Mrs. Dalloway

Privacy of the Soul and Communication in Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway is known for its flowing, stream-of-consciousness narrative form that connects external events and the thoughts of all of the characters. Ironically, one of the novel’s most prominent themes is that of individuals struggling with privacy of the soul. In particular, the main characters Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith serve as opposing yet connected personas that typify and develop the constant conflict between privacy and communication.

On an exterior level, Clarissa and Septimus have many distinctive traits, including gender, social class, and level of sanity. Clarissa is an older, upper-class woman struggling to maintain her private emotions while interacting reasonably with those around her. While contemplating how she interacts with others, Clarissa reflects that she “had tried to be the same always, never showing a sign of all the other sides of her- faults, jealousies, vanities, suspicions” (37). However, earlier she notes that “she had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown… not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (10-11). The contrast between these two statements manifests Clarissa’s struggle between protecting the intimacy of her...

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