Mind Reading – Mrs. Dalloway

“Elizabeth rather wondered, as they did up the parcel, what Miss Kilman was thinking.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, 1925. Print. 127

In this passage, Elizabeth wonders what Miss Kilman is thinking as they shop for petticoats. Much of the novel is written in free indirect discourse. Though the book is written in third person, the reader is able to understand the thoughts of several different characters. In this particular passage, Elizabeth wonders about Miss Kilman as she guides her around the Army and Navy store. Though they get along, Miss Kilman and Elizabeth are completely dissimilar. While Elizabeth is young and beautiful, Miss Kilman is unhappy, scornful, and wretched with self pity. In this moment, Elizabeth wonders about Miss Kilman’s nature and she hopes to leave Miss Kilman’s side. As a born again Christian, Miss Kilman often attempts to persuade Elizabeth to accept her religious beliefs, and though she does not reciprocate Miss Kilman’s attraction, Elizabeth likes the new ideas and opportunities that Miss Kilman presents to her.

Commonplace and “Mind-read”

“…could Miss Kilman really mind it? Yes, Miss Kilman did mind it.”

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print. 127

The context of this sentence is the cake that Elizabeth wonders if Miss Kilman had wanted when it is taken from her. Elizabeth is astonished by Miss Kilman’s eating habits and wonders whether she is even hungry at all but simply taking and taking as so many have done to her in the past, leaving her with nothing. Elizabeth acts as the link between the worlds of Miss Kilman and that of her mother and company. Interestingly, Miss Kilman’s feelings toward the two women are the complete opposite. She detests Clarissa and is infatuated with her daughter; feelings that can never be expressed in either regard for fear of unemployment, rejection, or both. So Miss Kilman eats, not out of pleasure, or need, but to finally possess something that no one can take away, and fill herself with something other than feelings of inadequacy and intense emotions.