Past in Mrs. Dalloway

“…and she couldn’t ask him, for he had changed. He was rather shrivelled-looking, but kinder, she felt, and she had a real affection for him, for he was connected with her youth…” (Woolf 184)

The notions of living in the past and being unable to cope with the evolution of human beings through time are established through the enduring relationships of the characters such as Clarissa, Peter, and Sally. The past and the present are repeatedly connected through the vivid memories the characters share at Bourton. The past life of their bonds is revived in their present thoughts made clear through the external narrator’s glimpses into the interiority of each character. This duality creates a tension in the novel by allowing the actions of the past to continue to influence the characters’ lives in the present.

Perspective in Joyce’s Araby

“All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: `O love! O love!’ many times” (Joyce 2).

The prime vehicle of perception is imagination as imagination is how we understand the world around us. It is impossible to dissociate personal experience from the life of the mind. The narrator is plagued by images of his friend’s sister; his thoughts become almost poetic in his comparisons of infatuation. His subjective engagement with the present manifests itself into a physical display of overwhelming emotion at the relentless visions. The life of the mind is a lonely one which is presented in the narrator’s anger and shame as he stands alone at the Bazaar in the ruins of his own idealized fantasy.

The Middle Years

“Yet he wouldn’t rail at the general mind to-day-consoling as that ever had been: the revelation of his own slowness had seemed to make all stupidity sacred.”

Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 349

The story does not exist outside the consciousness of Decombe. This is a reflection of the introspective, almost meditative journey that Decombe is experiencing as his life is coming to the end. He has many subjective and inner-directed thoughts, like the one cited above, revealing that the only way to find closure with life is to observe and use those observations as a chance to reflect on one’s own interiority.