Commerce, Politics and the City in A Room of One's Own and Mrs. Dalloway

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Commerce, Politics and the City in A Room of One's Own and Mrs. Dalloway

"...At this moment, as so often happens in London, there was a complete lull and

suspension of traffic. Nothing came down the street; nobody passed. A single

leaf detached itself from the plane tree at the end of the street, and in that

pause and suspension fell. Somehow it was like a signal falling, a signal

pointing to a force in things which one had overlooked ... Now it was bringing

from one side of the street to the other diagonally a girl in patent leather

boots and then a young man in a maroon overcoat; it was also bringing a

taxi-cab; and it brought all three together at a point directly beneath my

window; where the taxi stopped; and the girl and the young man stopped; and they

got into the taxi; and the cab glided off as if it were swept on by the current

elsewhere." (A Room of One's Own 100)

"Virginia Woolf" - the version of her that narrates the "events" of A Room of

One's Own - observes the above urban scene from her window. In a pattern that

she had perfected in Mrs. Dalloway four years earlier, the rhythms of urban

existence are closely articulated with those of the natural world - and that

rhythmic coordination in turn serves as a kind of authorization of that urban

existence, a guarantee of the transcendent meaning of the evidently constructed

human world. Thus the quietly definitive dropping of a leaf from its branch not

only seems a sort of rhythmic blueprint for the ballet-like convergence of

"girl," "man" and "taxi-cab", but also in fact the mystical cause of that

convergence, a "signal" "bringing" this ...

... middle of paper ...

...fied royal, the skywriting of an advertiser's airplane) are analogues of

the narration's own confident focalizing sweep - now airborne, now moving down

city streets, now fanning out across parks, always able to join disparate

characters in a cohesive narrative line. But they are uneasy analogues, for they

are patently the product not of some transcendent or natural meaning but of

powerful modern interests: the nation, entertainment, commerce. Clarissa's

intimations of timeless spiritual connectivity, and the narration's own

performance of that connectivity, move in the grooves set down by these very

modern institutions.

Works cited:

Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway. London: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1925.

____________. A Room of One's Own. London: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1929.

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