Perception Is Reality in Mrs. Dalloway
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Perception is Reality in Mrs. Dalloway
Although the entire novel tells of only one day, Virginia Woolf covers a lifetime in her enlightening novel of the mystery of the human personality. The delicate Clarissa Dalloway, a disciplined English lady, provides the perfect contrast to Septimus Warren Smith, an insane ex-soldier living in chaos. Even though the two never meet, these two correspond in that they strive to maintain possession of themselves, of their souls. On this Wednesday in June of 1923, as Clarissa prepares for her party that night, events during the day trigger memories and recollections of her past, and Woolf offers these bits to the reader, who must then form the psychological and emotional make-up of Mrs. Dalloway in his/her own mind. The reader also learns of Clarissa Dalloway through the thoughts of other characters, such as her old passion Peter Walsh, her husband Richard, and her daughter Elizabeth. Septimus Warren Smith, driven insane by witnessing the death of his friend in the war, acts as Clarissas societal antithesis; however, the reader learns that they often are more similar than different. Thus, Virginia Woolf examines the human personality in two distinct methods: she observes that different aspects of ones personality emerge in front of different people; also, she analyzes how the appearance of a person and the reality of that person diverge. By offering the personality in all its varying forms, Woolf demonstrates the compound nature of humans.

As an extremely unconventional novel, Mrs. Dalloway poses a challenge for many avid readers; Woolf doesnt separate her novel into chapters, almost all the “action” occurs in the thoughts of characters, and, the reader must piece together the story from random bits and pieces of information that Woolf provides. Thus, the complexity of the characters may add to the frustration, because Woolf makes it difficult to receive any single dominant impression of any of the characters. This fact, that no character leaves any distinct predominant impression upon the reader, forms the essence of my understanding of Woolfs novel; I believe that she displays her characters in one of the two methods discussed above to show that no human being can be denoted by a few words or phrases because of his/her several sides. To demonstrate this complexity, she consistently contrasts and compares the beliefs, emotions, and personalities of her different characters.

The personality of Sally Seton, one of Clarissas closest friends, varies depending on whom she is with. Woolf reveals Sally from Peters thoughts as well as those of Clarissa. Although both recognize her fundamental character, each views Sally differently. To Clarissa, Sally is the admirable rebel who did the unexpected, and all of her memories of Sally reflect this: Sally broke all the rules, sat on the floor, propped up her knees, smoked cigars, and once, even ran unclothed out of the bathroom to fetch something. On the other hand, Peter, who discerns Sallys impulsiveness, still remembers her as the girl who acted as his link to Clarissa when he loved her. She consoled his aching heart, offered support, and befriended him in his worst hour. So Sally Seton is not just a mischievous rebel, as Clarissa sees her, or a considerate friend, but a combination of these two qualities as well as numerous others.

Throughout the novel, the reader subconsciously drives Peter and Richard against each other because these are the two most significant love interests in Clarissas life. Whenever Clarissa recalls her decision to marry Richard over Peter, she points out differences in their personalities, and so Woolf generally presents these two men as converses. Compared to Peter Walsh, Richard Dalloway seems a reserved and bashful individual. Unlike Peter, Richard doesnt expect Clarissa to concede her intimacy to him, and so he seems extremely timid because of his less demanding nature. Not extremely sheepish at all, Richard nevertheless appears this way for a long part of the novel because Woolf indirectly forces the comparison of Richard with the more fantastic Peter. However, the personality of Richard alters when Woolf presents his relationship with Clarissa. Suddenly, he appears much less inhibited. True, Richards insecure nature emerges here, too, when he chooses mere flowers as a gift for Clarissa instead of a more personal token of his love. Even though he planned to tell his wife, “I love you,” he offers the flowers without a word, afraid to be natural and impetuous because of the hesitancy about daring to love one another that he and Clarissa share. Still, Richard seems a different person in his relationship with his wife than with Peter. Now, he appears more of the strong, silent type as opposed to just the silent type.

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Virginia Woolf And Delicate Clarissa Dalloway. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from