Clarissa Dalloway Essay

Virginia Woolf creates interesting contrast within the character of Clarissa
Dalloway using stream of consciousness narration in her novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Clarissa’s inner thoughts reveal a contrast between her lack of attraction to
her husband due to her lesbian feelings and her fear of loosing him as a social
stepping stone. These contrasts and many others can be seen throughout the novel
using the literary device of stream of consciousness narration. Clarissa’s
character reveals to us early in the book her lack of attraction to her husband.

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This revelation can be seen in the passage that states: “…through some
contraction of this cold spirit, she had failed him…she could see what she
lacked…it was something central which permeated….” The “cold spirit”
that she talks of is her sexuality, in being attracted to women, and her lack of
understanding why she is this way. This is the main reason for her lack of
attraction. She feels that she has let him down because she cannot complete her
duties as his wife. Clarissa had lost both a sexual relationship and sexual
attraction with her husband since the birth of her teenage daughter Elizabeth:
“…she could not dispel a virginity preserved through childbirth which clung
to her like a sheet.” Clarissa tells us of her true sexuality as she remembers
her girlhood friend Sally Seton. Sally is the only person that Clarissa has ever
had any real passionate feelings for. “But this question of love, this falling
in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally
Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?” Although Sally held her heart, her
homosexual feelings were not socially acceptable. Clarissa is therefore obliged
to enter into a marriage to Richard Dalloway for social purposes. A contrast to
Clarissa’s lack of attraction to her husband is seen in her fear of loosing
him. Richard provides for her a stepping stone for her to be the socialite that
she strives to be. When Richard is invited to a lunch with Lady Bruton, a twinge
of fear is evident in Clarissa that she is loosing her husband: “Fear no more
the heat o’ the sun; for the shock of Lady Bruton asking Richard to lunch
without her made the moment which she had stood shiver….” Without him, she
would be nothing in society, so Clarissa is scared of loosing him even though
she has no attraction towards him. A contrast in the “deeper” self of
Clarissa Dalloway can be seen in the stream of consciousness narration in Mrs.

Dalloway. She reveals her lack of attraction for her husband and her fear of
loosing him through her inner thoughts. This provides for us the ability to see
the weaknesses of Clarissa and many of the other characters.


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