Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

Satisfactory Essays
Mrs. Dalloway


"How many million times she had seen her face, and always with the same imperceptible contraction! She pursed her lips when she looked in the glass. It was to give her face point. That was her self-pointed; dartlike; definite. That was her self when some effort, some call on her to be her self, drew the parts together, she alone knew how different, how incompatible and composed so for the world only into one centre, one diamond, one woman who sat in her drawing-room and made a meeting-point, a radiancy no doubt in some dull lives, a refuge for the lonely to come to, perhaps; she had helped young people, who were grateful to her; had tried to be the same always, never showing a sign of all the other sides of her-faults, jealousies, vanities, suspicions, like this of Lady Bruton not asking her to lunch; which, she thought (combing her hair finally), is utterly base! Now, where was her dress?" (37).


The 'diamond' metaphor in the preceding passage is striking and fresh. A diamond is clear but not transparent; it attracts light, yet reflects and refracts it. The diamond possesses many sides but is organic, one whole thing. When Clarissa is 'in the world,' she draws "the parts (of herself) together," she is whole and unified but doesn't show "the other sides of her," as though the social side of Clarissa takes precedence; all others are part of her being but the side she presents to the world best represents the whole. Amazingly, she is aware of this process and one gets the feeling that Clarissa feels that this one-pointed unification represents her at her best, her strongest, and her most real. The diamond is a metaphor for a certain type of human consciousness.

The diamond and it's qualities of clarity and many-sided wholeness are alluded to in several places in Mrs. Dalloway. Peter Walsh talks of his own life in terms of holding something in his hand: "The compensation of growing old...[is that] one has gained...the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in the light" (79); This quote speaks of both satisfaction and detachment.
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