Mrs. Dalloway

by: Virginia Woolf

Important Quotations Explained

1
For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life.

This quotation, part of Clarissa’s thoughts as she walks to the flower shop in the early morning and Big Ben chimes the hour, reveals her strong attachment to life and the concept of life as her own invention. The long, galloping sentence, full of commas and semicolons, mirrors her excitement at being alive on this June day. Clarissa is conscious that the impressions of the things around her do not necessarily hold beauty or meaning in themselves, but that humans act as architects, building the impressions into comprehensible and beautiful moments. She herself revels in this act, in the effort life requires, and she knows that even the most impoverished person living on the streets can derive the same wonder from living. She sees that happiness does not belong to a particular class, but to all who can build up a moment and see beauty around them. Later her husband Richard sees a vagrant woman on the street but classifies her only as a social problem that the government must deal with. Clarissa believes that every class of people has the ability to conceptualize beauty and enjoy life, and she therefore feels that government intervention has limited uses. She does not equate class with happiness.