Virginia Woolf focused on the life of an “ordinary” woman, when she wrote Mrs. Dalloway. Like James Joyce’s Ulysses (published just a few years earlier, in 1922), this stream-of-consciousness tale follows the life of an ordinary person on an ordinary day.
On days like today, I think about Clarissa Dalloway, and the party she’s planning for–as she carries us back-and-forth, in the ebb-and-flow. She remembers lost love, but the ravages of time and war come into play. Here, too, I’m also reminded of the first time I met Clarissa–in The Voyage Out (1915).
- Everyman/woman: She is the representative ordinary woman, thinking about the inane, and boring…
- Ageless: Time ravages, but it also allows her the comfort of time and space.
“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 taxi cabs, 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.”
There are also the brutal realities of life:
- War: It’s ever in the background–it leaves a mark on every character. After reading Cymbeline, we read:
“This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.”
- Insanity: Inextricably linked to the horrors of war, everyday life can also hold moments of devastating isolation and loneliness.
“She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.”
In this fragmented life, she can “Fear no more.” She can embrace life…
We all can; and must.