The Intersection of External Time and Internal Time in Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Intersection of External Time and Internal Time in Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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In Mrs Dalloway, the modernist writer Virginia Woolf undermines the
usual conventions of prior prose fiction by adopting an innovative
approach to time. She contrasts the objective external time and
subjective internal time that structure the plot of the one-day novel.
In fact, the story takes place on a single day in June and, by the use
of two important techniques, namely the stream of consciousness mode
of narration and the interior monologue, the reader is constantly
flowing from the present to the past or the future. Moreover, Woolf
blurs the distinctions between dream and reality but emphasizes the
importance of the present moment. Finally, both representations of
time have a great influence on characters' life and relations between
each other.

Firstly, time itself, which, in fact, measures and divides, becomes
fluid, elastic and mobile the interaction of memories and thoughts. As
Showalter points out in the introduction of Mrs Dalloway, "In Time and
Free Will (1888) … Bergson" speaks about "'psychological time, which
is internal, subjective, and measured by the relative intensity of the
moment'" (qtd. in Woolf xx). Internal time is one of the new
characteristics that Woolf introduces in her novel. In other words,
she describes a subjective reality through the stream of
consciousness. By this new mode of narration, Woolf gives to the
reader the impression of entering the consciousness of the characters.
It describes the unorganised flow of thoughts, sensations, and
memories that is the time in the mind (or internal time). Characters'
memories introduce the element of time. Furthermore, one of the
techniques for represen...

... middle of paper ...

...clusion, I would say that Woolf also found her own voice in Mrs
Dalloway. Indeed, in this novel, she has radically broken with the
traditional way of representing time. The intersection between
external and internal time structures very well the novel despite his
disordered and discontinued nature. In fact, Woolf has succeeded in
keeping unity throughout the story despite the constant moves between
the consciousnesses of every character. Moreover, by the use of the
new modern techniques, i.e. the stream of consciousness and the
interior monologues, she makes the novel seem more truthful.
Therefore, through this subjective approach to reality, the reader is
closer to the characters and s/he is easier absorbed in the new world
of fiction.


Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. London: Penguin Classics, 2000.

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