A Critical Analysis of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf Analysis

Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, involves a great deal of the narrative device known as “stream of consciousness." This concept involves the uninterrupted flow of thoughts about a particular topic, although that topic can change as the inner monologue progresses. In many ways these streams of consciousness develop a character, and therefore the plot in Mrs. Dalloway.

The first major example of stream of consciousness occurs very early in the book, where it is used to develop Mrs. Dalloway's character.

She opens her window to the summer morning air and is instantly transported back many years to a similar summer morning. She remembers “the early morning; like the flab of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (...) solemn feeling." She remembers Peter Walsh and some of his sayings, then wonders why it is she remembers a "few sayings like this about cabbages.” This inner monologue of sorts immediately depicts Clarissa as someone who loves life, even the city life, as demonstrated by a stream of consciousness depicting the hustle and bustle of Westminster a few paragraphs later.

The previously mentioned Peter Walsh is also an important character within the novel and is developed through an inner monologue as well. When seeing Mrs. Dalloway for the first time in many years. He notices the ornate decorations of her house and his own relative lack of success. “...the dolphin and the candlesticks, the chair-covers and the old valuable English tinted prints - he was a failure!" This interruption of an inner monologue by some third party narrator (“he was a failure") and then the switch back to the first person with “I detest the smugness of the whole affair,” shows a purposeful lack of coherent structure.

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In fact, much of the novel takes place in one long string of events that connect, through some seemingly meaningless incident, to another character's situation. Occasionally this plotline shifts to the past and then, almost at random, is back in the present moving on further still to more characters and more strings and streams of consciousness.

This constant shift from memories of the past, to thoughts on the present, occur throughout the novel and allow for more character development than the novel would have allowed otherwise, as it takes place over the course of a few hours. It also allows for a more intimate and honest description, as the reader can develop their own idea simply by looking at the thoughts of a character.

Updated: Nov 25, 2022
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A Critical Analysis of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-critical-analysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf-essay

A Critical Analysis of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf essay
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