Wikipedia Summary: Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening. The nice day reminds her of her youth at Bourton and makes her wonder about her choice of husband; she married the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the enigmatic and demanding Peter Walsh and she "had not the option" to be with Sally Seton. Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning.
Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of World War I suffering from deferred traumatic stress, spends his day in the park with his Italian-born wife Lucrezia, where they are observed by Peter Walsh. Septimus is visited by frequent and indecipherable hallucinations, mostly concerning his dear friend Evans who died in the war. Later that day, after he is prescribed involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, he commits suicide by jumping out of a window.
Clarissa's party in the evening is a slow success. It is attended by most of the characters she has met in the book, including people from her past. She hears about Septimus' suicide at the party and gradually comes to admire the act of this stranger, which she considers an effort to preserve the purity of his happiness.
Review: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers
And so begins the eventful day of Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged, upper-class British wife in post-World War I England. It is the middle of June 1923, in Westminster England and Mrs. Dalloway is throwing a party. This is not Mrs. Dalloway’s first time as a
hostess, but rather it is merely the most recent one in a life filled with
celebrations. Because what Mrs. Dalloway
“liked was simply life.” "Her parties
were “an offering. . . . . An offering
for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift.”
The entire novel takes place during
the course of this one particular and unusual day. Because while Mrs. Dalloway performs the
usual hostess preparations she encounters people who cause her to review her
life. Mrs. Dalloway is not upset with
her choices, but rather is more reflective of the alternate roads she could
have taken. Also during the course of
the day other characters are introduced whose lives tangentially intersect with
Clarissa’s. The most prominent of these
being Septimus Warren Smith, a World War I veteran, who suffers from what was
then known as “shell shock.”
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was
a structurally challenging read for me because there are no chapters and most
of the action occurs in the characters’ thoughts. Still I persevered on, because the writing
was rich and profound. Mrs. Dalloway
Woolf touches on the big questions: death, religion, mental illness and the meaning
of life. I also enjoyed the symbolism throughout
the novel. For example, when Mrs.
Dalloway meets her first love, Peter Walsh, for the first time in decades they
are both armed with sharp objects: she with her sewing scissors and he with his
ever present pocketknife. Try pondering
that scene for awhile to see what it means.
Moreover, I really liked the heroine Clarissa Dalloway who was a no-nonsense
woman who simply enjoyed life with no apologies.
If you’re up for a challenging,
reflective read then Mrs. Dalloway is a perfect tome!
I'm a reader/commuter in the DC Metro Area. My daily commute to work provides me with ample time to do what I love most: read! Whether its chick lit, literature, memoirs or other non fiction you can always find me with a book.
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