Musical Elements in the Novel Mrs. Dalloway

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The Lyrical Note in Mrs. Dalloway.

      All the critics agree to the fact that Mrs. Virginia Woolf had the soul of a poet and Mrs. Dalloway stamps this belief. The greatest contribution of Mrs. Virginia Woolf is the ‘‘musicalization of English fiction”. While the musical note rings in our ear, in all the novels of Mrs. Woolf but it is very much crystal clear in the novel Mrs. Dalloway. According to Bernard Blackstone, Mrs. Dalloway is like a “musical fugue in construction.”

Musical Fugue.

      Musical fugue is a form of composition in which one of the singers or group of singers strike a particular note, immediately the second singer or group of singers take it up and the first singer or group of singers accompany the second singer or group of singers in the form of instrumental music. Thus we find a backward and forward movement an alternating rhythm between the two singers. These two alternating rhythms constitute one music, in other words they are fused together and make a single harmony.

The Rhythm in Alternation.

      On the pattern of musical fugue Mrs. Dalloway is constructed. It consists in double-plot and the action also moves in backward and forward. The main plot is the story of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway’s life and her contacts with various persons. The subplot consists of the story of Septimus and Rezia. The novel starts from the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway as she steps out in the morning to buy flowers. Then the focal point shifts from Clarissa’s consciousness to the consciousness of Septimus whom Lucrezia takes along to Dr. Bradshaw that very morning. Again we come back to the mind of Mrs. Dalloway. Thus this movement from one story to another and from the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway to Septimus is repeated many times. In this way a well unified complete picture of the contemporary Western civilization is built up. Like musical fugue throughout the novel we find rhythmical backward and forward movement that is entirely made up of feelings, impressions and moods rather than of external events.

      The backward and forward movement not only exists between the mind of Mrs. Dalloway and Septimus - Rezia but also between the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway and other members to whom she has made contacts. We find a swing from the fixed point of Mrs. Dalloway’s consciousness to the consciousness of Peter Walsh. In the very beginning when we read the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway, the focus shifts on to the consciousness of Peter Walsh, then again we come back to the starting point. This kind of movement is kept till the end. Just as we shift from the consciousness of a character to another likewise we see an alternating movement between present and past or backward and forward. In the present we move with Mrs. Dalloway but immediately through her consciousness, we see her as she was thirty years ago at Bourton. Thus we see her as a girl, what kind of people had influenced her and molded her personality. In this way she is built up as a round character or multifarious personality. Then again we come back to the present.

Blending of Two Rhythms is the Crowning Point.

      The action of the novel is not mainly external but they are internal — moods, feelings and impressions. It has an alternating movement that is both temporal and special. There are two rhythms in the form of the two stories - the story of Mrs. Dalloway’s life and the story of Septimus - Rezia. Like the music, the story mounts towards the culminating point. In the content of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, the apex is represented by her evening party and the climax of Septimus’ story is his suicide. Thus there is a remarkable contrast between the climax of both stories. The first story of Clarissa moves smoothly towards a happy ending while others is horrible and hair erecting. Septimus attends the party of Mrs. Dalloway obviously not physically but in the conversation of party members.


      In this way, Mrs. Woolf has succeeded in musicalization of English novel. English novel. Bernard Blackstone has well remarked: “It is an extraordinary art which develops the abnormal episode of Septimus Warren Smith and keeps it going against the other strand of the Dalloway without its leaping out of the frame. It is analogous to the technique of musical counterpoint even, perhaps, of writing music in two keys.

University Questions

Discuss this statement that Mrs. Dalloway is a musicalization of fiction.
Mrs. Dalloway. Musical fugue in construction. Elaborate.

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