Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway takes place in one day’s time and follows the life of Clarrisa Dalloway, an upper-class woman. Alongside Clarrisa, this novel also shows the day shared by Septimus Warren Smith, a World War I veteran, and his wife, Lucrezia Warren Smith.
What I liked most about Woolf’s best-known novel is how seemingly normal it appears before you got further into it. That’s what happens with the novels of the every day; they mirror similar days to our own. We don’t start our days off with chaos, it will usually develop as the hours pass, just as it does in this novel.
Reading this novel was my first taste of parallel storylines and a plot limited to a one day time frame; feminine disappointment I am all too familiar with.
Here are a few books that share similar main themes to Mrs. Dalloway.
Middlemarch by George Elliot shares multiple storylines that cross paths like Mrs. Dalloway. As mentioned above, Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith while Middlemarch takes us through four plots; the life of Dorothea Brooke, the career of Tertius Lydgate, the relationship between Mary Garth and Fred Vincy, and the dishonor of Nicholas Bulstrode.
Stories with parallel storylines can be hard to follow because there are a lot of characters and events to keep track of; they are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, if I can entice you at all with this style of writing, I will say the best part is seeing how the storylines nestle together. I love when they overlap and moments from one plot coincide with the other. It is very Bridgerton-esque if you will.
Passage of Time
Ulysses by James Joyce might be one of the most obvious books to include, but it captures the same flow of time perfectly. Just like Mrs. Dalloway, Ulysses is the story of one day’s time. James Joyce takes us through Leopold Bloom’s June 16th, an ordinary summer day in 1904 Dublin.
There is something unique about a story that takes place in only the span of a day. It can leave you questioning the before and after and the history of these characters. However, it also leaves you with a little bit of satisfaction; you get a sneak peek into the lives of characters that may mirror a life similar to our own. I enjoy reading books about the everyday because it solidifies that we are all just trying to get by day by day and that some book characters are not much different than us.
This might be my favorite theme in both Mrs. Dalloway and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Feminine rage, feminine power – all of these ways to express the feminine being amaze me. What I enjoy even more is watching these emotions be carried out by women in a time period of oppression; I want to know how they feel! I desperately crave to know what goes on in the minds of women when they are forced to be these perfect wives and ladies.
In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa thinks back to her choice of husband, weighing her other options. She picked stability over the interesting Peter Walsh or Sally Seton (a woman she could never have married during the time period).
During the course of the book, we see her struggle with her happiness. Madame Bovary also shows a woman struggling for her happiness within a marriage. She is much more dramatic and tortured by her marriage and the life that comes with it. Emma Bovary dreams of a life far bigger than the one she has and chooses many avenues to try and make it more interesting for herself. I don’t agree with her choices but, as a woman, she does not have many options for happiness as a housewife. While Clarissa is a woman from 1925’s post World War II England and Emma Bovary is the wife of a doctor in 1857 France, their feminine disappointment and lack of choice are evident.
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