Monday, 1 June 2009

Mrs Dalloway, London and June

The month of June always brings Woolf's Mrs Dalloway to mind.

"[...] the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June."

Clarissa Dalloway drops into the stream of life as she steps out into ‘the triumph and the jingle’ of London. She is getting ready for a party to be given in the evening with the hope of an appearance from the Prime Minister. As she walks through the streets of London on her way to buy flowers we watch the character respond passionately to her surroundings, ‘I love walking in London.’ The description of London’s streets associates the major characters with the places in which they currently live or in which they walk resulting in a cinema-like quality to the novel. The chaos of life is explored through Woolf’s ability to produce a cross-section of one day in London.

London is incredibly vivid and Woolf captures a reality that incorporates us all in the streets. The main characters work side by side whilst other people, such as Sir William Bradshaw, interweave and create the visible links. As Clarissa buys her flowers, Septimus is just outside on the pavement unable to pass, these faint overlaps create a lucid and flowing cross-section of London life.

This is a stunning piece of literature that has been imaginatively written and successfully executed. We skip along through the short time span whilst characters precipitate moods in which we explore early twentieth century society and ourselves. The reader is left wanting to drop a part of themselves in the continuous stream of life in order to experience the ‘lark’ and ‘plunge’ that is Clarissa’s fine June day in London.

You can buy a poster of the original Mrs Dalloway dust jacket, designed by Vanessa Bell, at the V&A Shop - which is where I took the above image from.

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