Tuesday, August 18, 2009


More than half way through Mrs. Dalloway, Elizabeth enters her mom’s room to tell her she and her history tutor, Miss Kilman, are going out to run an errand. Unhappy and jealous, Miss Kilman stands in the hall, seething.

Miss Kilman resents the degradation of poverty, degradation that forces her to take jobs from rich people like the Dalloways. Still, she remembers, Richard had been kind.

Lady Bruton can barely stand Hugh Whitbread. Nonetheless, she remembers that she needs to tolerate him since he had been kind.

At the very beginning of the novel, the florist remembers that Mrs. Dalloway had been kind years ago, very kind.

Clarissa’s aunt is kind to Peter, since he gave her a rare flower, and in spite of his horrible lovesick rudeness.

Rezia desperately searches the faces of Septimus’s doctors, of strangers on the street, for signs of kindness.

There is an argument about kindness running through this novel: about how it matters, about how it binds us together, about how it papers over all kinds of differences and resentments. It’s hard to articulate without sounding sentimental.

But these are the sorts of patterns one begins to notice on the fifteenth or twentieth time through a book…

1 comment:

Bruce Oksol said...

I love your site. If you only knew.


Speaking of patterns noted while reading Virginia Woolf.

I have a science background. I had no aptitude for literature in college. At age 50 (2001) I started an aggressive reading program.

I noted (after a re-reading) that Mrs Dalloway sounded like poetry, and was curious what I might find if I could see it in blank verse.

So, I typed the entire novel out in blank verse (I believe at least one other person posted the same on the net) and was surprised to see things I had not seen before.

On page 180 of my copy, Woolf incorporated a poem into her prose.

You might be interested where I think that poem came from:


(Anyway, I have two granddaughters, ages 6 and 3, and your vignettes are identical to the ones I have experienced. Precious.)