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The Intersection of External Time and Internal Time in Mrs Dalloway

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The Intersection of External Time and Internal Time in Mrs Dalloway In Mrs Dalloway, the modernist writer Virginia Woolf undermines the usual conventions of prior prose fiction by adopting an innovative approach to time. She contrasts the objective external time and subjective internal time that structure the plot of the one-day novel. In fact, the story takes place on a single day in June and, by the use of two important techniques, namely the stream of consciousness mode of narration and the interior monologue, the reader is constantly flowing from the present to the past or the future. Moreover, Woolf blurs the distinctions between dream and reality but emphasizes the importance of the present moment. Finally, both representations of time have a great influence on characters' life and relations between each other. Firstly, time itself, which, in fact, measures and divides, becomes fluid, elastic and mobile the interaction of memories and thoughts. As Showalter points out in the introduction of Mrs Dalloway, "In Time and Free Will (1888) ... Bergson" speaks about "'psychological time, which is internal, subjective, and measured by the relative intensity of the moment'" (qtd. in Woolf xx). Internal time is one of the new characteristics that Woolf introduces in her novel. In other words, she describes a subjective reality through the stream of consciousness. By this new mode of narration, Woolf gives to the reader the impression of entering the consciousness of the characters. It describes the unorganised flow of thoughts, sensations, and memories that is the time in the mind (or internal time). ...read more.


The reader is continually jumping from one individual's mind to another through the all novel. Woolf gives the reader a full account of their history, past, etc. In addition, each character that makes contact with Clarissa in space (London), in time or in her memories is related to her. For example, Peter is introduced by Clarissa at the beginning of the novel through her thoughts and then he will be in contact with her in space and in time. And most other characters are introduced in the same way, which is through the subjective point of view and thoughts of each person. However, it exists a much more ambiguous relation between Septimus and Clarissa. They have very different experiences of the same city and in the same day (time) but never meet each other. Nonetheless, the association of Mrs Dalloway with Septimus Warren Smith is not arbitrary. As Daiches points out, " Virginia Woolf tells us, in a preface written three years after the book was first published, that ' in the first version Septimus, who later is intended to be her double, had no existence ; and that Mrs Dalloway was originally to kill herself at the end of the party' " (75). Though they have had a different life and are of a diverse social class, Septimus Warren Smith can be considered like the double of Clarissa. Indeed, at the end of the novel, at the party, when Mrs Dalloway hears of Septimus' death she retires to a small room in order to deal with the feeling of death. ...read more.


Its bell symbolizes the feminine time. To illustrate this duality, the best passage is where Peter Walsh walks through London after having left Clarissa. In this copy out, St Margaret is linked with femininity: "Ah, said St. Margaret's like a hostess who comes into her drawing-room on the very stroke of the hour . . ." (54). The bells, like a hostess, evoke Clarissa. Moreover, on the one hand, when Big Ben strikes, it is perceived in its rigidity; time has passed and is irrevocable. This clock is seen as a negative, meaningless and repetitive force. On the other hand, when St. Margaret's strikes it is very different. The sound makes him experience deep emotion and evoke some memories of the past: "It is Clarissa herself, he thought, with a deep emotion, and an extraordinary clear, yet puzzling, recollection of her, as if this bell had come into the room years ago, where they sat at some moment of great intimacy, . . ." (54). This "voice" allows him to evoke a moment of happiness. In conclusion, I would say that Woolf also found her own voice in Mrs Dalloway. Indeed, in this novel, she has radically broken with the traditional way of representing time. The intersection between external and internal time structures very well the novel despite his disordered and discontinued nature. In fact, Woolf has succeeded in keeping unity throughout the story despite the constant moves between the consciousnesses of every character. Moreover, by the use of the new modern techniques, i.e. the stream of consciousness and the interior monologues, she makes the novel seem more truthful. Therefore, through this subjective approach to reality, the reader is closer to the characters and s/he is easier absorbed in the new world of fiction. ...read more.

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