Mrs. Dalloway

book by Virginia Woolf

annotation by LeVan D. Hawkins

This book examines a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway and all the characters who intersect her life emotionally and physically, as she prepares for a party. The reader is allowed access to the inner thoughts of the pivotal characters surrounding Mrs. Dalloway which creates back story and motivation for the current tensions that underlie the story.

Woolf uses inner monologues to reveal her characters’ personalities and their thoughts on the others who cross their paths. The reader is also privy to their histories with the others and how their relationships overlap. This information adds an additional level of conflict and texture to the story. Linking the stories together is a narrator whose voice and tone reflects Mrs. Dalloway’s: upper-class, feminine, gossipy and slightly superficial and materialistic. This voice segues to a narrator voice reflecting whatever character has transformed into the active character at that moment. Eventually, the narrative voice reflects the inner life of that character until it gradually returns to the dominant narrative voice of the voice resembling Mrs. Dalloway.

Woolf uses a variety of techniques though there is rarely any doubt when the shift is occurring – She is very deliberate and forceful in her approach. Among the ways she makes her transitional shifts: physical and local similarities, dialogue transitions, location changes, changes in narrative voice, inner monologues and often, simply by mentioning location and names. Her approach has taught me I need to be more definitive and detailed when I am changing time and location and that there are many approaches I can use.


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