The Importance of Time in Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway".

4013 Words Jun 26th, 2003 17 Pages
Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway is a modernist novel, which shows new techniques to express a different point of view with regard to the notion of time. It is not without importance to note that the novel has no chapter headings. Nevertheless it is immediately obvious that the interest of the novel is not only in the form but also in the content. The action takes place in a single day of June in 1923 and what is interesting in the structure of the book is that simultaneously with the story of this single day, time is constantly flowing from present to past or to future. These flashbacks constitute the major psychological moments of the novel, most of them being represented by the stream of consciousness technique. This essay will explain how …show more content…
(p.3; my emphasis)

In a manner that she will sustain throughout the novel, the narrator conveys memory and present action to us simultaneously and ambiguously. "Which she could hear now" refers, ostensibly, to the squeak of the hinges at Bourton in Clarissa's memory. Yet "now" implies the moment of her plunge into the street, suggesting a kind of reverie. The later phrase, "for a girl of eighteen as she then was" is similarly disorienting. It locates the time of Clarissa's bursting open the windows of Bourton, but it also implies that, through her memory, she has become eighteen again. The "then" contrasts with the earlier "now", but neither refers concretely to its own relative time. And finally, Clarissa's thinking of Peter Walsh proves that the flow of thoughts is achronological, because she mixes the vision of him now and as he was thirty years before. Furthermore, she is allusive when she remembers what he said; she is trying to reconstruct the past.

It must be admitted that this kind of memories are almost omnipresent throughout the novel and get mixed up with the present moment. However the most pertinent fact in these memories of Bourton is Clarissa's refusal to marry Peter Walsh. She is constantly thinking of this. In the flow of her thoughts, Clarissa shows the difficulty of this choice: "Now I remember how impossible it was ever to make up my mind - and why did I make up my mind - not to marry him, she wondered, that awful
Open Document