Last Updated 22 Nov 2022

A Mid-June Day in the Life of Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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The significance of time as a subject in Mrs. Dalloway can be explained by the way Woolf had initially titled the novel "The Hour". Mrs. Dalloway was greatly influenced by Henri Bergson's theory of time, Bergson concentrated on memory, inside/subjective time, and outside/clock time. In the novel, time is set back, accelerated and moving forward. Woolf molds time to demonstrate the profundity and power of the encounters of characters in the novel. Woolf additionally weights on the idea of time through symbols, for example, the tolling of Big Ben which speaks to clock time and the utilization of continuous flow which speaks to the subjective time of the character.

The tolling of Big Ben shows the clock time that we take after which continually advances. "For having lived in Westminster- how many years now? over twenty-one feels even during the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical" (45). The language in this section uncovers Clarissa's attention to the progression of time. The words used to depict the progression of time like "strikes", "boomed" and "warning" bring out the power also, the dread of the time passing. These words influence the reader to respond adversely to the progression of time. Nonetheless, there is a duality in the depiction because of the words, for example, "positive" and "musical" and so on display a conflicting image of the progressing time.

"The leaden circles dissolved in the air" repeats in the novel, showing how transient time is. Another such occurrence concerning the effect of clock time on the characters happens when Peter visits Clarissa. He tells her about Daisy, the lady he will wed and ask her if she is happy with Richard, Elizabeth comes in. Clarissa acquaints her with Peter and then Big Ben strikes. "The sound of Big Ben striking the half-hour struck out between them with extraordinary vigor, ... 'Hullo, Elizabeth!' cried Peter, stuffing his handkerchief into his pocket, going quickly to her, saying 'Good-bye, Clarissa' without looking at her, leaving the room quickly, and running downstairs and opening the hall door" (83). Here, the intimate discussion between Clarissa and Peter is interrupted by Elizabeth. The communication between their interior selves is compromised and the sound of Big Ben brings Peter back to the external reality and he takes off. In the novel, the strikes of Big Ben make a difference in reminding the characters and the reader of the external reality. It brings them back from their profound thoughts and their past and makes them mindful of the physical world where time is always moving forward.

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The tolling of Big Ben moreover connects characters on a few occasions in the novel. As Septimus and his spouse, Reiza, sit in the park, each mulling over their personal misery, their scene is associated with Peter Walsh's stream of consciousness who is passing by. Peter is so disconnected from Septimus and Reiza that he considers them as two significant others quarrelling. Woolf uses Big Ben here to indicate one more hour passed in the day and to move the story from Septimus to Peter. The sound of the clock unsettles Clarissa since she feels that she has not done anything amazing. Its consistent tolling reminds the characters and the reader of the time lost, the time that cannot be lived once more. It chimes a little late and does not make one fear time. The Subjective time has been worked out in the novel through the characters of Clarissa, Septimus, and Peter. This time is exceptionally fluid and versatile.

All these characters although living in the present time keep going back to their past encounters. People suffer from their past in Mrs. Dalloway. The novel can also be considered as an interchange progression of two plots: the one of Clarissa and the one of Septimus. These two characters represent two distinctive points of seeing over life and time: a rational one and a crazy one. Clarissa battles to adjust her inner life with the outside world. All through the day, she keeps reflecting on the time of her youth she spent at Bourton. It was the time when she chose to wed Richard instead of Peter, her suitor. Although she is content with Richard, she is not certain she made the right choice. She mulls over how her life would have been if she had married Peter. She too considers almost the kiss she shared with her companion Sally Seton, which she considers the most joyful moment of her life. Moreover, when Peter visits her in the morning, he begins playing with his pocketknife as he used to do in the days of his youth, at which Clarissa considers "Exactly the same, thought Clarissa; the same queer look; the same check suit; a little out of the straight his face is, a little thinner, dryer, perhaps, but he looks awfully well, and just the same" (77).

Clarissa at once makes all the comparisons and affiliations with Peter's looks and conduct between the time she went through with him at Bourton and the present. She moreover takes note of how much she herself has changed. From the charming and enthusiastic young lady that she was at Bourton to a routine housewife, she has changed a lot. in one moment in the novel, she ponders how she has come to known from Clarissa to Mrs. Dalloway. She was stunned to realizes that her personality is now characterized by her spouse, Richard. Peter Walsh also lives in his past and is always considering his relationship with Clarissa and their time at Bourton. He keeps replaying the occurrence in his head when he had first seen Clarissa and Richard talking to each other. When he left Clarissa's house in the morning at the strike of Big Ben, he begins strolling and is profoundly engaged in his thoughts. He goes through a whole internal dialogue with himself on the state of his life, his feelings on love, his inventions, and his inconvenience with Clarissa, etc. while the clocks proceed to chime the half hour.

Septimus Smith, a veteran of the First World War suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, spends his day in the park with his spouse, Reiza. Septimus endures pain from vivid hallucinations which concern his service in the war and the passing of his dearest companion, Evans. He has expelled himself from the physical world. For most of the time, he lives in an internal and subjective world where he endures pain from his delusions and hearing things that are not real. He repeatedly talks to Evans and keeps replaying the scene of Evans' death. Dr. Holmes, who is treating Septimus, tells Reiza to make him notice the exterior world but Septimus cant come out of the world he has made where the memories of the war keep interfering. In the park, he says to Reiza - "Now we will kill ourselves" (98). He lives in the past that exists in his memory, and in that past reality, individuals do not pass on.

This is the delusion Septimus suffers with, from which he chooses to elude his issues by killing himself. Clarissa too fears her life. For most of the novel, she considers maturing and passing. While on her way to purchase flowers for her party, she stops to see at the omnibuses in Piccadilly. "She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged...she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day" (50). Clarissa feels that she has lived but not picked up sufficient information. The great of living is to sense no fear but a life without information is not significant. As she ages, she finds it more troublesome to confront the individuals and the world. The entertainer in her is her blessing and accomplishment. Clarissa and Septimus come out as "double" as they have various likenesses between them. Both love Shakespeare and fear persecution, and among many other similarities. They never meet but have shared encounters and they reflect each other. When Clarissa comes to know almost Septimus' suicide at her party, she appreciates his boldness. It makes her acknowledge her own choices as well as the society that she lives in.

Critics comment that Septimus dies so that his double, Clarissa can live. The historical time in the novel concerns the First World War, Woolf is critical of the times that she lived in. Through Septimus, she studies the understanding of mental illness and the way it was treated in her times. She was also a first-hand casualty as she too underwent treatment for insanity. She had developed an antipathy towards specialists which can be seen in her feedback from Dr. Bradshaw. Woolf also shows the reader that even in 1923, there were still reminders of the First World War. Through the feedback on the treatment of mental illness, Woolf presents a larger feedback on the lesson structure. Septimus offers a contrast between the battles of a middle-class war veteran and the luxury enjoyed by the upper class. He questions the English society he battled for during the war.

Through Clarissa, Woolf criticizes the fundamental depression in metropolitan life. Although Clarissa, shows us that behind the sparkle of high society life lies a search for security and emotional interface. It is only at the end of the novel that she encounters a moment of clarity and peace when she observes her old neighbor through her window, and she comes to terms with the plausibility of passing. Woolf makes use of the tunneling technique in Mrs. Dalloway. The characters, though engaged in their own stream of awareness, most of the time they interface at particular moments inside the novel. When a plane was flying to promote a coffee brand. All the characters in the different physical spaces and diverse mental states watch the occasion and are associated with this brief experience. At the end of the novel, nearly every character appears up at Clarissa's party, except Septimus who passed away and Reiza, but they did not know Clarissa anyway. The meeting of all the characters at Clarissa's party makes an insect web of different consciousness.

All the people we individually encounter in the novel seem connected at the party. The party creates a solidarity of time and space in exterior time. It is the event which weaves together all the characters' memories. This is the last and the greatest tunneling effect in the novel. The different snippets of the lives of those in Mrs. Dalloway shown here, go back to Woolf's own life and with the tolling of Big Ben brings is back to reality where Clarissa must stop mopping over Septimus's passing and retreat to the party. Through Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf consolidates a more comprehensive style of writing which represents the modern ways of thinking in her times. Woolf presents her social critique through the investigation of mental, philosophical, and logical thoughts centered on time in connection with the novel. Woolf presents innovation as a society in conflict and compares modern symbols with interior dialogue. Not much happens in the novel in clock time, however, yet, the ordinary happenings of the day make a sense of linear time understanding of the interior/exterior time. Woolf proposes that time exists in diverse shapes. It exists in the outside world, but also in our inside world. The subjective time influences our awareness more than clock time does. Through the character of Clarissa, Woolf challenges the usual definition of success.

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