Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway is one of Virginia Woolf's masterpieces and her first novel published in 1925. Some people would say this is one of the best novels through twentieth century. This novel is a depiction of a day for the party of Clarissa Dalloway on a day in June, 1923, in London. Woolf depicted stream of consciousness of Clarissa and some characters with contiguous sentences such as flowing water. Therefore, it is very difficult for English learners to understand. I managed to read this with using the Japanese version together.

This novel begins with "Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."
The visit of Peter Walsh who is her old friend and has returned from India leads them to their youth. Once Walsh loved her and there was another friend, Sally. Clarissa learned sex and society from Sally who was her old girlfriend with homosexual feeling. Clarissa eventually refused Walsh's love and married the reliable Richard. Walsh despaired and went to India.

Miss Kilman is Elizabeth's history teacher. She is a dedicated Christian and pities herself as a poor unfortunate. She dislikes the bright Clarissa as an atheist. Woolf put Miss Kilman as a contrasting character against Clarissa.

The story of Septimus Warren Smith is another one. He volunteered and went to battle in World War I. He loved his homosexual friend Evans. After Evans died in the war, Septimus suffers from shell shock and lost his emotion and sense of reality. Septimus often says to himself he will kill himself or talks to Evans in the wall. His 24-year-old Italian wife Rezia is only bewildered. Septimus commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

Clarissa and Septimus don't know each other, but Woolf herself wrote that Septimus is the shadow of Clarissa.

She had once thrown a shilling into the Serpentine, never anything more. But he had flung it away. They went on living ・・・. They would grow old. A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate, people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded; one was alone. There was an embrace in death.
 But this young man who had killed himself -- had he plunged holding his treasure?

This novel was not only difficult but also bitter for me. I felt as if Peter Walsh and Septimus, even Miss Kilman, were my shadows. If you feel sympathy for Clarissa, I think you must be a fascinating woman. I guess that Clarissa's enthusiasm for the party is the metaphor of her longing for life, which is with the temptation for death at an instant. I would say that this book is about life, death and love.

In 1941, leaving her brief suicide note for her husband and sister, Woolf herself committed suicide by drowning herself into nearby river in order to get rid of her depression.


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