As we know, Mrs. Dalloway takes place in a few different times and places. However, a more curious question became how many hours, from Clarissa going to buy the flowers by herself, to the end of the narrative, “for there she was,” does the novel take place in?
Mrs. Dalloway can be broken down into three sections: the beginning, when Clarissa goes out to buy flowers at ten; the ending, her “rebirth” after a long, nearly fatal, illness, followed by the central part of the novel, including flashbacks and the preparation for the dinner party in the evening; finally, the third section of the novel, the 30 “dead,” years in between.
Anna Benjamin’s 1965 essay “Towards An Understanding Of The Meaning Of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway“ includes a chart detailing the times in which corresponding events take place in the text, according to textual evidence. While Benjamin admits the beginning and ending times for the novel “are not preciously stated” she, using textual evidence, concludes that the novel begins at ten in the morning and ends approximately around midnight.
At the time in which Benjamin is writing there is some contention as to how long the novel takes. Melvin Friedman argues for ten to ten. Dean Doner argues rather unreasonably for 17 hours, from ten to three in the morning. Molly Hoff has also written about this in more contemporary times. Nowhere in my research did I find a more conclusive chart than Benjamin’s:
“First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.
Peter calls on Clarissa a little after eleven.
“…struck out between them with extrordinary vigour, as if a young man, strong, indifferent, inconsiderate, were swinging dumb-bells this way and that.”
“like a hostess who comes in her drawing room…”
“…the quarter struck-the quarter to twelve…”
“…whose stroke was wafted over the nothern part of London; blent with that of other clocks, mixed in a thin…etheral way with the clouds and wisps of smoke…twelve o’clock struck as Clarissa….laid her green dress…
…a sense of proportion, until the mound of time was so far diminished that a commericial clock…announced genially…
Lunchtime in Mayfair.
…for with overpowering directness and dignity the clock struck three…
…that solemn stroke which lay flat like a bar of gold on the sea…
“…came shuffling in with its lap full of odds and ends, which it dumped down as if Big Ben were all very well with his majesty…”
Mrs. Dalloway’s letter reaches Peter.
Peter sees young people heading to the pictures.
Dinner is also over at the Dalloways. The first guests arrive for the party.
“…with the clock striking the hour…one, two, three…There!”
This chart makes the most sense to me. I have found it quite useful for both my own research on the novel and for discussion and understanding the text in general. I wonder if there is a more useful, or recent, chart out there amongst Woolf scholars?