It is probably the Queen

“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”

2016-london-qvic-buck-palace
Outside Buckingham Palace, a soaring statue of Queen Victoria (right), who ruled for the first 20 years of Virginia Woolf’s life.

Note to self: Must read more Virginia Woolf. Reading through an excerpt from her novel Mrs. Dalloway, at first it feels a little dull. But this portion of the story does not give up its depth to quick eyes. It needs to be absorbed in its entirety, then considered again. It is about the gift of life; the hidden struggles of the spirit and emotion; regret and bitterness; the energy and weight of a city; and very much about the English class system.

Clarissa Dalloway lives in London and loves it. She trundles along with a mind full of busy questions that run the gamut from housework and entertaining to marriage choices and hatred. Her character’s thoughts, observations and actions slowly create an important backdrop for the city, its residents, commerce, poverty and the royalty: class distinction. Clarissa enjoys a privileged status, but not favored enough to know who is in the mysterious car that shows up on Bond Street where she is shopping.

“The motor car with its blinds drawn and an air of inscrutable reserve proceeded towards Piccadilly, still gazed at, still ruffling the faces on both sides of the street with the same dark breath of veneration whether for Queen, Prince or Prime Minister nobody knew.”

To me, the car is a trope for the mystery and inaccessibility of the ruling class. Everyone 2016-london-red-ddecker-busstops to stare and speculate – merchants, customers, the poor and the desperate. Even a wife trying to save her suicidal husband is distracted by the car, which offers no help, no answers. Just more questions.

“It is probably the Queen, thought Mrs. Dalloway, coming out of Mulberry’s with her flowers; the Queen.”

 

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