Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Virginia Woolf

Learning about Plot – Plot Is Not the Same As Story – Using Flashbacks & Flash-forwards in Writing

Stories are part of our everyday life, but a story may be nothing more than a chronological record of events, i.e. This morning, I got out of bed, walked the dog, watered my plants, and ate breakfast. A plot is something more than a story. It is a more skillful organization of events, and it focuses on how one event impacts and causes another. E. M. Forster distinguishes between a plot and a story as follows:

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“The king died and then the queen died is a story.
The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.” – E. M. Forster

A well-crafted plot may not follow a logical progression of time. For elements of drama and suspense, an author may skip about a timeline.

On another post, I provide quotes from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf Here

In the free MOOC How to Read a Novel, the instructor uses the novel Mrs. Dalloway to illustrate the use of flashbacks in novels:

“When it comes to novels, flashbacks usually allow us to gain some information about a character’s past that will provide an insight into their motive, to reveal why he or she might be acting in a certain way at the current time. To take a famous example, Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, which takes place over a single day in London in June 1923, opens onto a flashback, as the title character’s memory is jolted by the thought of some squeaking doors – there is work going on in the house – which reminds her of a similar sound from her youth.

:This leads to a cascade of memories from over 30 years ago, when she was aged 18 years old on her father’s estate, and had the feeling that something awful might be about to happen. The middle-aged, present time Clarissa Dalloway has some errands to run on this particular morning. She is hosting an important party that evening. But memories from her past continue to interrupt her thoughts as she goes about her business. These flashbacks have a specific purpose because, although the action of the novel takes place over one day in June, they enable the reader to learn more about Clarissa’s girlhood and youth.

“What events have led her up to this point, made her into the type of woman she now is – a member of high society, married to a politician, thoroughly respectable? Because she wasn’t always like this. In another flashback, just a few pages later, she recalls a quarrel years back with her former lover, Peter Walsh, when he had made her cry at the future he predicted for her. “For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say?

“- some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning – indeed they did. But Peter – however beautiful the day might be, and the trees and the grass, and the little girl in pink – Peter never saw a thing of all that. He would put on his spectacles, if she told him to; he would look. It was the state of the world that interested him; Wagner, Pope’s poetry, people’s characters eternally, and the defects of her own soul. How he scolded her! How they argued!

. . .

“But in the context of a novel, we as readers are learning something out of sequence, being given too much information for that stage of the plot.”

You can register for the free course How to Read A Novel Here

In the same course, the instructor points out that the Charles Dickens book A Christmas Carol is based on flashbacks, as well as flashforwards:

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When Scrooge saw Marley’s face in the doorknob, a flashback begins.

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”  [The Christmas Carol, p. 5]

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“It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures. There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters; Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the whole.” [A Christmas Carol, p. 11].

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“The bells ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

“The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

“ ‘It’s humbug still!’ said Scrooge. ‘I won’t believe it.’

“His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, ‘I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell again.” [p. 11].

Description of Marley’s Ghost

“The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see [p.12] the two buttons on his coat behind.

“Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

“No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.” [p.13]

. . .

“…they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!’

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!

‘Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is that upon your cheek?’

. . .
“They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it!”
. . .

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.” Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed. They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a [p. 20] a bell hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables; and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass. Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished, cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.” [p. 21]

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Flash-forward in A Christmas Carol

Stave Four – The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

“The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

“He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

`I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.’ said Scrooge.

[Scrooge has died and then arrives at a beetling shop. In Victorian England, a beetling shop is where they pounded fibers together to create a linen-like fabric. In the book A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s linens were being processed, trying to turn them into a small profit.]

“Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beetling shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal, nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the cold air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous tatters, hung upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury of calm retirement.”

[Since Scrooge had no one to see after him, upon his death, several people had gathered Scrooge’s belongings to sell to Joe, at the beetling shop.]

“Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

`What do you call this.’ said Joe. `Bed-curtains.’

`Ah.’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. `Bed-curtains.’

`You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there.’ said Joe.

`Yes I do,’ replied the woman. `Why not.’

. . .

`His blankets.’ asked Joe.

`Whose else’s do you think.’ replied the woman. `He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I dare say.’

`I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching. Eh.’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

`Don’t you be afraid of that,’ returned the woman. `I an’t so fond of his company that I’d loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah. you may look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’

`What do you call wasting of it.’ asked old Joe.

`Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with a laugh. `Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. If calico an’t good enough for such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for anything. It’s quite as becoming to the body. He can’t look uglier than he did in that one.’

Flashbacks and Flash-forwards are Ways that Stories Are Chronologically Rearranged to Improve the Tale Being Told.

Which Do You Want – Money or Happiness? – Quotes about Money and Happiness


“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf opened a can of worms in suggesting that in order to write, the writer must have already attained a reasonable amount of financial security. In addition, the writer must have time to write. Having both time and money simultaneously is not an easy thing to do. I always say that the American Dilemma is that we can work all of the time and have plenty of money but in doing so, we have no time to do what we want; or we can work at formal jobs as little as possible and have time to do what makes us happy, like writing, but we have no money to do what we enjoy. I represent the tail end of that dream, but by the grace of God, I do have a room of my own, and I have enough money to pay for the most basic needs of my life. For me, that has become enough.

I was able to retire early, and each month, I get a few coins from my retirement. In addition, I work a few hours a week as the storyteller for the toddlers at my library. I also get a few coins from that job. A coin here and a coin there, I survive. What’s wrong with that picture? I was the Valedictorian of my class. I probably should be doing better financially than I am. I should be banging my head against the wall and engaging in daily confrontations with co-workers and clients. I should be sitting at a desk. I should be on the conference call from Hell. I should be rich, but I am not. Yet, by the grace of God, I have enough money to get by, and I have found ways to enjoy the time that my lifestyle allows me.

When I was 20-years-old, I almost died in a car accident. That was long before I had begun to flourish, and that accident changed the course of my life. When I was 20-years-old, I became aware of the reality that life does not last terriby long for anyone, and for some people, life is short. I realized that I needed to spend more of my few remaining hours in this world doing things that I liked, and I never liked the business world or working nine to five in someone else’s office. I tried that route for a few years, but I got out of the rat race early, and many years ago, I began following a different path in life


Being the arty type, some time ago, I elected to march to a cadence that is different than that which regulates the lives of most of the rest of the world. It is commonplace for artists to choose to live their lives a little differently. In doing so, we creatives tend to make choices that would not be esteemed as the popular ones. By the world’s standards, I have not lived up to my potential, but on the other hand, I have lived a life that has allowed me the time to smell life’s roses along the way.

Because of the nature of my open work week, I have enough time that I can allocate many hours toward whatever goal that I choose. I do work–in fact, my work day is at least 18-hours-long, but I don’t work in a formal job and in an office away from my home. From my own room, I write and I research for more writing. From my own studio, I paint. In my own yard, I garden. I stay very busy, but I don’t get paid dollar bills for 99% of what I do. I work to make enough money to survive, and I pay my bills. I spend most of my days writing and painting and gardening. When night time arrives, I rest my head, and I sleep.

Ashes to ashes–dust to dust–the money only helps us for a short portion of what will be our eternities. After that,  the money  is no better for us than the dust of the rest of our lives. I will not pretend that I don’t worry that when I am old, I will be a pauper. I don’t have everything figured out. To do that, I would have to be much smarter than I am. I have simply decided to live one day at a time, and that is about all that I can handle.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

©Jacki Kellum September 26, 2016

Some other great quotes about the odd relationship between money and happiness:

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” ― Groucho Marx

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” ― Will Rogers

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” ― Dorothy Parker

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” ― Oscar Wilde


Free Text of the Book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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Free Text of the Book Mrs. Dalloway on Project Gutenberg Here

Quotes with Page Numbers from the Book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – List of Characters & Plot Summary Mrs. Dalloway

“Mrs Dalloway (published on 14 May 1925[1]) is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England. It is one of Woolf’s best-known novels.

“Created from two short stories, “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” and the unfinished “The Prime Minister,” the novel addresses Clarissa’s preparations for a party she will host that evening. With an interior perspective, the story travels forwards and back in time and in and out of the characters’ minds to construct an image of Clarissa’s life and of the inter-war social structure. In October 2005, Mrs Dalloway was included on Time’s list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.[2]”

Plot summary of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf:

“Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening. The nice day reminds her of her youth spent in the countryside in Bourton and makes her wonder about her choice of husband; she married the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the enigmatic and demanding Peter Walsh, and she “had not the option” to be with Sally Seton. Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning.

“Septimus Warren Smith, a First World War veteran suffering from deferred traumatic stress, spends his day in the park with his Italian-born wife Lucrezia, where Peter Walsh observes them. Septimus is visited by frequent and indecipherable hallucinations, mostly concerning his dear friend Evans who died in the war. Later that day, after he is prescribed involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, he commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

“Clarissa’s party in the evening is a slow success. It is attended by most of the characters she has met in the book, including people from her past. She hears about Septimus’ suicide at the party and gradually comes to admire this stranger’s act, which she considers an effort to preserve the purity of his happiness.

Characters in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Clarissa Dalloway
“Clarissa Dalloway is the 51-year-old[3] [I believe that she is 52-pages in the book say 52-Jacki Kellum Note]protagonist of the novel. She is Richard’s wife and Elizabeth’s mother, and, while reminiscing about her past, spends the day organising a party that will be held that night. She is self-conscious about her role in London high society.

Elizabeth Dalloway
“Elizabeth Dalloway is Clarissa and Richard’s 17-year-old daughter. She is said to look “oriental” and has great composure. Compared to her mother, she takes great pleasure in politics and modern history, hoping to be either a doctor or farmer in the future. She would rather spend time in the country with her father than at her mother’s party.

Richard Dalloway
Richard Dalloway is Clarissa’s practical, ‘simple’ husband, who feels disconnected from his wife. He is immersed in his work in government.

Sally Seton

“Sally Seton is a love interest of Clarissa’s, with whom she shared a kiss, who is now married to Lord Rosseter and has five boys. Sally had a strained relationship with her family and spent substantial time with Clarissa’s family in her youth. She once could be described as feisty as well as a youthful ragamuffin, although she has become more conventional with age.

Peter Walsh

“Peter Walsh is an old friend of Clarissa’s who has failed at most of his ventures in life. In the past, Clarissa rejected his marriage proposal. Now he has returned to England from India and is one of Clarissa’s party guests. He plans to marry Daisy, a married woman in India, and has returned to try to arrange a divorce for his current wife.

Hugh Whitbread

“Hugh Whitbread is a pompous friend of Clarissa’s, who holds an unspecified position in the British Royal household. Like Clarissa, he places great importance on his place in society. Although he believes he is an essential member of the British aristocracy, Lady Bruton, Clarissa, Richard, and Peter find him obnoxious.

Septimus Warren Smith

“Septimus Warren Smith is a World War I veteran who suffers from “shell shock” and hallucinations of his deceased friend, Evans. Educated and decorated in the war, he is detached from society and believes himself to be unable to feel. He is married to Lucrezia, from whom he has grown distant.

Lucrezia “Rezia” Smith

“Lucrezia “Rezia” Smith is Septimus’ Italian wife. She is burdened by his mental illness and believes she is judged because of it. During most of the novel she is homesick for her family and country, which she left to marry Septimus after the Armistice.

Themes of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The novel has two main narrative lines involving two separate characters (Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith); within each narrative there is a particular time and place in the past that the main characters keep returning to in their minds. For Clarissa, the “continuous present” (Gertrude Stein’s phrase) of her charmed youth at Bourton keeps intruding into her thoughts on this day in London. For Septimus, the “continuous present” of his time as a soldier during the “Great War” keeps intruding, especially in the form of Evans, his fallen comrade.

Time and Secular Living[edit]
Time plays an integral role in the theme of faith and doubt in Mrs. Dalloway. The overwhelming presence of the passing of time and the impending fate of death for each of the characters is felt throughout the novel. As Big Ben arches over the city of London and rings for each half-hour, characters can’t help but stop and notice the loss of life to time in regular intervals throughout the development of the story. Experiencing the vicious war, the notion of death constantly floats in Septimus’ mind as he continues to see his friend Evans talking of such things. A constant stream of consciousness from the characters, especially Clarissa, can serve as a distraction from this passing of time and ultimate march towards death but each character has a constant reminder of the inevitability of these facts. However evident time and death may be throughout the novel, only a day passes over the course of the entire story, not nearly enough to be worried about death that much. Each individual moment in a character’s life then is assumed to be as important as heroic journeys and other epics which also push the boundaries of death.

Constant connections to memories and overarching ideas made by simple things passing through the character’s mind also demonstrate the meaning in every detail and the appreciation that can be drawn as a result. Clarissa even feels that her job (by throwing her parties) is to offer “the gift” of connections to the inhabitants of London. Here in lies Woolf’s underlying message. Woolf’s writing style crosses the boundaries of the past, present and future, emphasising her idea of time as a constant flow, connected only by some force (or divinity) within each person. There lies an evident contrast between the constant passing of time signalled by Big Ben and the random crossing of time in Woolf’s writing. Although it seems random, it only demonstrates the infinite amount of possibilities that the world can offer once connected by the individuality of each person inside.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, and Mental Illness

“Septimus, as the shell-shocked war hero, operates as a pointed criticism of the treatment of mental illness and depression.[10] Woolf criticises medical discourse through Septimus’ decline and suicide; his doctors make snap judgments about his condition, talk to him mainly through his wife, and dismiss his urgent confessions before he can make them. Rezia remarks that Septimus “was not ill. Dr Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him.”[11]

Woolf goes beyond commenting on the treatment of mental illness. Using the characters of Clarissa and Rezia, she makes the argument that people can only interpret Septimus’ shell shock according to their cultural norms.[12] Throughout the course of the novel Clarissa does not meet Septimus. Clarissa’s reality is vastly different from that of Septimus; his presence in London is unknown to Clarissa until his death becomes the subject of idle chatter at her party. By never having these characters meet, Woolf is suggesting that mental illness can be contained to the individuals who suffer from it without others, who remain unaffected, ever having to witness it.[13] This allows Woolf to weave her criticism of the treatment of the mentally ill with her larger argument, which is the criticism of society’s class structure. Her use of Septimus as the stereotypically traumatised veteran is her way of showing that there were still reminders of the First World War in London in 1923.[12] These ripples affect Mrs. Dalloway and readers spanning generations. Shell shock, or post traumatic stress disorder, is an important addition to the early 20th century canon of post-war British literature.[14]

“There are similarities in Septimus’ condition to Woolf’s struggles with bipolar disorder. Both hallucinate that birds sing in Greek, and Woolf once attempted to throw herself out of a window as Septimus does.[10] Woolf had also been treated for her condition at various asylums, from which her antipathy towards doctors developed. Woolf committed suicide by drowning, sixteen years after the publication of Mrs Dalloway.[15]

Woolf’s original plan for her novel called for Clarissa to kill herself during her party. In this original version, Septimus (whom Woolf called Mrs. Dalloway’s “double”) did not appear at all.[7]

Feminism in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

As a commentary on inter-war society, Clarissa’s character highlights the role of women as the proverbial “Angel in the House” and embodies sexual and economic repression and the narcissism of bourgeois women who have never known the hunger and insecurity of working women. She keeps up with and even embraces the social expectations of the wife of a patrician politician, but she is still able to express herself and find distinction in the parties she throws.[10]

Her old friend Sally Seton, whom Clarissa admires dearly, is remembered as a great independent woman:[10] She smoked cigars, once ran down a corridor naked to fetch her sponge-bag, and made bold, unladylike statements to get a reaction from people. When Clarissa meets her in the present day, Sally turns out to be a perfect housewife, having married a self-made rich man and given birth to five sons.

Homosexuality  in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Clarissa Dalloway is strongly attracted to Sally Seton at Bourton. Thirty four years later, Clarissa still considers the kiss they shared to be the happiest moment of her life. She feels about Sally “as men feel,”[16] but she does not recognise these feelings as signs of homosexuality.

Similarly, Septimus is haunted by the image of his dear friend Evans. Evans, his commanding officer, is described as being “undemonstrative in the company of women.” The narrator describes Septimus and Evans behaving together like “two dogs playing on a hearth-rug” who, inseparable, “had to be together, share with each other, fight with each other, quarrel with each other….” Jean E. Kennard notes that the word “share” could easily be read in a Forsteran manner, perhaps as in Forster’s Maurice, which shows the word’s use in this period to describe homosexual relations. Kennard is one to note Septimus’ “increasing revulsion at the idea of heterosexual sex,” abstaining from sex with Rezia and feeling that “the business of copulation was filth to him before the end.”[17]

All of the above notes are from Wikipedia Here

Quotes with Page Numbers from the Book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“What a lark! What a plunged…. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 3.

“(June had drawn out every leaf on the trees….Piccadilly seemed to chafe the very air in the Park and lift its leaves hotly, brilliantly, on waves of that divine vitality which Clarissa loved.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 7

“If Peter were with me now what would he say?–some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning–indeed they did.

But they beckoned:leaves were alive’ trees were alive. …The sparrows fluttering, rising, and falling in jagged fountains were part of the pattern: the white and blue barred with black branches. Sounds made harmonies with premeditation: the spaces between them were as significant as the sounds.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 7.

“She had the 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.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 8.

“Her only gift was knowing people almost by instinct….― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 9.

“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.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 9-10.

“But how often now this…body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing–nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown..this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.― Virginia Woolf,

“Bond Street…early in the morning in season; its flags fling, its shops; no splash; no glitter; one roll of tweed in the shop…a few pearls; salmon on an iceblock.

” That is all,’ she said.’ “― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 10-11.

“It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! to hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite or quite secure….”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 12.― Virginia Woolf,

“There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilacs and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah, yes–so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell as she stood talking  to Miss Pym….. turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses and nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed, snuffing in, after the street uproar, the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness. And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays, the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white pale–as if it were the evening and girls in muslin rocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower–roses, carnations, irises, lilac-glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself, softly, purely in the misty beds; and how she loved the grey-white moths spinning in and out, over the cherry pie, over the evening primroses!”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 13.

“But now mystery had brushed them with her wing;  they had heard the voice of authority; the spirit of religion was abroad with her eyes bandaged tight and her lips gaping wide.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 15.

“People must notice; people must see….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 15.

“…when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavements this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 16.

“A marvelous discovery indeed–that the human voice in certain atmospheric conditions…can quicken trees into life!…the em trees rising and falling, rising and falling with all their leaves alight and the colour thinning and thickening from blue to the green of a hollow wave, like plumes on horses’ heads, feathers on ladies’ , so proudly they rose and fell, so superbly….”

But they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive….The sparrow fluttering, rising, and falling in jagged fountains were part of the pattern, the white and blue, barred with black branches. Some made harmonies with premeditation; the spaces between them wee as significant as the sounds. A [p. 22] child cried. Rightly far away a horn sounded. All taken together meant the birth of a new religion….”  ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 22-23.

“To love makes one solitary, she thought…She put on her lace collar. She put on her new hat and he never noticed; and he was happy without her. Nothing could make her happy without him….She spread her hand before her. Look! Her wedding ring slipped she had grown so thin. It was she who suffered–but she had nobody to tell..”

“Far was Italy and the white houses and the room where her sisters sat making hats, and the streets crowded every evening with people walking, laughing out loud, not half alive like people here, huddled up in Bah chairs, looking at a few ugly flowers stuck in pots!”― Virginia Woolf,  Mrs. Dalloway, p. 23

“Her words faded. So a rocket {p. 23] fades. Its sparks, having grazed their way into the night, surrender to it, dark descends, pours over the outlines of houses and towers; bleak hillsides soften and fall in. But though they are gone, the night is full of them; robbed of colour, blank of windows, they exist more ponderously, give out what the frank daylight fails to transmit–the trouble and suspense of things conglomerated there in the darkness; huddled together in the darkness; reft of the relief which dawn brings when, when, washing the walls white and grey, spotting each window-pane, lifting the mist from the fields, showing the red-brown cows peacefully grazing, all is more decked out to the eye; exists again. I am alone; I am alone!”   ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 23-24.

“A sparrow, perched on the railing opposite chirped…drawing its notes out, to sing freshly and piercingly in Greek words how there is no crime and, joined by another sparrow, they sang in voices prolonged and piercing in Greek words, from trees in the meadow of life [p. 24] beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.”  ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 24-25.

“The hall of the house was cool as a vault. Mr. Dalloway raised her hand to her eyes, and, as the maid shut the door to,and she heard the swish of Lucy’s skirts, she felt like a nun who has left the world and feels fold round her the familiar veils and response to old devotions. The cook whistled in the kitchen. She heard the click of the typewriter. It was her life, and…she took the pad with the telephone message on it, how moments like this are buds on the tree of life, flowers of darkness they are…”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 29.

“Like a nun withdrawing, or a child exploring a tower, she went upstairs, paused at the window, came to the bathroom. There was the greeen linoleum and a tap dripping. There was an emptiness about the heart of life; an attic room. Women must put off their rich apparel. At midday they must disrobe. She pierced the pin-cushion and laid her feathered yellow hat on the bed. The sheets were clean, tight stretched in a broad white band from side to side. Narrower and narrower would her bed be. The candle was half burnt down….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 31.

“But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away, this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton….Had not that, after all, been love? [p. 32]

“But all that evening, she could not take her eyes off Saly. It was an extraordinary beauty of the kind she most admired, dark, large-eyed, with that quality which, since she hadn’t got it herself, she always envied–a sort of abandonment, as if she could say anything, do anything; a quality much commoner in foreigners than in Englishwomen….Sally it was who made her feel, for the first time, how sheltered the life at Bourton was…..But Aun Helena never liked discussion of anything (when Sally gave her William Morris, it had to be wrapped in brown paper).

“Sally’s power was amazing, her gift, her personality. There was her way with flowers, for instance. At Bourton (p. 34) they always had stiff little vases all the way down the table. Sally went out, picked hollyhocks, dahlias–all sorts of flowers that had never been seen together–cut their heads off, and made them swim on top of water in bowls….Then she forgot her sponge, and ran along the passage naked….Indeed she did shock people, She was untidy, Papa said. ..

“The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man…it had a quality which could only exist between women…It was protective, on her side; sprang from a sense of being in league together….For in those days she was completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was–very absurd. But the charm was over-powering, to her at least….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 32-34.

“Quiet descended on her, calm, content…So on a summer’s day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying ‘that is all’ more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach say too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sights [p. 39] collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.”  ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 39-40.

“Now it was time to move, and, as a woman gathers her things together, her cloak, her gloves, her opera-glasses, and gets up to go out of the theatre into the street, she rose from the sofa and went to Peter.

“And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 47.

“As a cloud crosses the sun, silence falls on London: and falls on the mind…There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 49.

“There was Regent’s Park. Yes. As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park–odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me–the result of seeing Clarisa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought. They attach themselves to places; and their fathers–a woman’s always proud of her father.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p. 55.

“It was at Bourton that summer, early in the ‘nineties, when he was so passionately in love with Clarissa. There were a great many people there, laughing and talking, sitting round a table after tea and the room was bathed in yellow light and full of cigarette smoke. They were talking about a man who had married his housemaid, one of the neighbouring squires, he had forgotten his name. He had married his housemaid, and she had been brought to Bourton to call–an awful visit it had been. She was absurdly over-dressed, “like a cockatoo,” Clarissa had said, imitating her, and she never stopped talking. On and on she went, on and on. Clarissa imitated her. Then somebody said–Sally Seton it was–did it make any real difference to one’s feelings to know that before they’d married she had had a baby? (In those days, in mixed company, it was a bold thing to say.) He could see Clarissa now, turning bright pink; somehow contracting; and saying, “Oh, I shall never be able to speak to her again!” Whereupon the whole party sitting round the tea-table seemed to wobble. It was very uncomfortable. [p.59]

“It was an awful evening! He grew more and more gloomy, not about that only; about everything. And he couldn’t see her; couldn’t explain to her; couldn’t have it out. There were always people about–she’d go on as if nothing had happened. That was the devilish part of her–this coldness, this woodenness, something very profound in her, which he had felt again this morning talking to her; an impenetrability. Yet Heaven knows he [p.60] loved her. She had some queer power of fiddling on one’s nerves, turning one’s nerves to fiddle-strings, yes.”  ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 59-61.

“He had only to open his eyes; but a weight was on them; a fear. He strained; he pushed; he looked; he saw Regent’s Park before him. Long streamers of sunlight fawned at his feet. The trees waved, brandished. We welcome, the world seemed to say; we accept; we create. Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now and again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks–all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.

” ‘It is time,’ said Rezia.

“The word “time” split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to [p. 69] Time.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 69-70.

“Hugh she detested for some reason. He thought of nothing but his own appearance, she said. He ought to have been a Duke. He would be certain to marry one of the Royal Princesses. And of course Hugh had the most extraordinary, the most natural, the most sublime respect for the British aristocracy of any human being he had ever come across. Even Clarissa had to own that. Oh, but he was such a dear, so unselfish, gave up shooting [p. 72] to please his old mother–remembered his aunts’ birthdays, and so on.

“Sally, to do her justice, saw through all that. One of the things he remembered best was an argument one Sunday morning at Bourton about women’s rights (that antediluvian topic), when Sally suddenly lost her temper, flared up, and told Hugh that he represented all that was most detestable in British middle-class life. She told him that she considered him responsible for the state of “those poor girls in Piccadilly”–Hugh, the perfect gentleman, poor Hugh!–never did a man look more horrified! She did it on purpose she said afterwards (for they used to get together in the vegetable garden and compare notes). “He’s read nothing, thought nothing, felt nothing,” he could hear her saying in that very emphatic voice which carried so much farther than she knew. The stable boys had more life in them than Hugh, she said. He was a perfect specimen of the public school type, she said. No country but England could have produced him.”

“For of all the people he had ever met Hugh was the greatest snob–the most obsequious–no, he didn’t cringe exactly. He was too much of a prig for that. A first-rate valet was the obvious comparison–somebody who walked behind carrying suit cases; could be trusted to send telegrams–indispensable to hostesses. And he’d found his job–married his Honourable Evelyn; got some little post at Court, looked after the King’s cellars, polished the Imperial shoe-buckles, went about in knee-breeches and lace ruffles. How remorseless life is! A little job at Court!”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 72-73.

“So there was no excuse; nothing whatever the matter, except the sin for which human nature had condemned him to death; that he did not feel. He had not cared when Evans was killed; that was worst; but all the other crimes raised their heads and shook their fingers and jeered and sneered over the rail of the bed in the early hours of the morning at the prostrate body which lay realising its degradation; how he had married his wife without loving her; had lied to her; seduced her; outraged Miss Isabel Pole, and was so pocked and marked with vice that women shuddered when they saw him in the street. The verdict of human nature on such a wretch was death.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.91.

“Once you fall, Septimus repeated to himself, human nature is on you. Holmes and Bradshaw are on you. They scour the desert. They fly screaming into the wilderness. The rack and the thumbscrew are applied. Human nature is remorseless.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.98.

“…it is a thousand pities never to say what one feels….” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.116.

“For the Dalloways, in general, were fair-haired; blue-eyed; Elizabeth, on the contrary, was dark; had Chinese eyes in a pale face; an Oriental mystery; was gentle, considerate, still. As a child, she had had a perfect sense of humour; but now at seventeen, why, Clarissa could not in the least understand, she had become very serious; like a hyacinth, sheathed in glossy green, with buds just tinted, a hyacinth which has had no sun.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.123.

“…as she sat there, waiting, looking down, he could feel her mind, like a bird, falling from branch to branch, and always alighting, quite rightly; he could follow her mind, as she sat there in one of those loose lax poses that came to her naturally and, if he should say anything, at once she smiled, like a bird alighting with all its claws firm upon the bough.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.147.

“Holmes was coming upstairs. Holmes would burst open the door. Holmes would say “In a funk, eh?” Holmes would get him. But no; not Holmes; not Bradshaw. Getting up rather unsteadily, hopping indeed from foot to foot, he considered Mrs. Filmer’s nice clean bread knife with “Bread” carved on the handle. Ah, but one mustn’t spoil that. The gas fire? But it was too late now. Holmes was coming. Razors he might have got, but Rezia, who always did that sort of thing, had packed them. There remained only the window, the large Bloomsbury-lodging house window, the tiresome, the troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of opening the window and throwing himself out. It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s (for she was with him). Holmes and Bradshaw like that sort of thing. (He sat on the sill.) But he would wait till the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings–what did they want? Coming down the staircase opposite an old man stopped and stared at him. Holmes was at the door. “I’ll give it you!” he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings.

“The coward!” cried Dr. Holmes, bursting the door open. Rezia ran to the window, she saw; she understood. Dr. Holmes and Mrs. Filmer collided with each other. Mrs. Filmer flapped her apron and made her hide her eyes in the bedroom. There was a great deal of running up and down stairs. Dr. Holmes came in–white as a sheet, shaking all over, with a glass in his hand. She must be brave and drink something, he said (What was it? Something sweet), for her husband was horribly mangled, would not recover consciousness, she must not see him, must be spared as much as possible, would have the inquest to go through, poor young woman. Who could have foretold it? A sudden impulse, no one was in the least to blame (he told Mrs. Filmer). And why the devil he did it, Dr. Holmes could not conceive.

It seemed to her as she drank the sweet stuff that she was opening long windows, stepping out into some garden. But where? The clock was striking–one, two, three: how sensible the sound was; compared with all this thumping and whispering; like Septimus himself. She was falling asleep. But the clock went on striking, four, five, six and Mrs. Filmer waving her apron (they wouldn’t bring the body in here, would they?) seemed part of that garden; or a flag. She had once seen a flag slowly rippling out from a mast when she stayed with her aunt at Venice. Men killed in battle were thus saluted, and Septimus had been through the War. Of her memories, most were happy.

She put on her hat, and ran through cornfields–where could it have been?–on to some hill, somewhere near the sea, for there were ships, gulls, butterflies; they sat on a cliff. In London too, there they sat, and, half dreaming, came to her through the bedroom door, rain falling, whisperings, stirrings among dry corn, the caress of the sea, as it seemed to her, hollowing them in its arched shell and murmuring to her laid on shore, strewn she felt, like flying flowers over some tomb.

“He is dead,” she said….”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 149-50.

” ‘How delightful to see you!” said Clarissa. She said it to every one. How delightful to see you! She was at her worst–effusive, insincere. It was a great mistake to have come. He should have stayed at home and read his book, thought Peter Walsh; should have gone to a music hall; he should have stayed at home, for he knew no one.

“Oh dear, it was going to be a failure; a complete failure, Clarissa felt it in her bones as dear old Lord Lexham stood there apologising for his wife who had caught cold at the Buckingham Palace garden party. She could see Peter out of the tail of her eye, criticising her, there, in that corner. Why, after all, did she do these things? Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire? Might it consume her anyhow! Burn her to cinders! [p. 167] Better anything, better brandish one’s torch and hurl it to earth than taper and dwindle away like some Ellie Henderson! It was extraordinary how Peter put her into these states just by coming and standing in a corner. He made her see herself; exaggerate. It was idiotic. But why did he come, then, merely to criticise? Why always take, never give? Why not risk one’s one little point of view? There he was wandering off, and she must speak to him. But she would not get the chance. Life was that–humiliation, renunciation. What Lord Lexham was saying was that his wife would not wear her furs at the garden party because “my dear, you ladies are all alike”–Lady Lexham being seventy-five at least! It was delicious, how they petted each other, that old couple. She did like old Lord Lexham. She did think it mattered, her party, and it made her feel quite sick to know that it was all going wrong, all falling flat. Anything, any explosion, any horror was better than people wandering aimlessly, standing in a bunch at a corner like Ellie Henderson, not even caring to hold themselves upright.

“Gently the yellow curtain with all the birds of Paradise blew out and it seemed as if there were a flight of wings into the room, right out, then sucked back. (For the windows were open.)”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 167-68.

“Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that every one was unreal in one way; much more real in another. It was, she thought, partly their clothes, partly being taken out of their ordinary ways, partly the background, it was possible to say things you couldn’t say anyhow else, things that needed an effort; possible to go much deeper. But not for her; not yet anyhow.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 170-71.

“And now Clarissa escorted her Prime Minister down the room, prancing, sparkling, with the stateliness of her grey hair. She wore ear-rings, and a silver-green mermaid’s dress. Lolloping on the waves and braiding her tresses she seemed, having that gift still; to be; to exist; to sum it all up in the moment as she passed; turned, caught her scarf in some other woman’s dress, unhitched it, laughed, all with the most perfect ease and air of a creature floating in its element. But age had brushed her; even as a mermaid might behold in her glass the setting sun on some very clear evening over the waves. There was a breath of tenderness; her severity, her prudery, her woodenness were all warmed through now, and she had about her as she said good-bye to the thick gold-laced man who was doing his best, and good luck to him, to look important, an inexpressible dignity; an exquisite cordiality; as if she wished the whole world well, and must now, being on the very verge and rim of things, take her leave. So she made him think. (But he was not in love.)”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.174.

” ‘I had meant to have dancing,” said Clarissa.

For the young people could not talk. And why should they? Shout, embrace, swing, be up at dawn; carry sugar to ponies; kiss and caress the snouts of adorable chows; and then all tingling and streaming, plunge [p. 177] and swim. But the enormous resources of the English language, the power it bestows, after all, of communicating feelings (at their age, she and Peter would have been arguing all the evening), was not for them. They would solidify young. They would be good beyond measure to the people on the estate, but alone, perhaps, rather dull.

“What a pity!” she said. “I had hoped to have dancing.”

” ‘It was so extraordinarily nice of them to have come! But talk of dancing! The rooms were packed.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pgs. 177-78.

“Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.”― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, p.184.

To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway


“Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“She belonged to a different age, but being so entire, so complete, would always stand up on the horizon, stone-white, eminent, like a lighthouse marking some past stage on this adventurous, long, long voyage, this interminable — this interminable life.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Free BBC Movie Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha McElhone

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Mrs. Dalloway is based on the book by Virginia Woolf.


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