London as setting for "Mrs. Dalloway"

Essay by pimkieUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 2006

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''When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.'' --Samuel Johnson

In "Mrs. Dalloway", Virginia Woolf uses the setting of the city of London to effectively show the vastly different emotional responses of the characters. The city of London, in June, is the primary location in which three of the novel's characters are placed; although they inhabit the same period of time, they display completely different responses. The protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, enjoys the experience from her position of privilege and comfort. Septimus Warren Smith, by contrast, is being swallowed up by the city since he is in the depths of shell-shocked depression; he contemplates suicide because he cannot cope with life as he perceives it in London. Peter Walsh, who has recently returned to London after an absence of five years, is surrendering himself to the sights, sounds, and general atmosphere of the city in a casual light-hearted manner as one does who is unburdened by the cares of life.

Woolf uses the city of London as a catalyst and focal point of these characters' lives, which all intersect, directly or indirectly, at the end of the day at Clarissa's party.

The busy streets of London on a fresh June morning provide the perfect setting for Clarissa Dalloway's free-flowing thoughts as she sets off to buy the flowers for her party. Clarissa is so seduced by her surroundings, the traffic, the people all engaged in their own pursuits, that she allows her thoughts to flow freely over her experiences during her youth spent at Bourton. London is a comfortable place for Clarissa, and she simply ''loves walking in London''(6), as she declares to her old friend, Hugh Whitbread. Her life of comfort and privilege...