“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.”
Mrs Dalloway is a novel that features two main characters and two different worldviews. On the one hand, there is Clarissa Dalloway, who being labelled as Mrs, symbolises her marital and social confinement. On the other, the readers meet Septimus Warren Smith, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The lack of conventionally linear narrative and the stream of consciousness embedded in the text represents the author’s take on the complexities of human existence and the ambiguity of reality. While Septimus appears mad as the war memories are haunting him, Clarissa is assumingly sane, with her existential troubles being centred around the midlife crisis – both, however, share an astute sensibility about societal maladies of post-war Britain. Even though the two characters never meet, they are inextricably connected. The story takes a twist when Clarissa in her quintessential midlife meets her first love, Peter Walsh and Septimus madness takes a dramatic manifestation. Will Clarissa take any steps for the sake of her first love, or will she stay devoted to the societal pressure and her status as a statesman’s wife? What will become of Septimus’ madness?
The novel was developed from Woolf’s earlier short story entitled ‘Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street’. It takes you to the industrialised society, the hustle and bustle of London to represent the surface, the wrapper of modern society. The internal side is represented by ambiguous dark desires and fears of the characters. The passion and dramatic events in this whole novel take place over the course of a single day and the novel has been compared to poetry for being packed with meaning and intensity. How can a day change your whole life, how can a life built for years, crumble in the blink of an eye? This text is an exciting journey in itself with stylistic symbiosis, making it a true modernist classic.