Mrs. Dalloway

The Changing Society of Mrs. Dalloway

What is the novel about?

"Mrs Dalloway" is a novel so rich and complex in its imagery, and the issues to which it gives rise are so many and so varied, that to assign one distinctly defined meaning to it, as one might for a Victorian or Edwardian novel, is to miss the point of Woolf's style. Woolf was adamant that the literary conventions of her Edwardian predecessors, such as reliance on material evidence and external fact, had been rendered obsolete by the radical changes in society following the War: 'For us,' she asserted, 'those conventions are ruin, those tools are death.' The novel is a consciously intellectual piece of writing: Woolf was throwing down the gauntlet to the critics of the day who, like the characters in the book, were reluctant to admit to themselves that society had changed. On 18th February 1922 she writes in her Diary, 'I'm to write what I like; and they're to say what they like' : this attitude to life is apparent throughout the novel, presented as an ideal in the figure of Sally Seton.

Woolf's portrayal of time in Mrs. Dalloway is key to this idea of change following the War: it is always characterised in an oppressive light, beginning in the first...

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