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Mrs. Dalloway
(Virginia Woolf)

Virginia Woolf is a name like James Joyce or Joseph Conrad who are writers with reputations to supply a tough read for their audience, resulting in these names to strike terror in the heart of the average reader. The connection between these writers is their use of the literary technique known as stream of consciousness writing. This technique of narrative results in long sentences and paragraphs that often crash together quick ideas, emotions and plot in unconventional ways that some readers might find difficult, often spoiling their enjoyment of reading. In many cases this technique goes as far as disregarding grammar and sentence structure completely, furthering the implication that these thoughts are being displayed in the same fashion as they are thought - eratic and unconventional. If read with an open mind this technique offers an interesting literary perspective from which to tell a story; as it is being told by giving insights into exactly how the characters feel by showing rather than telling the reader what is happening. If up for the challenge, stick with this novel, as the use of this literary technique does prove to be appropriate for Virginia Woolf to tell her story about Mrs. Dalloway.

This novel is a character study of three main figures in early 1920s London. The entire narrative unravels the course of one sunny day in June, as Clarissa Dalloway is making preparations for a party she is giving in the evening. The reader is privy to all of Clarissa's thoughts as the day goes on. Within pages the reader is introduced to an old flame, Peter Walsh, who recently returnes from a long travel through India. These thoughts of Peter provoke memories of her first relationship with a man and though it was Clarissa who denied Peter a relationship, now that he is back, a window has opened in her memory of regret. She looks back on their young relationship and now Peter?s return to look critically at her relationship with her husband. As Clarissa is provoked into thinking about how different her life might have been when Peter appears in her life again, she battles the torment of regret again when Clarissa reunites with her first flame Sally Seton. Thus begins the cycle of relationships that unfold amongst these three characters. Clarissa rejected Peter because he wanted to share a life with Clarissa, a union he only will accept with her equal return of devotion. Clarissa then and now fears sharing herself in total and complete involvement with a man. However Clarissa is found to have the give and take aspect in one relationship, with her mate Sally. In her youth Clarissa gave her soul absolutely and exclusively to Sally and vice versa. When Sally impulsively kissed Clarissa one afternoon, Clarissa did not accept the kiss as an impulsive gesture but as a moment shared between them. Clarissa does not seem to see anything unjust or wrong in this exchange but spends the remainder of the book trying to understand why she cannot have as complete a relationship with a man. When Sally re-appears in Clarissa's life as a mother of four, her persona is contrasted against Clarissa's life into a narrative full of self-examination and assessment.

Some critics have dismissed "Mrs. Dalloway" as the uncontrolled ramblings of a woman who suffers from ill mental health. Quite presumptuous to state, as Woolf was a woman writing about her homoerotic happiness with one flame, while spending the rest of her life unsatisfied with any other. Woolf?s characterization is deep and provocative and if you can stick with it, there is entertainment and much food for thought.

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