virginia woolf-source npr.org

picture source: http://www.npr.org

“Mrs. Dalloway” is one the most difficult novels I have ever read in my life so far. I read this thin book a few years ago. If someone asks me what the book is all about, my explanation would not be more than this following. Mrs. Dalloway is a story of a Briton socialite namely Clarissa Dalloway who is about to throw a party on a fine evening. During the preparation, her mind goes back to her youth, rethinking her marriage with Richard Dalloway instead of Peter Walsh, recalling her relationship with Sally Seton.

As the arrangement progresses, Clarissa meets Peter who later introduces her to a tragic story of a World War I veteran Septimus Warren Smith who opts to commit suicide after he feels so deeply sad about the death of his friend Evans in the war. Clarissa somehow applauds Septimus’s decision.

I have no more impressions other than those sentences. I am completely at loss on the core of the novel. The language is beautiful, the plot is fine but I can’t dig deeper than that. It feels like beyond the thin novel there lies some layer of complexities that I have to find it by myself. And poor me! I did not get that after the first reading experience. And mind you! I won’t touch the book again.

Some years later, I eventually find the cause of my difficulty in reading the book in Wikipedia. And it is called as stream of consciousness, a narrative device used in literature to describe various thoughts and feelings. Philosopher and psychologist Williams James firstly mentions this term in ‘The Principles of Psychology (1890). No wonder the book feel so damn hard.

As the novel is such a hard reading I therefore can only understand the book outer essence. What goes deeper than that I have no clues. It is after I look at Wikipedia that later I discover very serious and definitely hard issues in the novel. I bet these values are what make the novel as one of the most magnificent works in the 20th century.

Feminism, self-existance, and homosexuality are three central themes I later understand years after I put down the novel. The idea of putting an unusual relationship between Clarissa and Sally into the book provides readers a glance about homosexuality issues. Plus, Clarissa’s appreciation on the way Septimus ends his life raises further questions about the matter. While hosting a party for high class society marks Clarissa’s attempts to confirm her social status.

Those hard, psychological-related issues are so out of my reading reach as I don’t even grasp the messages at all given the sophisticated narration method. That is how I describe the difficulty in reading her novel. And that is the factor that pushes me away from reading her another book, ‘To the Lighthouse’. May be I will give her a try later.

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