Mrs. Dalloway

Sound and Time in Mrs. Dalloway

Elsewhere some Hindus were drumming - he knew they were Hindus, because the rhythm was uncongenial to him. (E.M. Forster, A Passage to India)

While writing and revising Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf was corresponding with E.M. Forster, who was working on A Passage to India. In September of 1921, she records in her diary: "A letter from Morgan [Forster] this morning. He seems as critical of the East as of Bloomsbury, & sits dressed in a turban watching his Prince dance" (Diary 2.138). His novel came out well before she finished hers; she read it and noted, "Morgan is too restrained in his new book perhaps" (Diary 2.304). A note of the Anglo-Indian society that dominates A Passage to India resonates in Mrs. Dalloway's background, sounded in part by the returning Indian traveler, Peter Walsh, but also heard and overheard in conversations and oblique references scattered throughout the narrative. Reinforcing its literal presence in the novel, an echo of India appears in Mrs. Dalloway's narrative rhythms. Like the intricate percussion of the Indian tabla, the fabric of Woolf's narrative comprises a polyrhythmic texture that subtly undermines London's booming metronome: Big Ben.

The beautiful and...

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