniques to show a different point of position with respect to the impression of clip. It is non without importance to observe that the novel has no chapter headers. Nevertheless it is instantly obvious that the involvement of the novel is non merely in the signifier but besides in the content. The action takes topographic point in a individual twenty-four hours of June in 1923 and what is interesting in the construction of the book is that at the same time with the narrative of this individual twenty-four hours. clip is invariably fluxing from present to past or to future. These flashbacks constitute the major psychological minutes of the novel. most of them being represented by the watercourse of consciousness technique. This essay will explicate how this flow of consciousness is interrupted by a chronological clip represented by the work stoppage of redstem storksbills. In fact. Woolf introduces a contrast between internal and external clip. Furthermore. the novel as a whole can besides be considered as an alternate sequence of two secret plans: the one of Clarissa and the one of Septimus. These two characters already show two different points of position over life and clip: a sane one and an insane one. Furthermore. it may be demonstrated that many different dealingss to clip can be reflected through the assorted characters of the novel.

    First. it shall be seen that internal clip is a psychological and subjective clip. It is measured by the comparative emotional strength of a minute. This clip is unstable. elastic and nomadic. Woolf uses the flashback technique. which enables the reader to travel from present to past or to future without holding a chronological order. In add-on. she basically points out this deformation of clip by two agencies: foremost the traditional duologues between the different characters and back the modern usage of watercourse of consciousness technique. This technique shows the ideas and feelings of different characters. Most of the clip. in Mrs Dalloway. the storyteller enters their consciousness to demo us their memories. However. this perceptual experience of clip is free and corresponds to the characters’ head. So. it allows the characters non merely to believe of the past. but besides to visualise the hereafter or even to conceive of how the present would be if the yesteryear had been different.

    In fact. the novel within the model of 24 hours reveals the whole of Clarissa Dalloway’s life and that of Septimus Warren Smith. To get down with. we have the memories of Clarissa Dalloway. First there are fragments of her childhood experience as her love for Sally. which has been really of import in her life. Following and most considerable thing is her past at Bourton. It becomes every bit relevant to this minute of June. as her readying for her party. because of the come dorsum of Peter Walsh. Her 18 old ages old become omnipresent in this twenty-four hours. We see that from the really beginning of the novel. as Clarissa stairss into the street in forepart of her house. her yesteryear is all of a sudden with her:

    What a lark! What a dip! For so it had ever seemed to her. when. with a small squeak of the flexible joints. which she could hear now. she had burst open the Gallic Windowss and plunged at Bourton into the unfastened air. How fresh. how unagitated. stiller than this of class. the air was in the early forenoon ; like the flap of a moving ridge ; the buss of a moving ridge ; iciness and crisp and yet ( for a miss of 18 as she so was ) solemn. feeling as she did. standing at that place at the unfastened window. that something awful was about to go on ; looking at the flowers. at the trees with the fume weaving off them and the castle lifting. falling ; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said. ?Musing among the veggies? ’ – was that it? – ?I prefer work forces to cauliflowers’ – was that it? He must hold said it at breakfast one forenoon when she had gone out on to the patio – Peter Walsh. He would be back from India one of these yearss. June or July. she forgot which. for his letters were terribly dull ; it was his expressions one remembered ; his eyes. his pocket-knife. his smiling. his crankiness and. when 1000000s of things had absolutely vanished – how unusual it was! – a few expressions like this about chous. ( p. 3 ; my accent )

    In a mode that she will prolong throughout the novel. the storyteller conveys memory and present action to us at the same time and equivocally. “Which she could hear now” refers. apparently. to the squeak of the flexible joints at Bourton in Clarissa’s memory. Yet “now” implies the minute of her dip into the street. proposing a sort of revery. The ulterior phrase. “for a miss of 18 as she so was” is likewise disorienting. It locates the clip of Clarissa’s spliting open the Windowss of Bourton. but it besides implies that. through her memory. she has become 18 once more. The “then” contrasts with the earlier “now” . but neither refers concretely to its ain comparative clip. And eventually. Clarissa’s thought of Peter Walsh proves that the flow of ideas is achronological. because she mixes the vision of him now and as he was 30 old ages before. Furthermore. she is allusive when she remembers what he said ; she is seeking to retrace the yesteryear.

    It must be admitted that this sort of memories are about ubiquitous throughout the novel and acquire assorted up with the present minute. However the most pertinent fact in these memories of Bourton is Clarissa’s refusal to get married Peter Walsh. She is invariably believing of this. In the flow of her ideas. Clarissa shows the trouble of this pick: “Now I remember how impossible it was of all time to do up my head – and why did I make up my head – non to get married him. she wondered. that atrocious summer? ” ( p. 45 ) This demonstrates that she still does non cognize whether she did good to reject him ; yesteryear and nowadays are linked. And the flood tide of this logical thinking is when Clarissa imagines how could be her present if she had married Peter: «If I had married him. this merriment would hold been mine all day” ( p. 51 ) . Here we see the snap of clip. which can be changed in her dreaming. The differentiation between dream and world. between past and nowadays is non clear.

    On the other manus. we have the narrative of this June twenty-four hours. And during the whole twenty-four hours. Clarissa is fixing and preoccupating for her party. “she. excessively. was traveling that really dark to inflame and light ; to give her party. ” ( p. 5 ) Wholly along the twenty-four hours she admirations who is coming and if it will be good: during the forenoon. Hugh Whitbread assured Clarissa that he would go to the party even if his married woman was badly ; when Peter leaves her place. she runs after him. shouting non to bury her party ; in the afternoon. she thinks of Ellie Henderson that she has non invited to her party on purpose but who wanted to come. In fact. she is constructing her party in such manner that all may be perfect. These anticipations are in contrast with the past memories ; here it is a vision of the hereafter that is represented.

    Simultaneously. on the other side of London. there is Septimus Warren Smith’s life. He remembers with his Italian married woman Rezia the causes of his present lunacy and what has happened to him since the War. Septimus has been a clerk with literary yens. a brave and capable immature soldier in Italy. where he married his married woman. while still stunned by the loss merely at the terminal of the war of his closest friend. Evans. the officer in charge of his platoon ; and he is now a war veteran enduring from delayed shell-shock. He is tortured by interior visions of Evans: ” Evans answered from behind the tree. The dead were in Thessaly. Evans sang. among the orchids. There they waited till the War was over. and now the dead. now Evans himself – . . . But the subdivisions parted. A adult male in Grey was really walking toward them. It was Evans! But no clay was on him ; no lesions ; he was non changed. ” ( p. 76-77 ) This demonstrates that the vision of the yesteryear in Septimus’ mad head represent a awful torment. He sees Evans as a shade memory. His yesteryear is invariably stalking his life.

    Woolf non merely uses the watercourse of consciousness technique to demo the past life of the characters but she sometimes mixes it with duologues. We can detect here that what happened 30 old ages before. the separation between Clarissa and Peter Walsh. is besides present in the memories of the other characters. By Lady Bruton. as she has invited Hugh Whitbread and Richard Dalloway to tiffin. When she all of a sudden mentions that Peter Walsh is back in town. “ [ a ] ll three. Lady Bruton. Hugh Whitbread and. Richard Dalloway. remembered the same thing – how passionately Peter had been in love ; been rejected gone to India ; come a sharecrop farmer ; made a muss of things ; an Richard Dalloway had a really great liking for the beloved old chap excessively. ” ( p. 117 ) Woolf shows here the common memories of these three individuals. She uses such narrative procedure several times in the novel: common memories are represented either by the different consciousness of the characters or by duologues between them. When Peter and Clarissa talk. both remember the summer she refused to get married him. and at the party Sally and Peter sit together on a couch retrieving the yesteryear. It must be admitted that psychological clip is elastic and people can conceive of or reinvent the yesteryear as they want.

    Furthermore. even if the impression of clip has a great flexibleness. Woolf inserts an external facet of it to remind the characters that clip is go throughing. External clip is nonsubjective and chronological and creates a great contrast with internal clip. which is subjective and elastic. External clip is normally represented by the flow of history. day of the months. calendars and timetables. In the novel. it is particularly marked by the booming of different redstem storksbills from which Big Ben. the large Westminster’s clock. is the most of import. These redstem storksbills pealing the hours and making so. they besides cut up the flow of clip go throughing. They mark the “irrevocable” nowadays. That is to state that we can non travel backwards in present world as in the memories. Through the bells motif. Woolf breaks up the narrative continuity and structures the novel. She brings us back to world. As Elaine Showalter has pointed out in the debut of my edition: “Woolf’s working rubric during most of the clip she was composing had been ?The Hours’ . and the repetitive chiming of redstem storksbills keeps us cognizant of the transition of clip and the mensurating out of human lives and seasons. ” ( p. Thirty ) This rubric depicts really good the subject of clip in the novel. demoing the importance of every hr. Nevertheless. Woolf has chosen to entitle the novel with a less expressed name: “Mrs Dalloway” . But after all. Clarissa. as we will further see. is a adult female who gives a great importance to clip and present minute ; she is besides really representative of this subject.

    The redstem storksbills have different maps throughout the book. The chief as it has merely been mentioned. is that the bells of the redstem storksbills construction the clip. It emphasizes the chronological order of the narrative. It can be remarked from a general expression onto the novel that all bell strikes show the passing of clip and merely some of them designate a precise hr: on page 22. it is eleven ; on page 54. it is half past 11 ; on page 77. it is a one-fourth to twelve ; on page 103. it is 12 o’clock ; and eventually on pages 128 to 129. it is three. It may be remarked that the passing of clip is irregular ; the figure of pages used to depict a certain sum of clip alterations a batch in conformity with the minute of the narrative. For case. the minute from a one-fourth to twelve until 12 o’clock takes 30 pages and the following two and a half hours take the same infinite in the book. Some minutes are more of import than others and take more infinite in the text. Another factor of this abnormality can be the presence or non of watercourse of consciousness to stand for ideas and past memories. By and large. when psychological clip is introduced. we can non gain how much clip has passed in the world ; we have the feeling that more or less clip has passed. It shows the contrast between dream and world.

    Another chief map of the redstem storksbills is to convey the characters and the reader back to present world and to interrupt up the flow of consciousness. When. after dinner. Clarissa is believing of her girl. the sound of the bell stops her ideas and announces Richard’s geting. This bell interrupts the watercourse of consciousness to present the existent nowadays with the action of Richard’s walking in. keeping flowers. Another good illustration of this procedure can be seen on page 103: Rezia was believing of Septimus’ lunacy and of her life in general ; and when Big Ben work stoppages twelve o’clock. it reminds her the hr of the assignment:

    It was exactly 12 o’clock ; twelve by Big Ben ; whose shot was wafted over the northern portion of London ; blent with that of other redstem storksbills. mixed in a thin aeriform manner with the clouds and wisps of fume and died up at that place among the sea gulls – 12 o’clock struck as Clarissa Dalloway laid her green frock on her bed. and the Warren Smiths walked down Harley Street. Twelve was the hr of their assignment. ( p. 103 ; my accent )

    This bell work stoppage is really interesting. it breaks up suddenly Rezia’s ideas. Furthermore. this hr is given a great importance: the word “twelve” is repeated four times and there is a long description of the long extension of the bell’s ring that dies up “there among the seagulls” . This sound of assorted redstem storksbills is spread in a really extended country and confirms that clip is the same for everyone. Here. the work stoppage of Big Ben creates a nexus between Clarissa’s life and that of the Warren Smiths. It is a public clip. which contrasts with the more personal clip of the ideas.

    Sometimes. the redstem storksbills accomplish their map with such a precise and a unequivocal manner that they seem endangering. The first work stoppage of the novel already shows this feeling. The redstem storksbills break the silence that Clarissa feels before. it is like a menace: foremost. there is “a warning. musical ; so the hr. irrevokable. ” ( p. 4 ) No 1 can get away from the passing of clip. This irrevokable map of the redstem storksbills is good seen merely after Septimus’ self-destruction: “The clock was striking – one. two. three: how reasonable the sound was ; compared with all this clump and rustle ; like Septimus himself. . . . But the redstem storksbills went on striking. four. five. six. . . ” ( p. 164 ) . Here the redstem storksbills remind us that we can non halt clip ; it has no commiseration. Even if Septimus is dead. life goes on and can non come back. And it besides means that decease is irrevokable. we will all decease one twenty-four hours and redstem storksbills remind us of it.

    In a general sense. the redstem storksbills serve as an illustration of the experimental clip. in which the present minute expands as it is filled with significance. Large Ben can be seen as an important break in the procedure of life to coerce everyone to retrieve that clip is go throughing. Woolf shows that the ideas of persons can be connected in a manner that reveals a integrity in human being. The ideas are non merely connected by the sound of the Big Ben clock as it strikes the hr. but besides by other external events in the universe. such as the sound of a auto. or the sights of an aeroplane in the sky. However. every character has its ain relation to clip and to the passing of clip. In the memories of the chief characters. it can be noticed how the passing of clip has been really of import for some of them and non at all for others.

    First. Sally Seaton demonstrates that clip can alter a individual. As a immature adult female. enjoyed doing hideous claims and moving on a rebellious inherent aptitude that led her to smoke cigars or run naked down the halls. In fact. she was demoing a batch of abandonnement and of openness. Nevertheless. when Lady Rosseter arrives at the party finishing the assemblage of those from Bourton 30 old ages earlier. she is non the same adult female any more. As an older adult female. she has surprisingly married a affluent adult male and had a household of five boies. Peter comments: “what a alteration had come over her! The softness of maternity ; its self-importance excessively. ” ( p. 205 ) ; she has changed a batch through the passing of clip ; she is non any longer the Sally from Bourton.

    On the contrary. Peter Walsh seems non to hold changed so much. He still feels immature. He is in love with a immature adult female in India and “? [ vitamin E ] verybody in the room has six boies at Eton. ’ . . . except himself. He thank God. had none. No boies. no girls. no married woman. ” He has non the same restraints as the other people of his age. Sally remarked that “ [ H ] vitamin E looked younger. . . than any of them. ” ( p. 208 ) Peter feels freer than the others and still attractive. In the forenoon. after go forthing Clarissa he goes to walk in London ; he follows a immature lady and pretends she cares for him. He fantasizes about sexual escapades as a manner to experience younger. It would be absurd to say that clip has had no influence on him. but the manner he feels the passing of clip enables him to populate it better.

    On the other manus. even if Septimus is besides a adult male that has no kids. he does non experience immature nevertheless. He is an insane adult male who is invariably tortured by past ideas and afraid of the hereafter ; “It is no accident that Septimus breaks down wholly as his married woman makes programs for kids of their ain. Septimus shuns the hereafter as he shuns death” ( Ruotolo. p. 151 ) . Septimus is afraid of future but he does non desire to decease ; when he was on the window-ledge. he “did non desire to decease. Life was good” ( p. 164 ) . In fact. even if he has an insane point of position of life. he loves it in every item. When he sees that Rezia no longer wears her marrying ring. he understands that their matrimony is over and gets nervous. As a consequence of this. he begins to speak to himself. However. opening his eyes. he realizes that beauty is everyplace he looks. A vision of keen joy invades his being merely by watching the shaking of a foliage in the air current and the slow flight of sups. He can see beauty in every ordinary thing ; it is his manner to love life. Septimus is terrified by the thoughts of past and future but truly likes nowadays. He is witting of decease and can non look upon it. he wants to populate the present minute appreciating all the beauty that life can offer.

    Clarissa. the heroine of the novel. is the character that represents the best this love for life and for the present minute. As Septimus. she is afraid of the passing of clip and is cognizant that decease is the ultimate terminal of this patterned advance. She is non really immature ; she is 52. She can non hold kids any more. It is something of import. because climacteric is sometimes called “the small death” ( p. XXXII ) of adult females. And to counterbalance this. Clarissa loves life and takes advantage of the present. At one minute in the forenoon. when her ideas turn to Peter. Clarissa admirations if he would believe that she has grown older when he returns from India.

    And merely after this. she thinks of herself and of the importance of the present minute: “Months and months of [ this twelvemonth ] were still untouched. June. July. August! Each still remained about whole. as if it was to catch the falling bead. Clarissa ( traversing to the dressing-table ) plunged into the very bosom of the minute. transfixed it. there – the force per unit area of all the forenoons. . . ” ( p. 40 ) Clarissa understands that clip has passed. but besides that there are still a batch of things to populate. She is witting that what is go oning at the “moment” is of import and that every minute in life has a significance. This feeling is seeable throughout the novel and from the really beginning of it. In her manner to purchase the flowers for the party. she already seems to gain that every minute has an importance in life:

    “In people’s eyes. in the swing. hobo. and trudge ; in the holla and the tumult ; the passenger cars. motor autos. omnibuses. new waves. sandwich work forces scuffling and singing ; brass bands ; barrel variety meats ; in the victory and the jangle and the strangle high vocalizing of some airplane operating expense was what she loved ; life ; London ; this minute of June. ” ( p. 4 )

    For Clarissa those minutes on the streets of London base on balls every bit rapidly as they appear ; they are non merely an facet of clip but besides the head. which creates them. She is enamoured of the daily modus operandi ; life is what she loves.

    This thought of clip reminds us of the well-known Latin looks: “Tempus fugit” and “Carpe diem” . which mean that clip flies and that we have to bask the present. or literally: to prehend the twenty-four hours. Clarissa is a society adult female and realizes this ideal by giving parties. During the afternoon. she comes to recognize that her parties are so of import to her because she loves sharing people’s lives. she is amazed of the very kernel of life. minute to minute. the simple pleasances of seeing beauty. and “ [ a ] fter that. how incredible decease was! – that no 1 in the whole universe would cognize how she had loved it all ; how. every moment…” ( p. 134 ) . To contend against decease. Clarissa gives parties to convey people together and therefore. make human duologue and life. However. this is non so easy to recognize because of the self-destruction of Septimus.

    In fact. both plots articulation at the party. which is attended besides by the specializer who had examined Septimus earlier in the twenty-four hours and who by deduction is held responsible for his decease. Clarissa is really unhappy when Lady Bradshaw tells her about the self-destruction of Septimus: “Oh! thought Clarissa. in the center of my party. here’s decease. she thought. ” ( p. 201 ) Clarissa herself thinks her party is a failure ; she wanted to make life and now decease comes to her party. But eventually. the dramatic clock reminds her that the beat of life did non halt with Septimus’ decease ; life goes on. And she returns back to the party. These parties represent clip throughout life. even in favoured minutes clip base on ballss and decease is what waits for everyone.

    As we have seen. Woolf utilizations different narrative techniques. which reflect a modernist intervention of fiction. The intersection of external and internal clip in the novel shows the great complexness of clip. as a subject. The new novelistic construction erases the differentiation between past. nowadays and hereafter. and besides between dream and world. A minute can be repeated. recapitulated or changed in the head of the different characters. Furthermore. Woolf shows a assortment of different points of position on the facet of clip go throughing on. First of all. there is the contrast between sane and insane vision. but both converge to the same thought. i. e. to the apprehensiveness of decease. Death is opposed to life. which has to be valued by life and appreciating the present minute. That is what Clarissa wants to demo with her party. And Woolf with the narrative of a individual twenty-four hours: she wants to show the beauty and the illustriousness of life considered in its simpler actions.


    Primary Source

    Woolf. Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. London: Penguin Classicss. 2000

    Secondary Beginnings

    Ruotolo. Lucio. “Mrs Dalloway: The Unguarded Moment” . Virginia Woolf REVALUATION AND CONTINUITY. Ed. University of California Press. London: 1980.

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