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The Importance Of Time In Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway".

4027 words - 16 pages

Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway is a modernist novel, which shows new techniques to express a different point of view with regard to the notion of time. It is not without importance to note that the novel has no chapter headings. Nevertheless it is immediately obvious that the interest of the novel is not only in the form but also in the content. The action takes place in a single day of June in 1923 and what is interesting in the structure of the book is that simultaneously with the story of this single day, time is constantly flowing from present to past or to future. These flashbacks constitute the major psychological moments of the novel, most of them being represented by the stream of consciousness technique. This essay will explain how this flow of consciousness is interrupted by a chronological time represented by the strike of clocks. In fact, Woolf introduces a contrast between internal and external time. Moreover, the novel as a whole can also be considered as an alternate succession of two plots: the one of Clarissa and the one of Septimus. These two characters already show two different points of view over life and time: a sane one and an insane one. Furthermore, it may be demonstrated that many different relations to time can be reflected through the various characters of the novel.Firstly, it shall be seen that internal time is a psychological and subjective time. It is measured by the relative emotional intensity of a moment. This time is fluid, elastic and mobile. Woolf uses the flashback technique, which enables the reader to go from present to past or to future without having a chronological order. In addition, she essentially points out this distortion of time by two means: first the traditional dialogues between the different characters and second the modern use of stream of consciousness technique. This technique shows the thoughts and feelings of different characters. Most of the time, in Mrs Dalloway, the narrator enters their consciousness to show us their memories. However, this perception of time is free and corresponds to the characters' mind. So, it allows the characters not only to think of the past, but also to visualize the future or even to imagine how the present would be if the past had been different.In fact, the novel within the framework of twenty-four hours reveals the whole of Clarissa Dalloway's life and that of Septimus Warren Smith. To begin with, we have the memories of Clarissa Dalloway. First there are fragments of her childhood experience as her love for Sally, which has been very important in her life. Next and most considerable thing is her past at Bourton. It becomes as relevant to this moment of June, as her preparation for her party, because of the come back of Peter Walsh. Her eighteen years old become omnipresent in this day. We see that from the very beginning of the novel, as Clarissa steps into the street in front of her house, her past is suddenly with her:What a lark! What a plunge! For so...

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