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Mrs. Dalloway This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     To start, the idea intrigued me: this is the story of a woman who finds meaning in life as a high-society hostess, but it’s written by a feminist whose insanity drove her to suicide. Michael Cunningham, author of the Pulitzer-winning The Hours, describes his inspiration Mrs. Dalloway as “the first novel to split the atom.” In short, I was curious, though I had always thought of British literature as too boring to enjoy.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway was almost a culture shock. Never before had I seen such sentences. I didn’t even know that a writer can do what Virginia Woolf has done with words. Told by almost any modern author, I’d be less enchanted. Told by Woolf, I was captivated. And I wasn’t just enthralled with the eloquence, either; if expression and language are the backbone of Mrs. Dalloway, the characters are the heart. On paper, I share nothing in common with Clarissa Dalloway. But in her world, I see, know, and feel everything she does.

Clarissa is an upper-class hostess, but in her reality, she is much more. Now in her 50s, Clarissa looks back on the choices she made and where they led. The day progresses, climaxing with her extravagant evening party. Meanwhile, readers become enchanted by a web of introspective characters. There is Clarissa’s doleful husband, Richard; her pensive daughter, Elizabeth; her former lover, Peter. And then there are the puzzlingly connected characters, Septimus Warren Smith, the unsound veteran, and Rezia, his foreign wife. Eventually the character chains are brought together, interlocking and weaving to synchronize the novel.

My psychology teacher used to ask my class every Friday what we thought the meaning of life was. No one ever came up with any spectacular replies, but now, I would like nothing more than to hand her a copy of Mrs. Dalloway. It has the best answer I’ve heard: life is ineffable. Every person has his or her purpose with no rhyme or reason to it. Woolf makes it very clear that this purpose has nothing to do with God or love or any of the things people claim to live for. We are here to exist. We are here to delight in life, however we know how. This is one message of Mrs. Dalloway. This is what I found contained on every page of the book. This is what survives today, and what will continue to survive.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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