What? Why?

If she worried about these parties he would not let her give them. Did she wish she had married Peter? But he must go.

He must be off, he said, getting up. But he stood for a moment as if he were about to say something; and she wondered what? Why? There were the roses

-Woolf, Mrs.Dalloway, 116

Here we see some tension between Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway because of the lack of verbal communication between the two. I also find it interesting how Richard goes from one thought about the party and then immediately to thinking about Peter, even though Clarissa has given him no reason to think that.


Failures of Communication

“But Rezia could not understand him. Dr. Holmes was such a kind man. He was so interested in Septimus. He only wanted to help them, he said. He had four little children and he had asked her to tea, she told Septimus.

So he was deserted. The whole world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes.” (90)

Rezia and Septimus share the narration in these lines, but they fundamentally overlook each other’s perspectives. To Rezia, Dr. Holmes is a kind man who wants to help Septimus; Septimus evidently doesn’t feel the same way. The reporting verbs in the excerpt also keep Dr. Holmes and in the next line, Rezia, at a distance, separate from Septimus’ own thoughts and beliefs which are conveyed through free indirect discourse. In the passage, many people are talking to Septimus – Rezia, Dr. Holmes, the world – but none truly reach him.

Connected Pieces


“a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him…But with Peter everything had to be shared; everything gone into. …And it was intolerable and when it came to that scene in the little garden by the fountain, she had to break with him or they would have been destroyed, both of them ruined, she was convinced; 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 movement when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India!” (Woolf 10).

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway (pp. 10) (passage  originally selected by tangled_yarn)

I found the considerable amount of semi colons in this passage interesting as they do not divide two complete sentences, but instead connect various pieces of Clarissa Dalloway’s memories. As a result, the audience experiences a version of her memories that is more personal and authentic than a simple retelling of events.

Old Uncle William

“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.

Mrs. Dalloway’s Question of Identity

“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.