“She was at her worst- effusive, insincere. It was a great mistake to have come. He should have stayed at home and read his book, thought Peter Walsh; should have gone to a music hall; he should have stayed at home, for he knew no one. Oh dear, it was going to be a failure; a complete failure, Clarissa felt it in her bones as dear old Lord Lexham stood there apologising for his wife who had caught cold at the Buckingham Palace garden party. She could see Peter out of the tail of her eye, criticising her, there, in that corner.”
Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway (pg. 163)
This passage shows how two people can interpret things from one another and communicate without speaking, and how those inferences may be incorrect. By putting Peter and Clarissa’s inner thoughts back to back it shows more clearly how much they are in their own heads, and how their insecurities and fears affect their connections with others. Also, their strong connection with each other is apparent in their inner thoughts- Peter notices how Clarissa seems insincere, and Clarissa notices how Peter seems to criticize her without even speaking to one another.
“Once you stumble, Septimus wrote on the back of a postcard, human nature is on you. Holmes is on you. Their only chance was to escape, without letting Holmes knowl to Italy— anywhere, anywhere, away from Dr. Holmes” (pg. 90).
This passage shows the clear difference between Septimus and Dr. Holmes in terms of mental health. Woolf wants us to see how afraid Septimus is of the world, while also showing how out of touch people can be about mental health if they haven’t experienced it themselves. You can’t make a mistake or be weak without people putting pressure on you to be better.
“And her old Uncle William used to say a lady is known by her shoes and her gloves. He had turned on his bed one morning in the middle of the War. He had said, “I have had enough.” Gloves and shoes; she had a passion for gloves; but her own daughter, her Elizabeth, cared not a straw for either of them.”
– Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 8 (from a Feedbooks scan)
This shows the way Clarissa thinks while with herself, thinking back to her old Uncle while looking at gloves in a store. There’s also a link to her daughter, who gets introduced through this memory, which shows how the people she thinks about may be important.
“Though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the anguish; and then the horror of the moment when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India! Never should she forget all that! Cold, heartless, a prude, he called her. Never could she understand how he cared”
p. 10, Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Penguin Classics, 2020.
I love the fact that Woolf uses feelings, emotions and paraphrased fractions of speech to describe memories instead of the typical use of sensory descriptors. It really gives better insight into the characters themselves and humanizing them, while keeping the narrative more personal.
“She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now. . . this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.” Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf, p. 10
We can see Mrs. Dalloway/Clarissa’s internal narration show her struggles with identity. Specifically, she questions her identity in relation to her marriage. Who is she now that she is married to Richard? What parts of her identity survived marriage? What makes her Clarissa, as opposed to Mrs. Dalloway? I hope to see more tug-of-war between those two identities as the book progresses.