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Writing Style of Virginia Woolf in Mrs.

Dalloway

Born as Adeline Virginia Stephen, Virginia Woolf was known as a modern, feminist novelist for
her defiant writing style. She deliberately challenged traditional methods of writing in a genius,
innovative way. Mrs. Dalloway, one of Virgina Woolf's most well known works, is written in an
unconventional style where many important themes and ideas are presented. Virgina Woolf was
suicidal for most of her life and her thoughts on life and death are eluded to in her novels,
especially Mrs. Dalloway. For example, Septimus Warren Smith's thoughts of suicide can be
directly linked to the thoughts Woolf had on the topic. Furthermore, his actual act of committing
suicide is a reflection of Woolf's many failed attempts (she tried to throw herself out of a window
like her character Septimus did)-- she succeeded in the end, however.
Virginia Woolf writes Mrs. Dalloway in the format of a continuous stream of consciousness. The
characters internally explore many thoughts and their memories constantly shift from past to
present. Woolf enables the readers to understand the characters through this style of writing.
Through this continuous stream of thought, we are able to see the point of view of several of the
characters instead of just one. This way, more of their personalities are revealed and their inner
emotions on certain topics are exposed. Readers are also able to predict how the characters will
react in different situations. Because the story is not told in only one omniscient point of view,
readers cannot form a biased opinion on the other characters. We are exposed to these continuous
thoughts from the beginning of the novel when Clarissa Dalloway is buying flowers. Her
thoughts vary from childhood memories to memories about Peter Walsh to thoughts on death. (3-
9)
We see this stream of consciousness in other characters as well. For example, we are able to
enter Septimus Warren Smith's mind many times throughout the novel. Though Septimus is
insane, he has many interesting, insightful thoughts about society, the world, life, death, etc.
These opinions are presented as ludicrous, but they have a deeper meaning to them. When a car
backfires in the beginning of the novel, readers delve into Septimus' mind. He thinks he is
connected to trees and that they should be preserved. He goes on to think that he sees his friend,
Evans, but Evans is dead. He then believes that the world is going to burst into flames. (14-15,
24-25). Later on in the story, we are exposed to Septimus' thoughts once again moments before
his suicide. We can get a sense of fear and panic from Septimus' scrambled and frantic thoughts
just before he kills himself. (149)
By using this stream of consciousness method, Woolf is able to shift the point of view at any
point in the novel. For example, when Peter leaves Clarissa's house and is in Regent's Park, he
thinks about the past and his love for Clarissa. He is wondering if he is truly in love with Daisy
when he hears an old woman singing a song. This evokes pity out of Peter.(80) The point of view
suddenly changes to that of Rezia, who seems to also feel sympathy for the woman. Then she
begins to think about Septimus and his illness.(82) Again, the point of view shifts, this time to a
removed narrator. Through this unknown individual, we are able to see the Smiths cross the
street and are permitted to see Septimus' past and how he got to his present state. After this bit of
information, the point of view is once again changed to Mr. Brewer, Septimus' boss. He goes
into Septimus' past and remembers the potential that he once had. (85)
Woolf utilized this method of writing in a way that portray the story as web-like. All of these
characters are connected in some way, either through physical confrontation, their past, or
through their memories. Because the characters' point of views are mostly thoughts and
memories, and because they are constantly shifting, the past and present frequently overlaps. As
a result, these characters get entwined in each other's lives either in their former lives or their
present ones. This is seen when Hugh Whitbread, Richard Dalloway, and Lady Bruton meet for
lunch, “Peter Walsh! All three, Lady Bruton, Hugh Whitbread, and Richard Dalloway,
remembered the same thing-- how passionately Peter had been in love; been rejected; gone to
India; come a cropper; made a mess of things; and Richard Dalloway had a very great liking for
the dear old fellow too.” (107) They are all connected through their past here, as well as their
present because they are physically all in one place at once. Another example is when Peter and
Clarissa physically meet (40) but are also connected through their past. We see their past
connection throughout the novel, such as when Peter recalls the night Clarissa rejected him.(64 )
Other characters are also connected, such as Rezia and Peter in the park as they think almost the
same thoughts! (64-65)
The structure of Mrs. Dalloway is complex and purely brilliant. Most of the novel is composed
of the thoughts of the characters. Virginia Woolf creates a web of characters that continue to
affect each other every day of their lives, such like a ripple effect. Each ripple spread and
eventually touches off another one, as the characters do. Like a web, the characters are entangled
into each other's lives through their memories and pasts and continue to be in their present lives.
Furthermore, all of the characters thoughts are shown to the readers and the point of view is
constantly shifting. Not only are these three elements of the novel genius in themselves, but the
whole novel takes place in one day!