Minor Characters of Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway

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      The portraiture of minor characters in Mrs. Dalloway is on the traditional pattern. They are not given major roles as we find in Hardy’s novels. In the Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf has introduced the minor characters in contrast with the major ones. These minor characters are Sally Seton, Elizabeth, Lady Bruton, Dr. Holmes and William Bradshaw etc.

      As we go through Mrs. Dalloway, a large number of characters we encounter, and these characters do not always have a considerable bearing either upon the development of the plot or the life of the protagonist. Clarissa Dalloway's goes to the market in order to buy flowers for her evening party. She comes across several people while passing through the streets of London but these persons are not mentioned even later in the novel and if few among them are mentioned they do not perform any significant role in the novel. Minor characters are very usual to find in the novels before and after Virginia Woolf. In the novels written before Virginia Woolf few significant roles and essential part of the story is assigned to the minor characters. They are either used in contrast or comparison to the protagonist, prospects and conditions of important characters or they are just the instruments in the development of the novel.

      The comparatively insignificant role of the minor characters in Virginia Woolf becomes conspicuous when we consider her theory of fiction and the purpose she set out to perform by writing novels. In the technique of stream-of-consciousness neat and crystal clear details can not be presented in advance because novelist concentrates upon rendering various impressions of mind and depiction of the winding movements of thought that is a hard task to achieve. A character thinks in several directions at the same time, he recalls the memories of several men, he observes a number of activities simultaneously, thus it becomes very troublesome to conclude who was insignificant and which memory was superfluous and forcibly imposed. Mrs. Dalloway who in also a sort of neurotic is suffering from isolation. Her ‘attic room’ always haunts her and she always feels a kind of emptiness in her life, she is in contrast to another character Sally Seton. Sally is a frivolous, delightful, playful and casual woman, she is robust kind of woman who drinks life to the last. Clarissa, standing in front of a mirror, recalls this friend of her and admires her beauty and personality. She has not met Sally quite a long time. Sally is a girlhood friend of Clarissa and Peter. She was so carefree and reckless that she would go about cycling on the terrace. After this information of Sally, she occurs at random through the stream of thoughts of Clarissa. Except this contrast with the heroine of the novel, she seems to have less bearing upon the development of the plot.

      But since the story goes depth-wise rather than in width Sally Seton comes somewhere in the mental journey of Clarissa Dalloway, here she is presented elaborately. After her introduction, we plunge into the tragic story of Septimus Warren Smith and the progress of Clarissa’s party. Here Sally Seton seems very irrelevantly. But in the end, Sally appears in flesh and blood into the party of Clarissa without any information. She is not invited but she comes. To sum up in spite of her various occurrences she does not perform many functions except intensifying Peter’s foolish sentimentality.

University Questions

Write a critical comment on the minor characters of Mrs. Dalloway.
‘The minor characters of Virginia Woolf differ radically from that of in the novels of her predecessors.’ Discuss.

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