The Theme Of Time In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

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When reading a novel, the reader’s attention is not always drawn to the concept of time. Usually, time is just presumed or indicated casually, without any particular attention being drawn to it. However, in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the theme of time is of primary importance in the novel. In Mrs. Dalloway, one does not just encounter one form of time, but instead faces the concepts of time on the clock and time in the mind, as well as the discrepancies between the two. In this paper, it will be argued that in Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf was concerned with the differences between the objective physical clock which measures time, and the time measured by the subjective human consciousness in relation to experiences registered throughout an individual’s lifetime. Furthermore, it will be argued that Woolf’s different representations of time as being sometimes non-chronological relate to the context of Modernity through the constant use of stream of consciousness in the text. Woolf’s concern with the concept of time in Mrs. Dalloway is evident from the outset of the novel, when the chiming of Big Ben is mentioned in the opening lines: “What a lark! What a plunge! (…) with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now” (Woolf 3). This concern with time becomes more apparent as the novel progresses, as it is discovered that the plot of the novel spans less than twenty-four hours in clock time, but in excess of thirty years in time in the mind. In “Life and Death in
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