Mrs. Dalloway: Modern Fiction in a modern World

Scientific Essay, 2009

17 Pages, Grade: 8 - A


Mrs. Dalloway: Modern Fiction in a Modern World


Márcio Hemerique Pereira

(Department of Arts and Humanities, University of Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal)

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The present essay is an analysis of the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.[1] The novel will be analyzed through a modernist and postmodernist perspective. The presentation of the essay will raise issues and questions regarding the status of representation and issues of the self in the view of Mrs. Dalloway which we will be looking at, closely, through the lens of the modern fiction.[2]

The novel Mrs. Dalloway was published on May 1925 that details one single day of Clarissa Dalloway. The whole novel revolved around the preparation of Mrs. Dalloway for a party, which she was the hostess. The story also revolves around the life of Mrs. Dalloway by presenting facts of her story through reminiscing, and through the thoughts of the characters as they think in and out of their minds. This kind of concept as written by Woolf was effective on describing the role and different characteristics of her characters.

Benjamin in her essay “Towards an Understanding of the Meaning of Virginia Woolf's ‘Mrs. Dalloway’” (1965:214) pinpoints: ‘A hint of the importance of Mrs. Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s literary development reaches us in her statement that she felt “more fully relieved” of her meaning’ than ‘usual and in her disappointment at the review in the Times Literary Supplement, where the critic applied the epithet “experimental” to the very book which Virginia Woolf thought expressed her meaning more than usual.’[3] Mrs. Dalloway, whatever disagreement may exist about its meaning, is a work past the tentative stage implied by the word “experimental” for in this novel and Virginia Woolf ‘was able to find a way of expressing her view of reality and of presenting the complexities of the life of a human being in this reality.’ A special attention to this I shall give further in this essay. I will quote some ideas of different authorities on the subject matter to illustrate my point and the whole referencing is provided in the end of this paper.


It is doubtful whether in the course of the centuries, though we have learnt much about making machines, we have learnt anything about making literature. We do not come to write better; all that we can be said to do is to keep moving, now a little in this direction, now in that, but with a circular tendency should the whole course of the track be viewed from a sufficiently lofty pinnacle.[4]

This is the situation wherein everything revolves as the world turns into modernity leaving the different side of being traditional and less modern. Modern fiction in modern world is a creation of another fact that may have existed or yet to exist in the modern world. Modern fiction is sometimes created through writing and such is called modern writing as Modern writing has a different style from traditional writing. However, Modern writing introduced different set of facts that may be the real feeling of the writer or what may be the belief and opinions of the writer. Ideas infused in that kind of writing are sometimes in abstract form, lyrical way and in any other that confusion may arise.

Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, focuses on a day in the life of one woman and her preparations for a society party, is most often interpreted as a purely ‘domestic,’ novel. In fact, before feminist recuperations of her oeuvre made waves beginning in the early 1970s, Woolf’s novels were valued by many scholars of the Modernist period more for their address of important social and political issues. In the few sentences John Fletcher and Malcolm Bradbury (1978) devote to Woolf in their survey of canonical Modernism, her novels are described as “exploration [s] both of the aesthetic of consciousness and the aesthetics of art” characterized by “a kind of jovous artistic freedom” to focus on “form” (408-09).


[1] Mrs. Dalloway began life as a short story, ‘Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street’ (published in the Dial in 1923), and was drafted under the working title ‘The Hours’. Woolf’s ambition for this work was ‘to give life & death, sanity & insanity; I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work, at its most intense’ (D2:248). During its writing, Woolf conceived of her method as a ‘tunnelling process’ (D2:272). Woolf’s narrative methods are subtle and elliptical, and shift between the two parallel strands, using a number of the day’s passing events held in common as points of transition between them. Her free-indirect technique allows the narrative subtly to shift interior focus between characters, creating a collective discursive continuum. In Jane Goldman, The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp.54).

[2] The impact of this novel has made upon economy, upon writers since 1925, and upon our awareness. The critical material together with this novel explains many of the controversies and uncertainty of meanings that surround and permeate the novel, but they also make us comprehend something of the dialogue that has been inspired by and attract to Virginia Woolf: her life, works, and may be particularly by Mrs. Dalloway. No novel is on perfection in true sense, but some historical books make us to think over it. Perhaps in that, the novel explores us more related to ourselves than about itself. In the 1928 edition of Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf offers the new edition with this extensive introduction: "Of Mrs. Dalloway then reader can only bring light towards the moments a few scrap, of little importance or none perhaps... Such scraps opportunities are offered humbly to the reader in the real and meaningful hope that likes other odds and ends they may come in useful."

[3] A Writer’s Diary (London, 1953), p.66; TLS, May 21, 1925, p.349.

[4] The Common Reader (New York, 1948), p. 218 in the essay Modern Fiction.

Excerpt out of 17 pages


Mrs. Dalloway: Modern Fiction in a modern World
University of Minho  (Arts and Humanities)
MA in English Studies
8 - A
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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560 KB
Dalloway, Modern, Fiction, World
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MA Marcio Hemerique Pereira (Author), 2009, Mrs. Dalloway: Modern Fiction in a modern World, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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