She would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxicabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.
Listen as Dylan Casey from The Partially Examined Life Podcast joins us to discuss this remarkable novel, in which many scholars believe Woolf found her voice. Written in a stream of consciousness, the plot of the book is written inside the souls, struggles. and angst of the characters.
In the novel, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, we follow Clarissa Dalloway for a single day, as she prepares for a party she is hosting that evening. At the start of her journey, she picks up flowers for the party and as the day proceeds, she finds herself reconsidering her husband, Richard Dalloway, and her choice in marrying the very stable, conservative member of Parliament. Her thoughts are starkly contrasted by her youthful memories of a competing suitor of Richard’s, Peter Walsh, who was more passionate, unconventional, yet capricious. As the day proceeds we also come across Septimus Smith, a WWI veteran who suffers from hallucinations, many involving the death of his close friend Evan during the war. He is ultimately committed to a hospital and commits suicide by jumping out a window.
At the party later attended by the Prime Minister, Clarissa learns of the unknown war veteran’s suicide and is impressed by his choice, as she wanders into a room to talk to Peter, who has shown up at the party.
But she feared time itself, and read on Lady Bruton’s face, as if it had been a dial cut in impassive stone, the dwindling of life; how year by year her share was sliced; how little the margin that remained was capable any longer of stretching, of absorbing, as in the youthful years, the colours, salts, tones of existence…
Also check out the movie Mrs. Dalloway from 1997, starring Vanessa Redgrave: