Virginia Woolf’s remarks in ‘Modern Novels’ (April 1919) about the story ‘Gusev’ by Anton Chekhov could equally well apply to the novel she would publish six years later, Mrs Dalloway. Without a plot in the conventional sense, and without chapter divisions, it lacks the conventional scaffolding of the novel as it was then understood; this, and the richness of its prose, allow readers great freedom about where to place the emphasis. Although the novel’s focus on its titular central character makes Mrs Dalloway easier to discern than the crepuscular scene imagined by Woolf, readers have disagreed about the relative importance of Septimus Warren Smith and Peter Walsh; although readers have appreciated the clarity of temporal structure created by the chimes of Big Ben, they have recognized that clock time is an artificial structure.
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Michael H. Whitworth
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