Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

David Galef

Committee Member

Emily Isaacs


Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)--Criticism and interpretation, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)--To the lighthouse, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)--Mrs. Dalloway


The purpose of this master’s thesis is to examine the narrative and thematic devices Virginia Woolf employs in her two novels, To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway and how her techniques impact the way in which the readers view the characters and their relationships. Her use of narrator and themes in both novels helps develop more complex characters, making them more relatable and their situations examples that readers can use in life outside the novels. This thesis looks directly at her use of language and character development in order to examine how she achieves success in her novels.

The first chapter of this thesis focuses on To the Lighthouse and the ways in which Woolf uses the narrative as a sort of laboratory for experimenting with her early family life. In doing this, she uses narrative techniques that serve not only her purposes as author, but she in turn writes a tale that is a model of family life and relationships that work for a population of readers in general. The tale is a simple exploration of family life, but one that creates a sort of “how-to” for readers. These ideas are explored through the narrator and thematic structure that occur throughout the novel.

The second chapter of this thesis focuses on Mrs. Dalloway and how Woolf uses this narrative to create a set of characters who, when all woven together, create a model of human experience at its most powerful. Woolf dramatizes situations in this novel, through her narrative devices and thematic structure, which show the depth to which human beings experience life and the impact that major life events can have on the human psyche. The characters experience and feel life altering events all in a single day, emphasizing how “regular” they are, and Woolf exemplifies that power through her narrator and the way in which she finally brings the characters to one another. Through the narrative and thematic devices Woolf employs in this novel, she creates a model for readers to live by, showing what works and what does not, sharing the intimate details these characters experience in their dramatic situations.

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