Mrs Dalloway


Virginia Woolf

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Themes and Colors
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Mrs Dalloway, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication

Throughout Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf gives us glimpses into the minds of her characters while at the same time showing their outward communication with other people. This framework leads to a complex series of relations, and her characters deal with the privacy, loneliness, and communication of these relationships in different ways. Peter Walsh is notably introverted, and gets swept up in his personal fantasies. Even Clarissa, who loves parties, deeply experiences her own incommunicable…

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Social Criticism

Though Mrs. Dalloway’s action concerns only one day and mostly follows a lady throwing a party, Woolf manages to thread her novel with criticism of English society and post-War conservatism. In Woolf’s time the British Empire was the strongest in the world, with colonies all across the globe (including Canada, India, and Australia), but after World War I England’s power began to crumble. England was technically victorious in the War, but hundreds of thousands…

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Mrs. Dalloway takes place over the course of one day, and in its very framework Woolf emphasizes the passage of time. There are no real chapter breaks, and the most notable divider of the narrative is the chiming of Big Ben as the day progresses. All the novel’s action is so compressed (and usually composed of thoughts and memories) that a few minutes can fill many pages. The chiming of Big Ben is a reminder…

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Psychology and Perception

The novel mostly consists of inner dialogue and stream of consciousness (a modernist technique that Woolf helped pioneer), so the inner workings of the characters’ minds are very important to the work. Woolf herself suffered from mental illness (and ultimately committed suicide), and certain aspects of her own psychological struggles appear in the book, particularly through Septimus. Woolf had a distrust of doctors regarding psychology, which she shows clearly in Dr. Holms and Sir

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Though much of the novel’s action consists of preparations for a seemingly frivolous party, death is a constant undercurrent to the characters’ thoughts and actions. The obvious example of this is Septimus, who suffers from mental illness and ends up killing himself. In his inner dialogue Septimus sees himself as a godlike figure who has gone from “life to death,” and his situation as a former soldier shows how the death and violence of…

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