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Written by Shirley Marina
Virginia Woolf is the main character in the book primarily because she is the reason for the book. Without her creation of Mrs Dalloway, the other characters would not have come to life on the page and their lives stem from her fictional creation. Virginia Woolf and her husband are the only real-life characters in the novel. We meet her as she struggles with depression and with a writer's block and it is hard to tell which precipitated the other. She is uncomfortable living in the suburbs and misses London. She resents the fact that her husband forced her to live out of the city and seems to feel watched and governed by him too much. She is also starting to explore the idea of suicide but is hiding from it by considering it as an option for her characters and trying to understand what makes a person reach the point where they want to kill themselves. Eventually she does commit suicide and this is the culmination of the escalation of her emotional problems and her increased comfort level with the idea of ending her own life.
Clarissa is the most contemporary character in the novel. She is an accomplished woman in her professional life and this is not mirrored in her private life. Her ex-husband is dying of AIDS and they remain best friends; she suffers under the weight of his daily decline. Her marriage was not only a shield for her husband's sexuality but also for hers as well. Now she is living with her girlfriend, Sally, but aside from the less-traditional relationship in terms of it being a same-sex union, she is shockingly domestic and plays the stereotypical housewife role so well that she shocks herself. Her daughter is a combative girl and also disappointed in he mother's seemingly bourgeoise existence. Clarissa is the least suicidal character but the theme of suicide touches her through Richard.
Laura is a bored housewife and a prisoner of the time she lives in. She married her husband out of duty more than love; it is just after the end of the World War Two and she is constrained by the social limitations placed on women. She is a perfectionist in a world where nothing that she does needs to be perfect, for example, she makes a birthday cake for her husband but is not satisfied with it and has nothing else in her day to deflect her attention from it. She ends up making a second cake. She is only fulfilled when living vicariously through the characters in books and when we meet her she is reading "Mrs Dalloway". She considers whether or not she could ever kill herself and realizes that although she would like to escape from her mundane life she doesn't want to escape life in general and could never commit suicide. She is the link between her era and Clarissa's as her little boy, Richie, grows up to become Richard, Clarissa's ex husband.
Leonard is Virginia's husband and although appears to be the tired and embattled husband of a histrionic and highly-strung artist is actually rather controlling. He is the driving force behind his wife's literary career as he founded the publishing company that self-publishes her work. He seems concerned about her madness but frightened of harnessing it in case it also damages her creativity.
Richard is the only character whom we meet twice in the novel; as Laura Brown's child he is the kid on the sidelines of an I satisfying marriage. As an adult he is a gay man hiding his sexuality in a heterosexual marriage to his best friend. Seemingly coping well with his illness at the start of the novel he unravels quickly emotionally as his body declines. The slow death he is experiencing prompts him to kill himself.
Sally is Clarissa's lover and is also like the typical partner in a traditional heterosexual marriage who is so busy with their life outside the partnership that they isolate their partner. Sally is this person because she is captivated and a little star struck by her actor and producer friends and without meaning to leaves Clarissa out a lot. She is not deliberately doing this though and when she realizes what she is doing tried to make up for it, for example buying flowers in the way home to show Clarissa that she was thinking about her.
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