Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway (1925)


Virginia Woolf: (1882-1941)


     Born into an intellectually gifted family.

     Considered one of the best of the Modernist writers.

     Married Leonard Woolf, novelist and publishing entrepreneur.  Together, they scouted great unknown talents like T.S. Eliot, and Katherine Mansfield. 

     Troubled by mental instability for most of her life, and suffered from manic-depression. Went through 3 nervous breakdowns. (following the deaths of her mother then sister)

     On 28 March 1941, Woolf drowned herself by weighing her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse near her home.


Mrs. Dalloway (1925):

     Clarissa Dalloway is a woman in her mid-'50s living in London five years after the end of WWI.

     As Mrs. Dalloway prepares an elaborate dinner party at the home she shares with her husband, a prominent politician, she finds herself looking back on her life 30 years before, when as a young woman, she was in love with two different men -- the solid and safe Richard Dalloway and the exciting, free-spirited Peter Walsh.

     Clarissa also recalls her close friendship with Sally as she wonders if she made the right choice in marrying Richard -- especially when Peter makes an unexpected appearance at her party.

     Mrs. Dalloway also finds herself moved in a way she never anticipated by the plight of Septimus Smith, a young man severely injured during the war whom she has never met.


Major Characters:

     Clarissa Dalloway: The protagonist whose point of view is mostly shared by a third person narrator. Cares a lot about social propriety and often questions the meaning of life.

     Septimus Warren Smith: WWI veteran suffering from shell shock. Often seen as Clarissa’s double as he shares many of her views on life. Commits suicide at the end of the novel



     Fear of Death: Thoughts of death lurk constantly beneath the surface of everyday life in Mrs. Dalloway. Though Septimus fears it, he chooses it over living another day.

     Threat of Oppression: Oppression is a constant threat for Clarissa and Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway. It comes in many guises, including religion, science, or social convention. Septimus dies in order to escape social pressure.