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MRS DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf


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A very in depth presentation I made for my year 12 Eng Lit class on Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway'. Enjoy!

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MRS DALLOWAY by Virginia Woolf

  1. 1. A presentation by Eve Crosbie.
  2. 2. - A really great writer.- She was born in 1882 to an upper middle-class socially active Victorian family.- committed suicide at the age of 59, in 1941 just after the 2nd World War began.- Her life was plagued with tragedy: her mother died when she was 13, and her sister 2 years later- She suffered from severe depression and mania which led her to take her own life.- Studied at King’s College in London.- She wrote JACOB’S ROOM, ORLANDO and THE WAVES to name a few.- She wrote MRS DALLOWAY when she was 43.- also wrote the famous feminist essay A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN about the role of women throughout history and literature.- She was a member of the Bloomsbury group which was made up of of really influential writers, artists, philosophers and intellectual people & was close friends with some really innovative minds.
  3. 3. Set in 1923 – five years Follows a turbulent time in Britain’s history – such after the end of WW1 as the death of Queen Victoria, the industrial (but written in 1925) revolution and the First World WarInterbellum period a society speeding headlong into modernity But also 17 years before WW2 It takes place in a single day in post-war London – you see glimpses of a variety of lives and classes as the third- person narrator takes the Although throughout the point of view of several novel, the reader is given characters. flashbacks of both pre- war events (such as Most importantly, the scars of Clarissa’s summers at Conservative Party leading the country the past appear to intermingle Bourton) and war-time again after 17 years of Liberal leadership with the present a lot of the Britain time.
  4. 4. The novel opens with Clarissa Dalloway declaring that she will go and buy the flowers for her partyshe’s hosting that very evening herself. As she sets out, she remembers her youth in Bourton where,aged 18 she had a premonition that “something awful was about to happen” and this feeling ofimpending tragedy returns to her now, aged 51.Clarissa spends the majority of the novel as she walks around London and her household, recallingher youth with her friends Peter and Sally at Bourton. These thoughts cause her to question whethershe truly made the right decision to marry the sensible Richard instead of her friend Peter who onceproposed to her. We learn that she also had strong feelings for Sally, who was quite a unique womanand the reader is given the impression that Sally was the one she truly loved.Clarissa is shown to be vivacious and very much concerned with what others think of her but is alsoself-reflective. She sporadically questions life’s true meaning and her own purpose and happiness anddoesn’t seem to come to a definite conclusion.She feels both a great joy and a great dread about her life, both of which manifest in her struggles tostrike a balance between her desire for privacy and her need to communicate with others.When Clarissa has her party in the evening, it turns out to be a success. Both Sally (now married too)and Peter (returned from India) attend and so does the Prime Minister. She hears about the suicide ofthe other main character, Septimus, and feels a strong connection with him despite having never met.She stands on a windows ledge in her house, but whilst she has admired the way this stranger haspreserved the purity of his soul and memories, she chooses to return to her guests.
  5. 5. The perspective also shifts regularly to a man named Septimus Warren Smith, who is a World WarOne veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His storyline begins with him sitting inRegents park with his wife. He observes a lot of the things going on in London as Clarissa does as sheshops and its quite interesting to observe the pairs sometimes different and sometime similarreactions to the same events – e.g the aeroplane flying overhead.He suffers from frequent indecipherable hallucinations about the war and believes he can seemonstrous beings coming towards him. One image that keeps returning to him is that of his fallencomrade in the war, Evans.Later in the day, he visits a doctor who tells his wife that Septimus will need to be taken to a hospitalfor involuntary commitment for an undefined period of time. Septimus views the doctors he has hadas the “emobodiment of human nature” – which due to his experiences in the war are ugly, twistedand evil. Septimus views English society in much the same way as Clarissa does, and he struggles, asshe does, to both maintain his privacy and fulfill his need to communicate with others.Septimus as a character is just as important as Clarissa in the novel and many parallels can be drawnbetween them in terms of their attitudes and feelings, although they never actually meet in thenovel.In the novel there are also sporadic shifts of narration to other minor characters such as Peter Walsh,Richard Dalloway, Clarissa’s daughter (Elizabeth) and Elizabeth’s tutor as well as nameless observersand passer-bys.
  6. 6. Hugh Whitbread Sally Seton Doris KilmanRichard Dalloway Elizabeth Dalloway Peter Walsh CLARISSA DALLOWAY SEPTIMUS WARREN SMITH Evans William Bradshaw Lucrezia Warren Smith Dr Holmes
  7. 7. In a way, the novel is both similar and different from Woolf’s earlier works in the way that she uses “stream ofconsciousness” – revealing Clarissa’s and other character’s interior thoughts with little pause or explanation. So, thereader follows the characters as they move physically through the world whilst also listening to their private thoughts.Yet the form of expressing the realities of post-war England in subjective experiences and memories over a single daywas an unusual literary technique. The experimental style was at the time, and still now, is at odds with the typicalVictorian novel.The book at times focuses on mundane activities such as shopping, eating dinner and organising a party showing thatno act is too small or two ordinary for a writer’s attention.A lot of the speech in the novel is not provided in inverted commas and continues without pause, even when it’sbetween two or more characters, continuing the flow between the interior and exterior mind that Woolf establishesearly on.By placing so much of the book’s attention on character’s internal feelings, Woolf essentially allows her character’sthoughts to travel back and forth in time – they reflect and refract their emotional experiences. The result of this isthat Woolf creates complex portraits of the individuals and their relationships.Some argue that Woolf uses the novel as a vehicle for criticism of the society of her day. The main characters, bothaspects of Woolf herself, raise issues of deep personal concern: in Clarissa, the repressed social and economic positionof women, and in Septimus, the treatment of those driven by depression to the borderlands of sanity.
  8. 8. The general tone that Woolf adopts as the novel’s third-person narrator writing about a society still feeling theeffects of a devastating world war can be seen in this one line towards the start of the novel: “For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin …” The sentence is set up with a tone of lightness, joy and relief and ultimate optimism but then it immediately turns to the horror of war. Just this one sentence contains two totally different tones and suggests that the war (though over) cannot be easily forgotten: it is still haunting peoples’ daily lives years later. And this tone basically continues throughout in the third person narration. Secondly, Woolf manages to capture the very different attitudes of the characters she focuses on in the novel and manages to move from Clarissa’s delight with beauty to Peter’s feelings of nostalgia and regret; from Miss Kilman’s murderous hatred to Septimus’ deep anxiety and mad visions.
  9. 9. It immediately opens up to the reader one of the main themes in the novel – that is Clarissa’s independence. “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (Page 1, line 1)Referred to through her marriedname in this first instance Appears to be a proclamation of independence - maybe Recognised through her husband