Okay, I promised to talk more about the opening line of Mrs. Dalloway: “Mrs. Dalloway said would buy the flowers herself.”
Would you believe Woolf wrote a short story called “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” with a similar but different first line? “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself.” (It’s so similar I suspect either it was written as a precursor to the novel or it was reworked from it.)
Gloves? Gloves? Really? That’s interesting…
How do you think that would change the novel if it opened with gloves instead of flowers?
I suppose we have to consider what the flowers might mean and then possibly throw all of our thoughts about them away in light of the interchangeable nature of the flowers with the gloves.
On the one hand (ha, an unintentional glove pun), it might point to the fact that Woolf wanted to emphasize that Clarissa, newly recovered from influenza, wants a reason to take a walk on a nice day, and not necessarily emphasize the flowers.
Gloves cover hands, can keep them warm and clean. They are prophylactic, protecting one from the world. And yet what a pleasure it must have been to pick them out – material, color, style, trimmings… practical items to purchase and yet much more, items of fashion.
Then again, Woolf chose flowers for the novel’s opening, not gloves. (My senior thesis has a large section about gloves in Lighthouse, so of course gloves are meaningful to me when I see them in a novel. And yet we have to consider authorial intent, right?)
In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Dalloway’s husband Richard brings her roses. We are told he shows his love for her by giving her these rather than telling her. (Woolf’s characters sometimes have trouble expressing their love openly for one another; it happens in Lighthouse as well.) (BTW, by now you know that Clarissa Dalloway is the titular character of the book, right?)
Here’s the link to the short story if you’d like to read it. https://americanliterature.com/author/virginia-woolf/short-story/mrs-dalloway-in-bond-street
Flowers are a theme throughout the book, but it seems early to get so deep. Let’s read on and talk more about that later. Where are you now in the book? Are you as excited as I am about the gloves/flowers discovery? What do you make of it?
Here’s another teaser: these are not the only two places where we’ll see the Dalloways in Woolf’s writing.