Psychoanalysis of “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway the novel was written in 1925 by Virginia Woolf, a famous UK writer. The work deals with the aftermath of the First World War, personal trauma, and death. Jumping back and forth between different points in time, it showcases the inner turmoil of its cast. Central to the story is the titular Mrs. Dalloway, or Clarissa Dalloway. On the outside, she may appear like a regular wealthy socialite, but as the audience learns more about her past, her daily life, and her thoughts, they understand how deeply affected by Clarissa is by various life events.

The most notable characteristic that can be attributed to the woman is her fixation on throwing parties. She devotes significant attention and time to organizing parties, making sure they are enjoyable for the guests and acting as the best possible “host”. Taking into account how scared the woman is of leaving her comfort zone, the attachment to parties may be her lifeline to other human contact. While Clarissa is out buying flowers, the readers can notice how anxious she is about many things people consider to be insignificant. Fear permeates her life in a way that signifies she has been hurt in the past. From this lens, throwing parties can be seen as a safe environment for Mrs. Dalloway. She is able to bring other people within her reach and exert a level of control over the space she inhabits.

Mrs. Dalloway is an extremely repressed person. Emotionally, intimately, and socially, she feels the constrains of her life and society wearing her down. This falls in line with the Freudian understanding of the term, which is reserved for the practice of avoiding possible sources of anxiety by completely disconnecting oneself from a particular subject (Akhtar). Despite having a relatively well-off life and a high societal position, a sense of disconnectedness can be felt. Clarissa puts a lot of emphasis on her status, and thinks negatively of those who are beneath her. This can be seen as a defense mechanism that allows Clarissa to feel better about her own life despite her trauma. By comparing herself to others and coming out on top, she can ensure that the destructive thoughts she is avoiding will not resurface.

Coming back to ideas of repression and expanding on them, it is possible to say that Mrs. Dalloway does not allow herself to be truly honest with her own emotions. In her youth, Mrs. Dalloway had kissed her female friend. She remembers that act with a certain fondness, it gives her a rush of emotions. Comparatively, her marriage with Mr. Dalloway is far more mellowed-out, with the man struggling to show his affection for her, and the two being distant. From the emotions of that kiss, it is clear that Mrs. Dalloway wants love and passion in her marriage, but is deprived of it.

The sentimentality of her past suitor is not able to fill that role either, as she knows that he will be too controlling of her freedom. Clarissa is deprived of the emotional connection she craves, while all the alternative she allows herself are unfulfilling. Similarly, she also does not allow herself to explore her feelings of female attraction, valuing the social role of womanhood more. Her denial of any same-sex attraction can also be felt in how much she hates Miss Kilman, her daughter’s friend (Woolf). Similarly, Clarissa is also repressed socially, rarely leaving her house and considering even the act of opening her front door to be something significant. She lives by burrowing herself in her residence, rarely seeking out contact outside of the specific modes of communication she found to be acceptable. Protected by her own wall of denial, insecurity and deflection, she is unable to be at peace with her trauma.

Work Cited

Akhtar, Salman. “Repression: A Critical Assessment and Update of Freud’s 1915 Paper.” The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 80, no. 3, 2020, pp. 241-258.

Woolf, V. Mrs Dalloway. 2013.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, August 22). Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, August 22). Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf. https://psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/

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"Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf." PsychologyWriting, 22 Aug. 2023, psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf'. 22 August.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf." August 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf." August 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/.


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PsychologyWriting. "Psychoanalysis of "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf." August 22, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/psychoanalysis-of-mrs-dalloway-by-virginia-woolf/.