Mrs. Dalloway: Mind-reading

“Hunted out of existence, maimed, frozen, the victims of cruelty and injustice (she had heard Richard say so over and over again)- no, she could feel nothing for the Albanians, or was it the Armenians? but she loved her roses (didn’t that help the Armenians?)- the only flowers she could bear to see cut” (120). 

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

For context, the sentences before are: “And people would say, ‘Clarissa Dalloway is spoilt.’  She cared much more for the roses than for the Armenians.” The initial use of quotation marks suggest that people may have actually said this about Mrs. Dalloway. The absence of quotation marks around the next few sentences suggest free indirect discourse through Mrs. Dalloway; Clarissa thinks about how “people” think about her. Clarissa assumes others criticize her for focusing more on the menial and materialistic, like roses, rather than larger issues, like the Albanians/Armenians as victims of injustice. Parenthesis are used to separate Clarissa’s own thoughts with her thoughts of how others view her. Parenthetical phrases offer access to her self-reflection and highlights her own insecurities. “(She had heard Richard say so over and over again)” is her admission that she would not have known or thought about the cruelties of the Armenians if not for Richard. Clarissa considers, “(didn’t that help the Armenians)” regarding her loving the roses. She asks this rhetorically and ironically, the juxtaposition of the roses and Armenians as victims of cruelty and injustice suggesting that she understands that her opinion of the roses does nothing for the Armenians. Clarissa’s assumption that others view her negatively fits with the rest of the novel, her actions defined by the way in which they affect others’ opinions of her. Clarissa’s representation of others’ calls for the readers skepticism, as her assumptions of how others perceive her are a means to project her own insecurities.

Mrs. Dalloway

“But suppose Peter said to her, “Yes, yes, but your parties – what’s the sense of your parties?” all she could say was (and nobody could be expected to understand): They’re an offering; which sounded horribly vague.” (118)

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

In this scene, Clarissa is contemplating the reasons she planned and hosted parties. The narration before this quote says, “what she liked was simply life” and she goes on to say out loud, even though she is alone, “That’s what I do it for”. No one is around to hear her talk through this justification, even though she sounds like she is trying to prove her point to someone. It almost seems like, by saying it out loud, she is trying to prove it to herself. She goes on to think, through free indirect discourse narration, “but suppose Peter said to her”. Attempting to convince herself that having these parties is just something she liked to do, Clarissa shifts to thinking about what Peter would say to her, knowing him well enough that he would question her. This sentence hints at Clarissa possibly being a little insecure, especially regarding Peter’s opinion of her. She not only thinks about his opinion, but also thinks of what everyone else would think in response to his doubt. She thinks, “nobody could be expected to understand” acknowledging the fact that she is aware no one else would back her up when she defended herself. But this is an entirely hypothetical situation, as Peter hasn’t even said anything yet. She even acknowledges that her answer would sound “horribly vague”. This style of thinking is common throughout the novel, as characters tend to get lost in their thoughts.