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Themes

Suffering takes many forms in <em>Mrs Dalloway</em>. People may be physically ill with vague but debilitating problems, or be deeply, emotionally damaged, or somewhere between. Although almost everyone in the novel is suffering, everyone feels that they're in it on their own. Miss Kilman suffers partly by choice and as a political expression, making martyrdom part of her personality. Rezia’s suffering comes from empathy for her husband and a deep sense of isolation. Peter suffers above all from the past, from the fact that Clarissa never loved him and the reality that he has made bad choices with women and in his career. Septimus ultimately kills himself to end his mad suffering. Does this mean that suffering is universal and unavoidable? What do you think?

Questions About Suffering

  1. What exactly is the cause of Clarissa’s suffering? Does she suffer as much as Septimus?
  2. Does either Dr Bradshaw or Dr Holmes offer any relief from the suffering of their patients?
  3. Does Virginia Woolf suggest any connections between suffering and British society? Why might all of these characters be suffering?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

If Rezia had been more open about her suffering, it might have helped Septimus know that he wasn't alone.

Richard has no idea that Clarissa is suffering.

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