Innovative English writer Virginia Woolf is notably one of the most important modern novelists of the 20th century. The pioneering author introduced blended narration and a stream of consciousness to literature, maybe influenced by James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. Woolf emotes her character’s feelings, thoughts and actions through a string of her most carefully crafted prose. Mrs. Dalloway , one of her best known novels, turns 97 today. We’re honoring the publishing date of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway by exploring the novel’s themes and tropes, Woolf’s journey as a writer, and some of her most relatable quotes.
The Mind of Mrs. Dalloway
First published on May 14, 1925, Mrs. Dalloway explores a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class woman in post–First World War England who married a Parliament member. While the novel isn’t very plot-heavy, the pleasure of reading it comes in the form of the character’s stream of consciousness. Woolf reveals the intimate thoughts of her characters by inviting her readers into their minds. She intertwines multiple stories at once as we move through each scene. The narrative follows Clarissa as she prepares a party for her friends and neighbors and a mentally damaged war veteran named Septimus Warren Smith.
On the surface, Mrs. Dalloway looks put together most traditionally. However, as we are transported to her thoughts, we see that is not the case. Her mind wanders to the past. She then reminisces on the romantic loves of her youth, her realistic choice of husband, and the time frame of war. While faced with the realities of her present life, Mrs. Dalloway can’t help but feel what is lost when one grows older. She imagines what life would be like if she had chosen differently and stopped repressing herself from desires to conform to modern society. Through her stream of consciousness, we become more self-aware, as does she, about what she really wanted out of life. While our bodies stay still, it is the mind that wanders. Woolf’s novel explores these various themes of time, society, class, repression, isolation, anxiety, death, etc.
The most important takeaway that I’ve gotten from this novel is that life can’t be lived inside our heads. We are our most authentic selves in our minds, but we forget or are afraid to live it outside in the real world. We become too wrapped up in the pressures and expectations of society that we forget how important it is to put our minds into action. Woolf’s ability to depict the fear of life by wasting it in our minds through a stream of consciousness writing style makes her one of the most incredible authors of the 20th century.
Pioneering Author Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf, also known as Adeline Virginia Stephen, was born January 25, 1882 in London, England. Although best known for her creative influences on literary fiction, Woolf also wrote essays on artistic theory, literary history, and women’s writing. During her time, Virginia Woolf used unique metaphors to convey social injustices, women’s lack of or non-existent freedom of expression and the classist limitations of writing. Woolf’s literary work has been studied for decades, and the importance of her words have never lost their value.
Virginia Woolf has written various novels that have granted her the title of pioneering author. In addition to Mrs. Dalloway, she wrote the novels To the Lighthouse, The Voyage Out, Jacob’s Room, Orlando, The Waves and the essay, “A Room of One’s Own.” The prolific writer also dipped her pen into biographical writing, short fiction stories and sent a lifetime worth of letters to family and friends. At the very heart, Virginia Woolf was a writer through and through. Her impact will live on for as long as the mind wanders.
Even Virginia Woolf read books simultaneously to keep the mind at ease.
“I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time.”Virginia Woolf
A Gift For Centuries
The beloved Virginia Woolf gifted us with one of the most extraordinary novels in literary fiction history. Mrs. Dalloway is a staple of modern literature from the 20th century and has since become a favorite classic. Nothing will prepare you for the multitude of literary craft that this book contains in storytelling and narration. Celebrate the 97-year-old novel Mrs. Dalloway by picking up a copy, rereading the book, or reminiscing on the great writer herself, Virginia Woolf.
If you’re looking for more about Virginia Woolf, keep reading here.