I finished reading Mrs Dalloway last week; it’s the fourth Woolf novel I’ve read and my fourth favourite. That’s not to say I didn’t like and enjoy it – I certainly did. It didn’t move me in quite the same way To The Lighthouse, The Waves and Orlando did; though I do think it’s beautiful and a wonderful read.
My favourite part of the novel is when Peter recalls Clarissa Dalloway’s theory on ‘knowing people’. I wholeheartedly agree and love this articulation -
“Clarissa had a theory in those days – they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoke to, some women in the street, some man behind a counter – even trees, or barns. It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places, after death. Perhaps – perhaps.”
- From Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.