© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 
Teaching Guide

Teaching Mrs Dalloway

It was a dark and stormy book.

GO TO STUDENT LEARNING GUIDE

Suicide and isolation may cast a cloud over the classroom when discussing Dalloway, but Shmoop can help shine a light on this downer of a book.

In this guide you will find

  • lessons about the Shakespearean allusions in the text.
  • modern pop culture connections like The Hours, starring Nicole Kidman.
  • discussion questions on all the complicated relationships among the characters.

With our teaching guide, you won’t need to be afraid of teaching Virginia Woolf.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

With your purchase, you'll get unlimited access for 12 months. And if you like what you see, you can subscribe to all 200+ Teaching Guides for just $19.84/month.

Instructions for You

Objective: So, let's pretend Shakespeare had a sister. Stick with us. And she's really smart and a gifted writer, just like her big bro. But, she's also a girl in 16th-century England, so she has all kinds of cooking and cleaning and mending to do while her parents find her a suitable husband so she can cook and clean and mend for him. Boo. What happens to all those gifted writing skills? Does she ever become a famous author? That's just the question that Virginia Woolf asks in her famous feminist text, "A Room of One's Own".

"A Room of One's Own" is one of Woolf's key works, and it discusses her life philosophy and how important it is for women to have their own private spaces. In this lesson, students will compare Mrs. Dalloway (specifically, the Clarissa character) to Virginia Woolf's essay. Students will decide whether or not Clarissa Dalloway had "A Room of One's Own," and they'll make inferences about how this may have affected the outcome of her life.

This activity should take one class period.

Materials:

  • Text of Mrs. Dalloway
  • Excerpt from "A Room of One's Own"

Step 1: Distribute to your students the excerpt from "A Room of One's Own". They're going to read the "Shakespeare's sister" section of the piece to themselves. When they're done reading, instruct them to write their initial reactions to the excerpt. These aren't formal responses; students should just note their thoughts and questions right on the handout.

Step 2: And we shall call her… Judith. Is it us, or does that just seem too perfect? Lead your students in a discussion about this Judith and her relationship to Clarissa:

  • Who, according to Woolf, is the hypothetical "Shakespeare's sister?" What are her characteristics and limitations? What point is Woolf trying to make with "Judith?"
  • Do you agree or disagree with the idea that a working-class woman, at least in Shakespeare's day, would not have been able to write his plays?
  • How does Woolf's point relate to the characters in Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa in particular?

Step 3: Now let's get to the meat and potatoes of the activity. Your students are going to decide if Clarissa Dalloway is the early twentieth century's equivalent of Shakespeare's sister. They'll write a short, one-page paper on the topic, using evidence from the text to support their claim. Here are some guiding questions to help along the way:

  • What are Clarissa's talents and skills?
  • What does Clarissa long for most as she is planning her party?
  • How does Clarissa react to accomplishments in other women?
  • How does Clarissa feel about women who are different from herself?
  • Why is it significant that Clarissa feels a kinship with Septimus after she hears that he's killed himself?

Step 4: Give your students most of the period to write their papers, but leave about ten minutes at the end for discussion and reflection. When they're done writing, have a few volunteers share their opinions on Mrs. Dalloway.

  • Do you think Clarissa is an example of Shakespeare's sister, someone who would have accomplished great things if she had more opportunities and a room of her own?
  • Or (pause for dramatic effect), if Clarissa isn't Shakespeare's sister, is there another female character in the book who fits that description?

Instructions for Your Students

So, let's pretend Shakespeare had a sister. Stick with us. And she's really smart and a gifted writer, just like her big bro. But, she's also a girl in 16th-century England, so she has all kinds of cooking and cleaning and mending to do while her parents find her a suitable husband so she can cook and clean and mend for him. Boo. What happens to all those gifted writing skills? Does she ever become a famous author? That's just the question that Virginia Woolf asks in her famous feminist text, "A Room of One's Own".

"Everyone should have a room of one's own." That's basically the thesis of Virginia Woolf's essay (as well as a typical claim among siblings). Woolf was big on feminism and equal rights for women, and she wrote a really long, fascinating essay about women's liberation and their need to have their own space. The question is, are Woolf's fictional women as liberated as the women she describes in her essay? You're going to take a look at both Woolf texts and decide if Clarissa Dalloway had a room of her own and how that might have affected the outcome of her life.

Step 1: First, we'll read the "Shakespeare's sister" section of "A Room of One's Own". When you're done reading, write down your initial reactions to the excerpt. These aren't formal responses; just note your thoughts and questions right on the handout.

Step 2: And we shall call her… Judith. Is it us, or does that just seem too perfect? Let's talk a bit about this Judith and her relationship to Clarissa:

  • Who, according to Woolf, is the hypothetical "Shakespeare's sister?" What are her characteristics and limitations? What point is Woolf trying to make with "Judith?"
  • Do you agree or disagree with the idea that a working-class woman, at least in Shakespeare's day, would not have been able to write his plays?
  • How does Woolf's point relate to the characters in Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa in particular?
  • How much of Woolf's point is relevant to today's world? Do you think some women today still suffer the fate of Shakespeare's hypothetical sister?

Step 3: Now let's get to the meat and potatoes of the activity. You are going to decide if Clarissa Dalloway is the early twentieth century's equivalent of Shakespeare's sister. You'll write a one-page paper (yup, that's it) about whether or not Clarissa is an example of Shakespeare's sister—a gifted woman whose talents never flourish because of her place in society. You're going to need evidence from the text to support your claim, so feel free to dip into the book whenever you need it. Here are some guiding questions to help in your search for evidence:

  • What are Clarissa's talents and skills?
  • What does Clarissa long for most as she is planning her party?
  • How does Clarissa react to accomplishments in other women?
  • How does Clarissa feel about women who are different from herself?
  • Why is it significant that Clarissa feels a kinship with Septimus after she hears that he's killed himself?

Also, check out these Shmoop links for extra help:

Step 4: You'll have the majority of the period to work on your essay with just a few minutes at the end for discussion. When you're finished we'll share and discuss a few responses as a class. What do you think of Clarissa? Is she really a Judith?

• Is Clarissa a Shakespeare's sister—someone who would have achieved greatness if she just had more opportunities?
• Or...drumroll please…if Clarissa is not all that brilliant, is there another female character in the novel who is?

Already have a license?
CLICK HERE to sign in!

OPTIONS FOR PURCHASE

I am buying...
I am buying...
For teacher(s).
Price: $14.92
Good things come
in affordable packages.
GET A QUOTE FOR YOUR
SCHOOL OR DISTRICT
Teachers, want access to all courses for your own use at a low monthly rate?
Subscribe for only as long as you need.
Share


WANT MORE HELP TEACHING MRS DALLOWAY?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
back to top