Dalloway Mind-read

“What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? A young man had killed himself. And they talked of it at her party– the Bradshaws, talked of death. He had killed himself– but how? Always her body went through it first, when she was told, suddenly, of an accident; her dress flamed, her body burnt. He had throw himself from a window. Up had flashed the ground; through him, blundering, bruising, went the rusty spikes. There he lay with a thud, thud, thud in his brain, and then suffocation of blackness. So she saw it. But why had he done it? And the Bradshaws talked of it at her party!” (184).

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

First and foremost, the fundamental layer between this paragraph and the audience is its narrator. From there, Mrs. Dalloway serves as a quasi-layer added to the mix, as most of the progression above stems from her own stream of consciousness. Furthermore, Mrs. Dalloway seems to even be questioning the motives of Septimus, the man who we understand is the suicidal man of the conversations of the party. Already, there are several layers at work of one person thinking and commenting on what another is thinking. The paragraph puts an emphasis on the effect of this tragedy on Mrs. Dalloway’s party, although there should be no correlation. Between the multiple filters on the narration, it remains ambiguous whether it is the narrator commenting on Mrs. Dalloway’s misfortune, or Mrs. Dalloway’s complaint of her misfortune (relatively speaking). The following questions purposed hold a similar effect– the man’s suicide is undermined in its negative association with the distraction of Mrs. Dalloway’s party. The consistent use of pronouns like “her” and “she” would make one think that the narrator is more omniscient. However, by repeatedly highlighting that death was being discussed at her party, it seems a more selfish and personal consciousness sort of comment to make. This therefore resurfaces the question– who is the narrator? The constant shift between direct, indirect, and free indirect discourse allows Woolf to transcend the limits of concrete, omniscient narration.