Course Hero Logo

Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Mrs. Dalloway Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 1 June 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, November 28). Mrs. Dalloway Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Mrs. Dalloway Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed June 1, 2023.


Course Hero, "Mrs. Dalloway Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed June 1, 2023,


Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the motifs in Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Mrs. Dalloway | Motifs



Clothing signifies social class, personality, and priorities. Mrs. Dalloway's silver-green evening dress reflects colors found in nature, showing her love for the outdoors and need to be a part of the wider world. Her daughter Elizabeth's distaste for shopping shows a burgeoning desire for independence. Hugh Whitbread's shopping habits show his need to cultivate elegance. Miss Kilman's raincoat reflects self-sacrifice; she is hiding herself in its material.


Flowers appear as representations of beauty, care, and aspiration. Characters buy or pick flowers with the hope that something good will happen. Richard brings Clarissa red and white roses to prove his love; Mrs. Dalloway buys flowers personally for her guests to prove her devotion. Optimistic Sally has a way with flowers, particularly the more unusual blue hydrangeas, signifying her rare intelligence and enthusiasm for life.


Water—waves, tides, seas, oceans—is the novel's most persistent motif of change and transformation. The shifting states of water represent the shifting mental states of the characters. Septimus and Clarissa often feel drowned or out to sea. The movement of the tides reflects the inevitable daily changes people observe and go through, only to begin again a new day. Water, in its fluidity, also reflects the process of life and death. Large, powerful bodies of water especially evoke the characters' feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Virginia Woolf frequently used water imagery in her work, including The Waves and To The Lighthouse.

Big Ben

The large clock in Westminster unifies the many separate characters, who all hear it ring at the same time. Big Ben is a pull back to a shared reality, a reminder that everyone is in the city together. The clock also represents order and continuity. Because of its height and masterful architecture, Big Ben has become an iconic symbol of England—particularly the magisterial, Elizabethan England that characters like Septimus and Hugh respect.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Mrs. Dalloway? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!