Clarissa’s Theme of Isolation in Mrs. Dalloway

Topics: Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, Leonard Woolf Pages: 13 (4641 words) Published: March 28, 2011
Author: Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, one of the greatest feminist writers in English literature, has published numerous novels and essays throughout her life, among which Mrs. Dalloway(1925), To The Lighthouse(1925), Orlando(1928), A Room Of One’s Own(1929),and The Waves(1931) are well-known to readers all over the world. Woolf had been living in patriarchal society ever since she was child. Some said that she was kind of self-made. As a matter of fact, she suffered from mental breakdowns all her life time. Due to her half-brother Gerald Duckworth’s sexual abuse, Virginia Woolf had an unquiet youth mingling with several emotional shocks. According to her diary, writing turned out to be Virginia’s main psychological outlet. After she was involved in the Bloomsbury group, she enlarged her scope in philosophy, art, and religion. Her marriage with the political theorist Leonard Woolf led her to become a member of Hogarth Press. Besides being a famous novelist of streams of consciousness, Woolf is often cited as a modernist as well. In particular, Woolf’s feminist ideas demonstrated in her stylistic experiments have made her a literary incarnation of modern feminism. Since most literary theories have been occupied by male chauvinism, she claimed that there should be some changes in the style as well as in the awakening of feminist consciousness in literary works, both of which have been explored in her Orlando. Virginia Woolf committed suicide by drowning herself in 1941 when she was 62 years old. A letter was left to her husband saying:

I have a feeling I shall go mad. I cannot go on longer in these terrible times. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer. I owe all my happiness to you but cannot go on and spoil your life.[1]

According to the doctors, the reasons for her suicide are likely to have something to do with her long- term suffering from depression and anxiety.


In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf employs the technique of streams of consciousness, through which the world is divided into sane and insane. While focusing the story on the two characters of Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith, Woolf parallels the theme of life and death. The novel begins with a beautiful morning of one June day. Clarissa Dalloway, a caring and perfect housewife of a politician, walks down Bond Street to buy flowers for the party that she will host in the evening. As she is preparing for it, Clarissa goes through kaleidoscopic emotions such as confusion, frustration, and exultation. She traces back her days in Bourton, particularly her love with Peter Walsh, whom she didn’t choose to marry 30 years ago. For her freedom and privacy, Clarissa has chosen to marry the blunt politician Richard Dalloway, and enjoys a comfortable life at the cost of her homosexual appeal to Sally Seton. Having repressed her inner self, Clarissa wonders what she has given up to become Mrs. Richard Dalloway. Now she realizes that she has lost something central and finds her existence trivial. In her recollection, Peter Walsh plays a possessive intruder. Not only has he intruded in Clarissa’s relationship with Sally, but also been critical to her marriage. Having got the flowers she needs in the party and reached home, Clarissa discovers that she isn’t invited to Mrs. Bruton’s luncheon party; she is thus overwhelmed by distress over her dignity. Clarissa then looks at her daughter’s tutor—Miss Kilman, the religious fanatic. They both hate each other for certain reasons.

Meanwhile, another character Septimus Warren Smith, experiences the same day in a different way. On Clarissa’s way to flower shop, she looks upon the words written in the sky, this scene draws readers’ attention on Septimus in his wheel chair. He is portrayed as a mad prophet and a poet with vision. Despite his shell-shocked breakdown after World War I, he moved to London and married an Italian...

Bibliography: 1. Aileen Pippett. The Moth and the Star: A Biography of Virginia Woolf Boston: Little Brown, 1955
3. Dalgarno Emily. No God of Healing This Story: Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse in Virginia Woolf and The Visible World. UK: Cambridge University Press. 2001
5. Glemy Allie. “Mrs. Dalloway: Blackberrying In the Sun” in Ravenous Identity: Eating and Eating Distress In the Life and Work of Virginia Woolf. Macmillan Press Ltd. 1999.
7. Marsh Nicholas. “The Significance of Nature” in The Novels: Virginia Woolf.New York: St Martin’s Press, INC., 1998
9. Williams Lisa. Mrs. Dallloway in The Artist As Outsider In The Novels of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. London: Green Wood Press, 2000
11. Zwerdling Alex. “Mrs. Dalloway and the social system” in Virginia Woolf and the Real World .London: University of California Press. 1986.
[1] Aileen Pippett, The Moth and The Star: A Biography of Virginia Woolf, (Boston: Little Brown), 1955, p.368
[7] David Dowling, Mapping Streams of Consciousness, (Twayne Publishers Boston A Division of G. K. Hall & Co. 1991),p. 112
[8] Allie Glemy, “Mrs
[9] Nicholas Marsh, “The Significance of Nature” in The Novels: Virginia Woolf, (New York: St Martin’s Press, INC., 1998),p.136
[10] “ad infinitum” is a Latin tag meaning “ infinity” or “endlessness”
[13] Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, (London: Harper& Row Inc.1984), p.60
[14] Emily Dalgarno, No God of Healing This Story: Mrs
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