Study Guide

Mrs Dalloway Flowers

By Virginia Woolf


Clarissa’s first action in the story is to buy flowers; as she enters the flower shop, "There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations […]" (1.25). After this moment, flowers continue to appear throughout the entire novel. Most importantly, they are an enormous source of joy for Clarissa, who cherishes the beauty of everyday life. Flowers are also important as symbols of love (surprise surprise): Clarissa's daughter, Elizabeth, is often compared to a flower and Richard brings roses to Clarissa, a gesture that replaces saying "I love you." The beauty of the roses seems to get the point across.

Flowers are also a crucial aspect of Clarissa's memories:

Sally went out, picked hollyhocks, dahlias – all sorts of flowers that had never been seen together – cut their heads off, and made them swim on the top of water in bowls. The effect was extraordinary – coming in to dinner in the sunset. (Of course Aunt Helena thought it wicked to treat flowers like that). (2.14)

Woolf was surely aware of the feminine association with flowers: flowers, women, and beauty have long gone together. According to the older generation (Aunt Helena), treating flowers in the way that Sally does implies some corruption of femininity. Perhaps this is a comment on the conservative views toward female homosexuality; as we know, Sally planted a nice kiss on Clarissa (a kiss which Clarissa thinks about to this day).

There are more flowers scattered throughout the novel: what do you think they symbolize?