Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

In this second reading, I realized that although I have liked the book after my first reading, I hardly have understood it. In Mrs. Dalloway, the story is said to be about the events of a day in Clarissa Dalloway’s life. While this is true to an extent, it is more than that. Although the story marks the events of one day, the story both goes back and forth between Clarissa’s youth and her present life through Clarissa’s thoughts. Through one stream of thoughts, she revisits her youth, recalling the choices she made, relationships that were broken, and love unforgotten. Another stream takes her through her present life, her relationship with her husband and daughter, and her life as an upper-class society lady. Not only that. Clarissa’s life and her character are also framed through Peter Walsh’s thoughts. This is an interesting and colourful way to paint the true picture of Clarissa Dalloway’s life.

Virginia is well known for her style of writing. Her use of stream of consciousness has both attracted and deterred readers. I for a reader was attracted, although it was a difficult experience at first. The stream of consciousness is one of the most fascinating and colourful ways of writing. The thoughts, feelings, and reactions of characters, combined with an objective narrative have a personal allure. However, I personally felt that in Mrs. Dalloway, the stream of conscious writing was easy to follow and in particular interesting.

While the story centers on the life and relationships of Clarissa, Virginia also portrays the social, economic, and political changes that have and are taking place within London following World War I through the thoughts and observations of the characters.

Septimus Warren Smith, I felt, to be a subplot. Through his story, Virginia brings out the suffering of the mentally impaired. The mental and physical pain, the delusions, the desperation that ultimately paves way for committing suicide, are well and truly portrayed that the readers are overwhelmed with pity. Virginia doesn’t stop there. She goes further to show the suffering their loved ones go through. Also, by alluding Septimus’s mental condition to be a direct outcome of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Virginia exposes the terrible consequences of the War. At the same time, Virginia turns her attention to treatment that is directed at these patients and exposes the ineffectiveness of them, especially those institutionalizing them and being kept in isolation.

These stories, the characters, their thoughts, observations, their points of view are presented in her beautiful, poetic, lyrical, and colourful writing. It was such a pleasure to read those beautiful, poetic, and lyrical writing, page by page, as it paints a vivid picture of the story that she is telling.

It is amazing how much depth is carried in this short novel. No matter how many books I have read of her or how many times I have read her, Virginia Woolf never fails to amaze me with each new reading. She is such a brilliant writer and perhaps, the best woman author of the twentieth century.

I simply loved the read this second time around, and am very happy that I was finally able to understand and appreciate this masterpiece.

Rating: 5/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

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