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Flower Symbolism in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

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In Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway flowers give the reader much insight into the mind of Clarissa Dalloway. She offers flowers human-like characteristics and personas to them. Perhaps it is that she finds it difficult connecting to other individuals, and when she bestows human-like qualities to flowers, she finds comfort in her connection with them that she does not seem to get with other individuals. Flowers seem to additionally provide her relief when life can prove far too overwhelming, and they are able to provide her joy and peace of mind. Flowers present a medium of personal expression for Clarissa where she is able to reveal her idealistic perspective of life as well as her inner sentiments.

As the reader is taken along on Mrs. Dalloway’s day, it is clear to see how very imperative they are to the novels and how frequently they make an appearance. Take the first line for instance where flowers are mentioned right from the beginning, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would purchase the blossoms herself”. The phrasing of this sentence signifies the individualistic and intimate relationship that she fosters with her flowers. Where this first hint of flowers takes the reader is to the flower shop as she peruses the selection of flowers. Clarissa is in absolute awe of each and every aspect of the flowers as she marvels at the selection at the florist. ‘There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations…”. This citation indicates how entranced she is with the flowers and how each characteristic fulfills a necessary for her. Each petal or stem is so very noteworthy to her as she indulges in the spectacle of them. From here on out, flowers are blossoming throughout the garden of words on various pages.

In particular, for Clarissa, these flowers provide a sense of bliss as she savors in the sheer magnificence of existence. She feeds off of the spirit that these blossoms pass on to her. Clarissa recognizes how much reliance flowers have towards her, and could not make due in her absence as they would deteriorate without her care. She discovers the pure delight in the dependence the flowers on her, very much like her personal acquaintances do.

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Clarissa employs flowers to depict the sheer magnificence of the individuals in her life, but also the not as pleasant moments equally. Age and youth are huge themes that interweave in and out of the novel, and it is something that Clarissa seems to be quite preoccupied with throughout. “… which in his youth had seemed immovable. On top of them, it had pressed; weighed them down, the women especially, like those flowers…” – what this quote is doing is that it is comparing Clarissa’s strain about the anxiety of maintaining her youth to flowers being pressed between the pages of her Aunt Helena’s books. Flowers seems to provide an analogy such as how the petals are being squished in the center of the books, to how her childhood seems to be crushed. When flowers are pressed, similar to individuals when they age, they lose all their liveliness and color that their youth so effortlessly captured. Not being able to preserve her youth just as the petals are unable to prevent getting pressed and damaged between the pages is difficult for her to grapple, as she draws from her own real-life experience.

Through flowers, she is able to adequately ponder on her sentiments and is given the full capacity to comprehend means that she would not be able to otherwise. Clarissa uses flowers to understand human behavior, which further emphasizes how she relates them to behaviors exhibited by those around her. For instance with Miss Pym in the very same flower shop can be portrayed as, “turning her head from side to side among the irises and roses’ – as she looks about the shop, “nodding tufts of lilac with her eyes half closed” – as perhaps she inspects the colorful blooms up on display, “dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up” – as she manuevers around the flowers. She realizes how utterly similar flowers appear to be just like people around her. She ties in human mannerisms to features on the flowers to compare Miss Pym’s gestures to the flowers. How she looks about the shop is compared to lilacs and carnations holding their heads up just as she is. Mostly she sees flowers as individuals in her life, which shows how she uses them to understand people in her life.

Having directly disputed how flowers are crucial within Clarissa’s understanding of humankind, there yet another character in which she uses the guise of flowers to better understand. Which is course Richard, and one instance is when, “But he wanted to come in holding something. Flowers? Yes, flowers, since he did not trust his taste in gold; any number of flowers, roses, orchids, to celebrate what was”. This statement discloses how there is a need for Richard to approach her holding flowers in order to make such a comment of affection. Perhaps it would offer a distraction towards Clarissa, knowing how much she values flowers, and just maybe a different reaction will surface. The assortment of flowers that he brings to her is certainly something of interest. “He was holding out flowers—roses, red and white roses” – Richard is at loss for words when it comes to proclaiming his love, but he hopes that the flowers will be able to say what he is unable to. Clarissa’s response was very receptive of this gesture, “She understood; she understood without his speaking…”. Flowers seem to be a medium of connection between this couple. When perhaps words might not be able to say what is needed, flowers seem to step in a take their place. Basically, flowers provide a stepping stone for any communication among the pair. Clarissa seems to get something from flowers that the people around her would never be able to provide towards her. She is able to comfortably perceive her life by having the flowers step in and playing the characters all around her.

Flowers aid Clarissa in expressing her inner sentiments through her day to day interactions, and ultimately aid her in finding happiness when perhaps the human interactions are not able to quite measure up to it. She discovers flowers as being beautiful, yet strangely ordinary all at the same time… just as the people within her life. Within each petal, she is able to either capture an individual’s likeness or perhaps make more sense of occurrences around her that seem to confuse her. She discovers a great comfort in her stable relationship with flowers, and with that, she is able to draw nearer to herself and the world around her.

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Flower Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Flower Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Flower Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Flower Symbolism in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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