Mrs. Dalloway

Struggles with Time in Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is a novel about time: its quality, its depth, and its composition. Woolf conveys the complexity of time by drawing attention to her characters’ unique struggles to create meaning for themselves within the confines of passing time. The entire novel takes place within one day, lengthening the experience of time, and exploring time below its ordinary surface of passing events. Ricoeur characterizes the dimensions of time Woolf’s novel as follows: monumental time is the time of history, and it is determined by “figures of authority and power;” characters in the novel experience a constantly advancing “clock time” through their individual actions (buying flowers, walking in the park); and individual reflection burrows below time’s surface, investigating its depths through “ample excursions into the past.” These dimensions render a vision of time as a fabric, woven by those strings of personal experience (Ricoeur’s “clock time”), individual reflection, and memory, and held together by the monumental time to which all of Woolf’s characters must conform. There is no single experience of time in Mrs. Dalloway; instead, the multiple dimensions of time to which Woolf exposes the reader interact with each...

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