by Virginia Woolf
Mrs Dalloway Theme of Memory and the Past
Clarissa’s party stirs up memories for many of the characters, and memories are constantly woven into the present-day thoughts of the characters. The past affects each character differently in Mrs Dalloway. Certain memories are very keen (and much happier) for Clarissa, such as getting a kiss from Sally Seton. She cherishes these moments as the best of her life. For Peter, the past is mostly just painful: he still can’t get over his love for Clarissa and so he constantly returns to the summers at Bourton in order to make sense of what happened. For Septimus, memories are haunting and painful. He continues to hallucinate that he’s seeing Evans get killed, and memories of the war dominate his mind. Though he struggles to see beauty, the present is constantly interrupted by gruesome visions of the past.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Are memories a good or a bad thing for the characters in Mrs Dalloway?
- To Clarissa, was the past better, happier? What about to Peter?
- What associations do characters have with Bourton? Do they all remember it the same way, or do they have different memories of that time?
- How do you think Clarissa is affected by the death of her sister? Why doesn't she think about her sister more?
Chew on This
Clarissa lives more in the future than in the past.
Peter dwells on the past because he is ashamed of what he has become in the present.