An Analysis Of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

3394 words - 14 pages

An Analysis of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

Somewhere within the narrative of Mrs. Dalloway, there seems to lie what could be understood as a restatement - or, perhaps, a working out of - the essentially simple, key theme or motif found in Woolf's famous feminist essay A Room of One's Own. Mrs. Dalloway does in fact possess "a room of her own - " and enjoys an income (or the use of an income) that is at least "five hundred a year - " (Room: 164). But most importantly, Clarissa Dalloway also deals with ways of working out female economic necessity, personal space, and the manifestation of an "artistic" self-conception. That this perceived "room" of her famous essay can also serve as a psychological model becomes clearer in Mrs. Dalloway, and the novel reveals another face to this classical essay's main motif. A personal room is, more profoundly, a certain conception of the "soul" or psyche's journey through life, as Sally states in the novel's climax: "Are we not all prisoners? She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched on the wall of his cell, and she had felt that was true of life - one scratched on the wall" (293). Mrs. Dalloway is a more nuanced mediation of the imagination that powerfully brings into relief qualifications, extensions, and variations on her later, more sociological work's powerful central and titular metaphor.

The book commences with the sentence, "Mrs. Dalloway said that she'd buy the flowers herself."(3) It is an immediate and assertive portrayal of Clarissa Dalloway as a pecunious and fully self-motivated agent. It is a one-sentence paragraph, and indeed could stand alone as a sort of summary of the entire book (or the book's main philosophical thrust).

Clarissa is a woman who has decided to never let the "wolf" (no pun intended) of necessity near her door, and, through her ambitious nature ("she had wanted success": 282), made the firm decision to seek and assure her own material well-being. Hence, in the course of her life as depicted in her narrated memories, she moves from one safe house (as the enclosing, larger conglomerate of rooms, and an enclosed space congruent to the room) and garden to another. The passages on Clarissa move back and forth between reoccurring memories of Bourton from the first and last pages of the novel (" - she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air.."(3) - "And once she had walked on the terrace at Bourton":282) and her present actions in the well-established Dalloway residence over which she presides. She moves safely and consciously from her father's house to Richard's house: indeed, it is within the walls and gardens of Bourton that Clarissa makes her firm decision against marrying Peter and then to marry Richard.

To marry Peter would have been an impecunious choice, although it seemed potentially more romantic and contained an intimacy that was in the moment of Clarissa's decision painful to give up (" - she had borne...

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