Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is a classic I decided to bring with me as I played Snowbird this year. I haven’t read this novel since college. I did read Joyce’s Ulysses when I made a t trip to Dublin to see if I could follow Bloom’s route about Dublin. That Joyce and Woolf shared time as part of the Bloomsbury group allows for Woolf to employ the day in the life structure for her novel. I couldn’t be immune to the blatant allusions and irony of Woolf’s treatment to suicide in the novel with thoughts and ruminations on the topic in addition to an actual suicide in the novel. And then how it is brought to the party and how Mrs. Dalloway ruminates over the actual facts of the suicide and relives parts of it, imagining herself in the same predicament.
Perhaps the most important symbol has to be Big Ben and Time. Time, on of the major themes of Shakespeare, who has a major role in this novel as does Keats with allusions to Truth and Beauty. We are always made aware of the time of the day.
“Remember my party to-night” A constant refrain from Clarissa as various people abandon her, always in a rush. It is after all the reason for the actions of the day, the denouement: the party. One is always awash of character development with Woolf and the use of “one.” My big question is who is Elizabeth’s father? Obviously Peter Walsh. He is Anglo-Indian. “One might weep if no one saw. It had been his undoing -- this susceptibility – in Anglo-Indian society; not weeping at the right time, or laughing either. “ She has a dark complexion and features not indigenous to Richard or Clarissa Dalloway. “She (Elizabeth) stood perfectly still. Was it that some Mongol had been wrecked on the coast of Norfolk (as Mrs. Hilbery said), had mixed with the Dalloway ladies, perhaps, a hundred years ago? For the Dalloways, in general, were fair-haired; blue-eyed; Elizabeth on the contrary, was dark; had Chinese eyes in a pale face; an Oriental mystery.” So many hints and clues: “Here is my Elizabeth,” said Clarissa, emotionally, histrionically, perhaps.” Instead of our Elizabeth, which is what she wanted to say, not even just “Here’s Elizabeth.” The “my” was added last minute instead of “our.” I don’t think He suspects she is his daughter but I do think Clarissa knows. “But it would not have been a success, their (Peter and Clarissa) marriage. The other thing, after all, came so much more naturally. “ That other thing, the sex, a thing never spoken of.
It gets very interesting when Sally Seton shows up at the party, uninvited, but welcome. She and Peter sit and reminisce about the past and much is learned about intimacies, being in love twice, and so many hints at so much. Watching Elizabeth with Richard becomes more than what it may or may not be. The vagueness, the properness of it, the intrigue, makes the notion all that more plausible.
It has been fun rereading this fine novel as I look forward to moving on to To The Lighthouse.