Mrs Dalloway: Ways of Living

“Her parties! That was it! Her parties! Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it!


They thought, or Peter at any rate thought, that she enjoyed imposing herself; liked to have famous people about her; great names; was simply a snob in short. Well, Peter might think so. Richard merely thought it foolish of her to like excitement when she knew it was bad for her heart. It was childish, he thought. And both were wrong. What she liked was simply life” (Woolf 118)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005.

The parties are the only tangible means for Clarissa to experience life—in some sense, it is her drive to live because it is her purpose. The parties are the only instances where Clarissa is seen to be more animate and involved with living—arranging the party, buying flowers, etc. Men like Peter and Richard scoff at her interest in throwing parties when in reality they are responsible for her state of isolation and loneliness; Peter abandoned her and Richard restricts Clarissa from living or getting too excited about life for the sake of her health. In a male dominated society, Peter and Richard try to discourage Clarissa from getting so involved with parties because it is childish and snobbish when it is the only outlet for Clarissa to express her desire for life. The parties are her domain, and she can manage and control them herself without the interference of her husband; it is power even if it’s just a party.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning.”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press, 2000.