Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mrs. Dalloway: The Stage Reading Inquiries

The ebook version I read for WEM does not include any chapter division for Mrs. Dalloway. Knowing that it is a stream of consciousness, Virginia Woolf might not using chapters at all. And I think, this kind of narrative doesn’t need one. So consequently, I did not do the usual chapter summarizes, and went directly into the stage inquiries instead. Here they are… (I would write a separate post for my final review).

Grammar-Stage Inquiry

Who is the central character?

It’s definitely Clarissa Dalloway, from whose stream of consciousness Virginia Woolf derived the most in this book.

Logic-Stage Inquiry

What does Clarissa Dalloway want? What is standing in her way? What strategy does she pursue in order to overcome this block?

I think Clarissa herself did not know what exactly that she wants, so we can say that she wants to know what she lives for, the meaning of her life. The post-war situation with all the changes might stands in her way, but her dull life might also be her block. And in one whole day Clarissa reflects and debates with herself of her past, her old friends, her marriage, and her surroundings while preparing a party for the night. Those reflections resulted a new way of viewing her life, and that’s how Clarissa overcome her block.

Who is telling you this story?

This is my first stream of consciousness reading, and it is interesting to know a little about it. It’s a kind of narrative technique which follows the flowing of character’s mind; so I think it is the third-person objective who’s telling the story, who was hopping from one’s mind to other to tell us what they’re thinking.

Rhetoric-Stage Reading

Is this book an accurate portrayal of life? Is it true?

I have never been in a war or post-war time, but I think Woolf has vividly portrayed a society that has just emerged from the war. Families ruined by its cruelty (Septimus and Rezia Warren Smith), and women began to have place in the society (Miss Kilman assured Elizabeth that women could—and must—now pursue their own career; and how she despised Clarissa for being idle at home).

Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why?

My sympathy is for Rezia. She did not participated directly in the war, but she suffered directly from it. Septimus, her husband, got a nerve breakdown from the war. Rezia must endure it alone, as people won’t understand and would think that Septimus has gone mad. Moreover, Septimus seemed to ignore her, not loved her anymore. Rezia felt very lonely and helpless, her marriage was ruined by the war, the war has taken (still) young Septimus from her.

What does the setting of the book tell you about the way human beings are shaped?

I think, war also brings uncertainty and confuse to the society after it is over. Just look at Clarissa and Peter Walsh who were searching for something; who felt that their life was incomplete, something was missing, but they did not know what it was. ‘The death of a young man’ (Septimus) has helped opening Clarissa’s mind, that shifting her from the absurdity of parties and luxury, to something more profound in life, such as death.

What exactly is Virginia Woolf telling you?

That one should not be indifferent to others. War has ruined relationships, and changed the society very much. One should adapt to it more and learn to build and rebuild relationships. Richard Dalloway’s giving Clarissa a rose bouquet (he was a very conservative man who never showed off his feeling before) proved to be a change of husband and wife (and family) relationship in the turning of the century.


I worked on this for:


  1. I'm a subscriber of your blog and I read your reviews on classics. You inspire me to read classics, seriously. Thank you. And Mrs Dalloway is on its way from bookdepository. I have a commitment to read at least one classics each month.

    1. Thanks :)
      I'm glad you like my posts. Good luck with your 12 classics in a year plan. Let me know your thoughts when you've read Mrs. Dalloway!


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