The Imagery of Mrs. Dalloway

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     However, to generalize the image, Virginia Woolf tends to make it specific with supporting symbols and metaphors. Clarissa Dalloway just before her party, “felt herself a stake driven in at the top of her stairs”. Three pages earlier, specific allusions to martyrdom, self-pity, self-punishment, and guilt are given: “Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire? Might it consume has any how, Burn to cinders” With the image of the stake, the two passages connect and the emotion becomes clear. Similar feelings contribute to the elaborate image of the monster in the forest which embodies Clarissa’s feelings for Doris Kilman. Here, the image is expanded; we sense every reverberation of the emotion as Mrs. Woolf moves the image here and there with action words so that its ambiguities can be felt. Part of its power, however, comes from the sheer strength of the animal image itself, and a glance through Virginia Woolf’s work reveals many such images. Love may be a moon rising at Bourton, but more often it is a “great fish”. Fear is a “dumb creature” which gallops to the end of a field. Sexual challenge changes Clarissa and Peter into two Horses who “paw the ground” and “toss their heads” before a battle. Emotional triumph over conflicting elements is a mermaid as Rachel swims about a room to escape Terence, or Clarissa wearing a “silver-green mermaid’s dress”, is “lolloping on the waves” of her party’s success.

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