Mrs. Dalloway – Mind Reading

“She held her hands to her head, waiting for him to say did he like the hat or not, and 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.” (Woolf 161)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Penguin Group, 1992.

In this sentence, Septimus Warren Smith “follows” his wife’s mind as she sits across from him, sewing a hat. Woolf uses the figure of a bird on a tree to represent how Septimus represents Rezia’s mental processes. It’s reflective of Septimus that he does not understand Rezia’s mind in literal terms but through the image of a bird, because of his struggles to interpret the world simply. By attempting to comprehend the mind of another character, Septimus is in effect trying to comprehend human minds in general, including his own. The world through Septimus’ eyes is greatly intensified and somewhat surreal, so the representation of the mind through a figurative image shows another aspect of his unique perspective. It’s also noteworthy that the image of Rezia’s mind is a “bird,” which carries with it a connotation of lightness (consider how the bird “alights” from branch to branch), as opposed to seriousness, as well being a slang term for a young woman originating as early as 1915. (1)

 

Mrs. Dalloway

“All the time he was thinking only of Clarissa, and was fidgeting with his knife” (Woolf 187)

Here Sally is assuming that Peter is still in love with Clarissa. It highlights the fact that after all these years Peter still yearns for Clarissa. Woolf is further solidifying Peter’s feelings for Clarissa by allowing another character to make the conclusion on their own. However, by allowing Sally to think of Peter’s feelings of Clarissa, Woolf is also drawing on the relationship between Sally, Clarissa, and Peter. This strengthens the validity of Sally’s thoughts because she has known both Peter and Clarissa for a long time, also offering that Peter’s feelings for Clarissa may not be apparent to everyone else.

Mrs. Dalloway

“She felt somehow very like him-the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt Inc, 1925. Print. 182

This is not directly thinking about what someone else thinks mostly because Septimus is dead. However, this sentence puts the reader under the impression that Clarissa knew exactly what Septimus thought and felt before he died. She tries to connect her feelings to his, and in doing that basically creates her own fantasy about what Septimus was feeling. This adds to Carissa as a character as well. It is clear she is not considerate of others feelings and not only assumes about their emotions/thoughts but creates her own to match others with what she is feeling. Yet again in this novel does another character feel they knew what Septimus was feeling and what his emotions were at the time. The feeling of loneliness still resonates long after Septimus is dead.