On this day, in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was published. Mrs. Dalloway may be best known for Woolf’s use of stream-of-consciousness narrative, and it’s considered one of the best works of the author. To celebrate the publication of this seminal novel, here are five facts you might not know about it.
1. It was originally titled “The Hours”
The novel takes place during a single day, and it’s structured not by chapters, but by 12 section breaks that symbolize each hour. Woolf wanted to bring attention to this fact with the title The Hours, but at the end, she decided to name it after the main character, Mrs. Dalloway.
2. It was inspired by Ulysses
Woolf, despite writing that the James Joyce novel was “an illiterate, underbred book,” took inspiration from it to write Mrs. Dalloway. Both novels use the stream-of-consciousness narrative style, both are set during a single day, and both follow two main characters.
3. The main character is based on a real person
Clarissa, or Mrs. Dalloway, was based on Woolf’s childhood friend, Kitty Maxse. Kitty grew up to be a “proper” society woman and have a very prominent husband, but she died in 1922, just as Woolf began writing the novel, by falling over a staircase banister, something Woolf speculated whether or not it was an accident.
4. Clarissa was to die at the end
When first writing the novel, Woolf was planning for Mrs. Dalloway to die at the end of the twelve hours, mirroring how Kitty died in real life. In the end, she created the character of Septimus, a war veteran suffering from PTSD, to act as a double for Clarissa. About that, Woolf wrote, “I adumbrate here a study of insanity and suicide; the world seen by the sane and the insane side by side—something like that.”
5. Woolf drew more of her life into the novel
Apart from basing the main character on someone she knew from real life, Woolf based a lot of the novel on her own life too. In the novel, Clarissa recalls being in love with another girl, Sally Seton. This is based on Virginia’s own romance with Madge Symonds Vaughan. The character of Septimus is also based on herself. Like Virginia Woolf, Septimus suffers a lot from his mental health and the prejudices that doctors had against people with mental illnesses at the time. And like Woolf, Septimus hallucinates that birds are singing in Greek.
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