In Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, the representation of time and attitudes towards history, are one of the central experiences within her novel. Originally called The Hours, Woolf explores the existence of different time frameworks. The four main frameworks explored in the novel are clocktime, subjective time, historical and evolutionary time. Woolf deals with the transience of time in human existence. Life is portrayed in a state of constant creation, changing endlessly from moment to moment. The characters are pre-occupied with the essence of time. They are acutely aware of the moment as it passes, compounding their thoughts, feelings and apprehensions of the physical world in which the character moves. Others who live simultaneously yet individually also correlate the intimate connection of the moment to their own existence. At the same time, these experiences capitulate moments of similar experiences of the past through links of association. Through analysing the connection between the time frameworks, Woolf attempt to make a statement of human existence, and their ability to value the acts of war and patriotism, rather than acknowledge their true identity.
The first and perhaps most noticeable, is the existence of an objective or clocktime framework. As we follow the lives of the characters, particularly the world of Clarissa Dalloway, we are constantly reminded of the regular passage of time, signaled by the striking of the clocks. Apart from the obvious usefulness it has in the daily lives of the characters', namely in the planning of Clarissa's party, there is a second more prominent reason for its inclusion in the novel. The narrator's function by announcing the chiming of the bells acts as a reminder of the ungoverned nature of time, and its inability to be restrained regardless of human desires. ..First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air' (pg6) The clear distinctions in time are highlighted by the momentary lapses back into reality bought about by the symbolic striking of the clock, emphasizing the hour in real terms. The constant chiming serves as an impersonal reminder of the present.
In contrast to clocktime, is the framework of subjective time. Subjective moments are those in memory that can be recalled, but never relived. Such a timeframe is unlike clocktime, as it does not flow evenly yet at the same time is not momentary, and can be orchestrated by the individuals conscious recall. Its ability to not die away rapidly allows for it to exist in the individual's mind, and by such existence, is generally memorable or of some importance to the person. In Mrs Dalloway, we see the characters recall the summer at Bourton, and their belief of how it has been crucial in determining their lives. This time in their lives, whether in the past or future, is of significance, and therefore they have vivid memories of it. For Septimus, it is the death of his friend Evans that invades his subjective mind. His inability to control his memories results in his subjective time becoming frozen at that moment so that he lives it over and over again in various guises. For Peter Walsh, it is when ..He had found life like an unknown garden, full of turns and corners, surprisingly, yes; really it took one's breath away, these moments
[like this] moment, in which things came together; this ambulance; and life and death..' (pg136). Clarissa encounters also Only for a moment, she had a illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed' (pg30). These fleeting experiences of revelation, their submerging into the subjective world, is short lived as they are brought back to the present by the switching to clock time, and again resumes their practical, social life. Although their individual revelations differ from one another, they are brought into a relationship by shared experiences, of watching the motor-car in which the...
Bibliography: Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. England: Penguin, 1925.
York Notes. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf : York Notes. Harlow England: York Press 1986. Reprint 1997.
Lee, Hermione. The Novels of Virginia Woolf. Methuen London. 1977
Rose, Phyllis. Woman of Letters: A life of Virginia Woolf. Routledge and Kegan Paul London: 1978 (Ch7)
Guiguet, Jean. Virginia Woolf and her Works. Hogarth Press London: 1965.
Allen, Walter. The English Novel. Harmondsworth: England. 1954. Pg 348-351
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