Mrs Dalloway’s London

I’ve been playing around with Map-Box today, creating a worksheet for students mainly, but in so doing also sketching out the movements of the main characters in one of my favourite novels, Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), to see if any interesting patterns emerge.  I’m not sure the results tell me much that I didn’t already know (or could have guessed), but the process was useful in thinking about the novel in relation to the city. I felt very aware, for example,  of the repetition of key street names –Bond Street and Harley Street– in certain passages and the way in which Woolf was drawing attention to the symbolic/social function of these names as much as the actual locations. Since I tend to think of Mrs Dalloway as ‘a city novel’, I was also struck at how the apparently meandering walks of the main characters are focused in one area, making it suddenly appear more like the depiction of a neighbourhood than a metropolis (of course, I haven’t marked up the minor characters, which would give a different picture). Although you can’t see the entire map here, what is clear is that most of the characters follow roughly the same path through the city: Clarissa (yellow), Peter, Richard and Hugh (green)  all belong in the vicinity of Bond Street, between Green Park and Oxford Street. Septimus and Rezia (purple) come down into this field from Regent’s Park. Peter (blue) also follows this pattern, although he ventures slightly further afield into Bloomsbury. It is Elizabeth, on the bus, that makes the most distinctive journey however, moving in a completely different direction to the older characters.  Given the temperamental and generational differences that mark Elizabeth out from the other characters, this is hardly surprising, but I did wonder about the significance of the area to which she travels, Fleet Street and the Strand. I also noted that while Clarissa, Peter and Elizabeth move out from Victoria Street, it is only Richard who moves in the opposite direction (which is also the same direction as Septimus).  So small observations really, but I’ll be thinking about them next time I read the novel.

Character movements in Mrs Dalloway

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