Blog Assignment #4: Mrs. Dalloway


A map of London showing the paths walked by the characters in Mrs. Dalloway

A map of London showing the paths walked by the characters in Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) attempts to portray the lives of Clarissa Dalloway and several other characters in the state of post-war England. One significant section in the early part of the novel describes the passing of a mysterious automobile and then the spectacle of a skywriting airplane spelling out an advertisement, perhaps for toffee. In the process of describing these events, the narrative incorporates the private reactions of several different people. The mixture of these private reactions with descriptions of the exterior events often has a poetic effect that seems to say a lot about what this novel is exploring.


Something so trifling in single instances that no mathematical instrument, though capable of transmitting shocks in China, could register the vibration; yet in its fulness rather formidable and in its common appeal emotional; for in all the hat shops and tailors’ shops strangers looked at each other and thought of the dead; of the flag; of Empire. In a public house in a back street a Colonial insulted the House of Windsor which led to words, broken beer glasses, and a general shindy, which echoed strangely across the way in the ears of girls buying white underlinen threaded with pure white ribbon for their weddings. For the surface agitation of the passing car as it sunk grazed something very profound. [17-18]

How would you describe the novel’s narrative technique? What is this passage about? And how do the two relate to each other?


August 1, 2008. Uncategorized.


  1. aliciaguy replied:

    The novel’s narrative technique seems to be very symbolic its as if everything can be compared or stands for something. It also seems to affect the individuals in the complete same way like they’re all thinking the same thing. It stricked me as being very dramatic. This passage is about the effect that the motor car leaves as it continues on its journey, a rippling effect as they describe it. I’m guessing that it must have been a serious rippling effect something of what we probably would consider an earthquake.

  2. rrios0326 replied:

    The narrative technique for this novel for me is a mesh of thoughts and actions combined into one. It is also combines the past and the present through memories.

    Just like an earthqauke has one epicenter and can be felt by many people around, this car has made the same impact. A thing so simple as the passing of car brings out a lot of different emotions from the people watching the car pass. It evokes their feelings of the war, the men who have died and the state of the English empire. Some people feel patriotic towards it and some are disgusted, like the man who curses the British Empire. In my opinion, this passage shows that after the war, although some people still has positive feelings toward the British Empire they are questioning the state of the Empire.

  3. macbeth19 replied:

    The passage idicates how the senses are bombarded with many different stimuli that are connected to importance and relevance in our lives. In this case, the importance of the British Empire.
    The moment the car is noticed everday sounds and images suround and freeze the moment then expand. The escription of echoes and vibrations allude to ripple effects on everyones person though imeasurable because they are subjective and personal in their meaning and signifigance.

  4. cnudelmann replied:

    The passage mentions both death and marriage in it. Woolf seems to discuss the cycle of life in this passage. People dying during the war or in life in general, she then follows immediatly by describing women buying wedding dresses. Woolf uses a lot of description to describe feelings and emotions to get her point across to the reader. I also agree with previous posters that this passage also describes a butterfly effect. People drop everything that they are doing to observe this car because it left a mark on these people when they believe that someone important is inside of it. It causes an effect that sucks everyone into it.

  5. simonagoldin replied:

    The narrative technique embodies many different points of view. It has a tendency to freeze a moment in time and expand it beyond it’s first hand comprehension. There is a method to this seemingly mad obsession with life and death, happiness and sorrow. Woolf analyzes the state of the British empire and the post-war attitudes of different people (different social classes). I agree with rrios0326 that this passage does symbolize the different perceptions of the British Empire, and although people go on with their life preparing for trivial events, such as marriage, death is present, and the ripples of the war (the car) are felt throughout the population.

    It is important to note that Woolf uses an immense amount of symbolism in her narrative. Her bi-polar rhythm allows the reader to immerse herself/himself in the overall sense of loss. The saccadic movement of the point of view is used to optimize the intensity of the shared experiences.

  6. Jeff Drouin replied:

    Roni and Simona are on to something here. The narrative technique is concerned with time, particularly with freezing a moment or an event and expanding beyond it to consider its broader implications. The technique also presents multiple viewpoints. Why do you think Woolf would tell the story in this manner?

  7. iloveny77 replied:

    I am not sure why it did not want to post it last night, but I am trying it again at work.

    Virginia Woolf develops her characters using the technique of stream of consciousness in which the audience can literally read the mind of a character. Personally, I believe she uses this technique to catch the reader’s attention. You are forced to embraced the thoughts of each character and at the same time you are embracing better the novel.

    Additionally, Woolf represents several points of view; the war is now over and people have changed their attitude on war and how the English empire should be. England is no longer the country that used to be, as well as their people. There is a struggle not only among different classes, but also on the perception of the same. Some people want the changes, while others suggest a return to the past.

    As Clarissa’s life shows, human connections are hard to achieve in this life, hence the thoughts of death. Each event can be viewed and perceived differently, however, death is the ultimate experience that will common to all of us.

  8. kiki8151 replied:

    The narrative in this story is very detailed and it breaks down every event in every charcters life. The narrative consists of many different points of view. The passage described in the story is very detailed and is similar to an earthquake, the car mad such a vibration that everyone stopped what they were doing to see what that was as if an explotion errupted. Being that this story takes place around war time the car vibration seemed like an attack had occured it took many people by suprise. This passage shows the ripple effect of people dropping everything and attending to the car to see what was happening.

  9. macbeth19 replied:

    Woolf’s style gives a the reader a intimate view into the characters mind and soul. We see that everyone is some way daydreaming about death, emptiness and the past. They are very distracted by thoughts of another life and the impact of decisions they have made in the past.

    Charcters remember the people they were in the past and wonder who they are and what they have become in the present because they are disconnected to their experinces. The characters seems to dwell on their imagination instead of reality.
    Everyone is spending their time trying not go crazy by thinking about what their lives have become and how unsatisfied they are.

    I feel the use of time is to indicate what time means to an unhappy souls. It only reminds them that another hour of futility and emptiness has passed in their lives.
    They struggle from one moment to the next to be at peace and fine a reason to stay alive. Death seems like a welcome end to the chaos, loneliness and inability to be fulfill in one’s soul for the characters.

  10. yukonj88 replied:

    As was stated in the preface to Mrs. Dalloway, one of Woolf’s most effective techniques in telling a story is her ability to create “tunnels” in between characters and events. The shock wave described in this paragraph is a perfect example of her doing so. She is able to create a central event seen by one character and expand that event’s effects to have it effect multiple characters. It is similar to when the plane flies by and everyone stops what they’re doing to take notice. This shows how different people in different circumstances react to a common occurrence.

  11. benficajp9 replied:

    The narrative technique is one that seems to be very aware of it’s surroundings. It seems to mirror the livliness of Piccadilly street. It doesn’t stay in one place for very long which facilitates in depicting it’s inhabitants.

    This passage addresses the collective consciousness of the people on the street and being English and patriotic. Being post-war, and confronted with the image of a soverign stirs deep emotions within the people on the street. The narration points to the sensitivity of these people as a brief glimpse of someone important causes great waves of excitement.

    The two relate to one another because the narrator is clearly part of this consciousness is opening a discussion to the state of the government and the role of it’s citizens.

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