Suspended In Time: Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway The Element Of Time In A Modernist Novel

1963 words - 8 pages

Suspended in Time:Virginia Woolf' Mrs. DallowayVirginia Woolf is forefront among modernist writers like T. S. Eliott and Joseph Conrad and is most notable for her stream-of-consciousness technique. Most critics cluster Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway with two of her own, Jacob's Room and To the Lighthouse as examples of a technique that represents a multi-narrative form. The result of this multi-point-of-view is a novel suspending time. Not only does time suspend for the reader, it also moves forward beyond the characters and consumes the text. Time, real or imagined, becomes the background of the novel. Ironically, the events occur in one day. Even so, the fixed time frame and Big Ben's reminder of progressive time are somehow slight. Nevertheless, Woolf professionally and purposefully moves through the narrative from one character to the next creating an effect of momentum in the mind of the reader. Furthermore, the "conscious" multi-narrative characters become the reason the reader is left "unconsciously" suspended in time. As Johanna Garvey states: "the recurrent imagery?particularly that related to water?reinforces the impression that everything is running together, that consciousness and city are becoming indistinguishable" (60). Without boundaries, "time" flutters between reality and fantasy giving Mrs. Dalloway a "suspension then release" that permeates the novel.At first, the temptation to stop and analyze the source of the narrative voice is unavoidable. Then, Clarissa, Septimus, Peter, and others appear to, as Joan Bennett believes "inhabit the mind of the reader and enlarge the capacity for imaginative sympathy" (42-43). Woolf, successfully, undermines the confusion caused by the transition between narrators by creating likeable characters with intriguing events. A crave to move through the novel, entering and exiting each character, is developed by Woolf's ability to move "from one mind to another are often more subtle than this?to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to identify precisely the point where the narrative leaves one mind and enters another," states Howard Harper (116). With each shift, the narrative transforms to a separate entity, adding to it's multiplicity.The omniscient narrator becomes a faceless character that is relied upon by the reader to move the story forward. However, to move forward the narrator must temporarily suppress the flow of the story, leaving the reader hovering in time and space while the narrator enters each character's mind extracting their thoughts and feelings about their past and present. The narrator must repeat specific periods of time from each character's personal perspective. J. Hillis Miller explains:In many novels the use of the past tense establishes the narrator as someone living after the events of the story have taken place, some who knows all the past perfectly. The narrator tells the story in a present which moves forward toward the future by way of a recapitulation or repetition of...

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