Synopsis: On a Wednesday in June 1923, Clarissa decides to throw a party for tonight itself,but meanwhile,Woolf takes us through the lives of various characters for that day alone.As time goes by and as the party closes in, two seemingly different storylines start interweaving with each other.
What you will like in ‘Mrs Dalloway’:
1.The freshness and originality.
Although written in 1925,‘Mrs Dalloway’ remains a unique novel to this day. Woolf masters the stream of consciousness like no one else,and the way she uses two modern pieces of technology of the 19th century-the car and the aeroplane-to foreshadow the prevalent theme is baffling.But ‘Mrs Dalloway’ isn’t only a work showcasing Woolf’s technical genius.Indeed,the stream of consciousness also serves to provide us with a new way to read a book,for it allows us to get incredibly intimate with the characters.In addition,the author explores some themes seldom seen in classics,like madness ,homosexuality,atheism and suicide.Even the way the book makes you laugh is different from those of other novels!On the whole,‘Mrs Dalloway’ is truly one of its kind.
The theme of misjudgment is prevalent in the book as the characters often mistake appearance for reality.Therein lies the humour of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ ; all too often characters have the wrong impression of one another,for at various points in the story they are way off the mark when trying to figure out what others are going through.Moreover,we can’t help but love Woolf’s sardonicism!She knows how to place gibes intended for the aristocrats: ”Sitting at little tables round vases….with their air of false composure,for they were not used to so many courses at dinner; and confidence,for they were able to pay for it; and strain,for they had been running about London all day shopping,sightseeing”. Subtle,intelligent and funny; I love this kind of humour.
3.The philosophical grandeur
Woolf is not a mere writer who experiments with different techniques.Far from it!She is a great philosopher who knows which words best convey our feelings,no matter how abstract they are.So when she talks about atheism,suicide,the burden of life or a lesbian’s own ignorance of her homosexuality, she succeeds at reaching our hearts: her words always hold a certain candidness and so,speak volumes about how people really feel.
My Folio Edition has 173 pages,so I guess a normal paperback edition must have 200 pages or so.Anyway ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is a little book that is quickly read,especially because every event takes place in a single day.So even if you get a little fed up with the book,you’ll have to bear with it for only a few pages.
What you might dislike in ‘Mrs Dalloway’:
1.The stream of consciousness.
You won’t have any problem with the stream of consciousness per se,but rather with the writing style it imposes on the author.Indeed,this technique doesn’t simply require the author to switch back and forth between the minds of the characters;the author must also write in such a way that she may put in words the flow of things occupying the minds of the characters.Consequently,the whole of the book is filled with this kind of flow,devoid of punctuations and respect of syntax.If you don’t get used with this writing style,you will eventually find the book chaotic!
Chapters are useful to readers in that they serve as landmarks when we want to stop reading a book; it is easy to remember the page at which we stopped and we can easily get back into the story,as a new chapter is always like a fresh start.Thus,the lack of chapters in ‘Mrs Dalloway’ can make your reading of the book a bit tedious,as you don’t know at which page to pause.It is all the more so when you will try to get back into the story which is like a never-ending flow(!);you might have to re-read one or more pages that you’ve already read in order to re-freshen your mind.
The story takes place in one day only,and there is barely any excitement,if not for one event.So,if one doesn’t fancy novel techniques,psychology,intelligent yet subtle humour or philosophy,it is highly likely that he won’t like the book.Don’t expect any plot twists,drama or hilariousness!
Verdict: I really liked the book but won’t advise everyone to read it,for it is a far cry from any other novel.Some of its quotes totally define what we feel about certain issues in life,and the way Woolf makes her stream of consciousness serve different functions is very impressive.All in all,the book’s beauty lies more in its features than in its plot.So,if you don’t wish to read a strenuous book,‘Mrs Dalloway’ might not be for you.You may come back to it when you have nothing else to read.
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