In Mrs Dalloway, the modernist writer Virginia Woolf undermines the usual conventions of prior prose fiction by adopting an innovative approach to time. She contrasts the objective external time and subjective internal time that structure the plot of the one-day novel. In fact, the story takes place on a single day in June and, by the use of two important techniques, namely the stream of consciousness mode of narration and the interior monologue, the reader is constantly flowing from the present to the past or the future. Moreover, Woolf blurs the distinctions between dream and reality but emphasizes the importance of the present moment. Finally, both representations of time have a great influence
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It replaces the images that must be used to represent such sensations. Moreover, thoughts are reported into a third-person past tense narrative. However, it seems that Woolf never tries to transcribe the stream of consciousness of her characters directly. It is always reported, with phrases such as "she thought", "she asked herself", "she wondered", etc. introduced regularly. She therefore keeps reminding the reader whose stream of thoughts it is that he is reading, for this reminder is one of the unifying factors.
In the fluid nature of consciousness, temporal limits and definitions lose their distinctiveness. Indeed, Woolf constantly blurs the distinction between dream and reality. As David Daiches suggests, Woolf "presents the individual stream of consciousness as compounded of retrospect and anticipation . . ." (63). In other words, time is free in the mind of the characters; it allows them to go back in their past or to plan the future. So, the reader is constantly flowing from the present to the past or the future; here this adaptable temporality is outside chronology. However, Woolf doesn't outshine the chronological limits of the story beyond the single day which provides the framework of the actions. To illustrate this moving up and down