The novel marks the transition to the new technique.
The novel is set in London, on a mid-June day in 1923 and develops in a period of 12 hours. There is no real plot but the writer describes the characters’ memories, impressions, considerations about past and present situations.
PLOT su fotocopia
The novel is not divided into chapters, but sometimes there are spaces to divide different mental moments. She didn’t divide the novel into chapters because this would mean breaking the continuity of time, but the mental process has no division, our thoughts flow constantly without interruptions.
The external time is given to the reader by the chiming of the Big Ben close to Clarissa’s house. On the other hand, this real time is extended through the use of flashbacks, which the writer uses to illustrate the link between the main characters and the life-determining consequences that the summers they shared together had on their lives.
NEW CONCEPT OF TIME
The novel is characterized by an innovative use of fictional time which is split into two:
- time of external events which covers a short time of 12 hours (real time)
- the time of internal events (flux of thoughts) which is dilated, covering past, present, future
The beginning of the novel is a good example of this: as Clarissa walks around London, her physical act of walking is interrupted by her thoughts, that throw her back into the past. It then goes on with an interior monologue that introduces the reader to the main character.
Woolf’s interior monologue is complex and she also uses different techniques, such as free indirect thought, free direct thought, third-person narration from inside the character’s point of view etc.
It is also characterized by the frequent use of repetition and recurrence of key words.
Each character is introduced through his/her own thoughts in order to convey the subjectivity of experience. They’re also described in different ways, depending on whether they are seen from outside (from other characters’ point of view) or from inside.
- Clarissa Dalloway: she is a sensitive woman in her fifties. She is married to Mr. Dalloway, a conservative member of the Parliament. She is described in her many changing moods, but we also see her through the eyes of other characters, such as Peter Walsh (the man she once loved but refused to marry), her old friend Sally Seton, her daughter Elizabeth. Clarissa is characterized by opposing feelings: she needs freedom, but also a social position. She tries to gain the admiration of others giving parties, making her house perfect and trying to become an “ideal human being” (she wants to be perfect). She imposes restrictions on her spontaneous feeling, but she is conscious of her frigidity and her inability to abandon herself.
- Septimus Warren Smith: he is a shell-shocked case. He is an extremely sensitive man who often falls prey to panic and fear, due to the shock of the death of his friend Evans during the war.
Connection between the characters
The plot does not connect Clarissa and Septimus (apart from the news of his death at her party), but they are similar on many aspect, which also aroused the theory that one can be the “double” of the other:
- their emotional intensity
- her dependence upon Richard for stability, his dependence upon Lucrezia for protection
- their marriages founded on need rather than on love
- Clarissa’s frigidity and Septimus’s impotence
The main difference between Clarissa and Septimus is that he is not always able to distinguish between his personal response (inner world, thoughts, feelings) and the external reality. This is why his psychic paralysis finally lead him to suicide, while Clarissa never loses the awareness that the outside world is something external to herself.