Literary masterpieces are usually the products of creative imagination and deep knowledge of human nature. These skills allow a perceptive author to transfer the beauty of the world, social realities, and painful experiences into astonishing prose by the means of the simple and precise choice of words. Virginia Woolf is not an exception. Published in 1925, her novel Mrs. Dalloway focuses on the preparations of the main heroine Clarissa for her party. The author provides the detailed insights into Mrs. Dalloways biography and psychological portrait. Thus, Woolf exhibits strong expertise in the areas of human emotions, womens struggle for freedom, and literary symbols while depicting only one day of the characters life.
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The short time frame seems to be a distinctive feature of Woolfs novel. Mrs. Dalloway is the third person narrative that illustrates one day from the life of the characters. The book starts with the peculiar opening scene where the main heroine is walking along the busy streets of London and planning to buy flowers for her party (Woolf 1-10). The walk provides the heroine with the opportunity to meditate on her past experiences and usual routine. The first 10 pages of prose depict the sensory fascinations of Clarissa with the energetic rhythm of the capital city and provide the insightful information about her former suitor (Woolf 1-10). In the equally cheerful manner, the author concludes with the description of the party where Clarissa becomes aware of the fragility of life after the news about the suicide of a young man (Woolf 132-133). Mrs. Dalloway instantly catches the readers attention by presenting the never-ending kaleidoscope of events and scenes. According to Goldman, the indirect technique allows the narrative subtly to shift interior focus between characters, creating a collective discursive continuum (54). The vivid images and feelings together form the striking sequence of actions and thoughts. Some critics point out that Woolf aspires to illustrate the stream-like continuity of life (Majumdar and McLaurin 161). Evidently, the constant shift from the inner world of the heroes to the accurately accounted details of the surroundings reveals the unique style of the author. Woolf clearly conveys the sense of lifes fullness, the importance and beauty of the fleeting moments.
The writer deliberately chooses the method of the stream of consciousness to convey the magnitude of Clarissas aesthetic tastes. The novel is abundant in the intricate details in terms of sounds, tastes, and landscapes. For instance, a clock striking, a car roaring, and an airplane humming create a picture of the staccato rhythm of the city life (Woolf 3-4). The amazing panorama of the faces, horses, birds, buildings, and transport evokes a pleasant feeling of attachment to London in the soul of the main heroine (Woolf 5). The depicted scenes of the euphoria reveal the writers talent for empathy. One of Woolfs contemporary critics, P.C. Kennedy argues that her gift originates in the deep understanding, thoughtful analysis, and accurate presentation of the characters dreams, motives, and intentions (Majumdar and McLaurin 167). The immense knowledge of human psychology allows Woolf to address such themes as the meaning of life and death. For example, Mrs. Dalloway once seemed utterly fascinated by the myriads of colors and odors in the flower shop (Woolf 9-10). As she chooses the decorations for the party, the natural beauty of every flower that seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds reminds her about the promising prospects of the evening entrainments (Woolf 10). At the same time, Clarissa is capable of seeing beauty in death. She views death as liberation from the troubles of real life as she becomes aware of the fleeting nature of the daily routines (Woolf 130-131). The portrayals of the characters emotional states help the author to spark the interest of the audience by encouraging empathy for the heroes.
Furthermore, the novel vividly encompasses the feminist subtext. Readers may clearly distinguish the heroines desire for personal independence: Mrs. Dalloway prefers to be the master of her fortune. Moreover, Clarissa is acutely sensitive about the smallest changes in the environment. The crowds on the streets and the greatness of the city landscapes constitute the constant flow of life for Clarissa who struggles to occupy her assigned place in the society (Woolf 6-7). In accordance with her freedom-loving spirit, Clarissa rejects Peter Walsh as the marriage to him would mean a significant limitation of her personal freedom (Woolf 6). Notably, her choice of lifestyle was highly criticized by Woolfs compatriots. According to Rolysson, Clarissas preoccupation with the party seems devoid of any spiritual or material value (1064). Mrs. Dalloway, by contrast, considers bringing different people together her greatest gift (Rolysson 1064).
Interestingly, the main female character of the book is narcissistic. It becomes evident as Clarissa praises herself in front of the mirror. She compares herself to a diamond since she alone knew how different… so for the world only into one center, one diamond… (Woolf 27). The authors writing is thick with irony, and Clarissa appears to be the embodiment of vanity. Finally, sexual freedom seems to be a reoccurring topic in the novel. Mrs. Dalloway clearly suffers from the loss of the lesbian love as the most exciting moment of her life, the kiss with Sally, has been rudely interrupted (Woolf 25). According to Goldman, the scene perfectly supplements the endless excursions into the past throughout the novel and becomes a Sapphic island in a sea of patriarchy for Clarissa (55). Evidently, the main heroine tries to survive in the environment of suffocating conventions imposed by the sophisticated society. As a result, Woolf has succeeded in creating a truly complex character.
The overall complexity of the story is associated with the numerous symbols carefully embedded in the plot. One of such symbolic images is a diamond that serves as the metaphorical device in the book. For example, Clarissa compares the Sallys kiss with a diamond, something infinitely precious, wrapped up (Woolf 25). The association with the precious stone signifies the tremendous value of the memory. In addition, Woolf draws the similarities between Clarissa and a diamond (Woolf 27). Goldman suggests that the imagery serves to present the heroine as the center of Londons community that brings numerous people together (56). Meanwhile, one may notice the obvious symbolism in the relations between Clarissa and Septimus, a young war veteran with the suicidal inclinations. While Clarissa seems to be the epitome of hedonism, Septimus cannot tolerate the emotional stress and, therefore, is incapable of embracing the rhythm of the big city (Ronchetti 59). According to Ronchetti, the inability to cope with the overwhelming inflow of the sensory information from the outside world drove the young man to the commitment of the last act of independence (59). Septimus seems to be the personification of the desire to die as well as the symbol of the rebellion against the circumstances. Evidently, the detailed and poetic way of incorporating the symbols appears to be a part of Woolfs artistic talent.
To conclude, the novel is the assembly of the complex personalities and rapidly unfolding events. The acute perception of the surrounding environment and natural talent for psychological analysis helped Virginia Woolf to introduce the world to the outstanding product of her creative thinking. The book appears to be a modernistic novelty in the literature since the indirect technique of introducing the characters and the movements in time is the major feature of Mrs. Dalloway. Thus, Virginia Woolf exhibits the remarkable capacity to convey the emotional states and inspirations of the main characters as well as implement symbolic images in a story line.
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