Mrs. Dalloway Summary

Overview

Summary of the Novel
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is the story of a day in June 1923, as lived by a few London citizens. There is a calm in the air; people are enjoying a sense of peace and remembering their lives from before the long and bitter World War I.

Mrs. Dalloway is a novel about people’s inner lives. It does not possess a vivid plot; the actual events are secondary to what people spend much of their time pondering: memories, regrets, and hopes. Almost all of the main characters wonder about what might have been. The novel is told from the viewpoint of an omniscient and invisible narrator.

Most of the characters are well off financially, and have considerable leisure time. Yet they are quite busy with the business of being alive, which includes asking questions of their internal and external worlds. These questions do not always make them happy. On the contrary, most of the characters are unhappy for all or part of their day.

In keeping with Woolf’s interest in psychology, sexuality is a theme in the novel. Several of the characters are divided in their feelings towards love, and this contributes to their ambivalence.

The actions of the novel are simple: Clarissa Dalloway is hosting a formal party. She sees Peter Walsh, who has returned from India, and drops in for a visit. This meeting, and many other moments in the day, make Clarissa think about the past and the choices she has made. Clarissa’s husband, Richard, has meetings and lunches, and their daughter Elizabeth has similar plans herself. Another Londoner, Septimus Warren Smith, is having a bad day, and so is his wife Lucrezia. Septimus is obsessed with his memories of Evans, a friend who was killed in the war. He is also convinced that unseen forces are sending him messages. Lucrezia is taking Septimus to two doctors, neither of whom can do much to cure him. Septimus kills himself later in the day, to escape his doctors, and because he feels he has no other alternative.

Clarissa’s party is a success. The Prime Minister arrives, and this is considered a great honor. In the midst of her success as a hostess, she hears of Septimus’ suicide. Although she never met him, the news moves her to the core of her being.

Estimated Reading Time
The average silent reading rate is 250 to 300 words per minute, making the total reading time for this novel about five hours. Yet the student must remember that Mrs. Dalloway is a relatively abstract novel. It uses unusual narrative techniques and lacks the action and drama you may be accustomed to. A novel as subtle and complex as this requires more than merely enough time. A combination of endurance and sensitivity is needed to ensure success.

There are no chapter breaks in Mrs. Dalloway, and Woolf’s method of centering on the minds of her characters can make Mrs. Dalloway a challenging novel. Since there are no chapter breaks in the original work, these eNotes are divided into eighteen parts. The book is divided as follows:

Part One:
From the beginning of the novel until the sentence:

“Dear, those motor cars,” said Miss Pym, going to the window to look, and coming back and smiling apologetically with her hands full of sweet peas, as if those motor cars, those tyres of motorcars, were all her fault.”

Part Two:
From the sentence:

“The violent explosion which made Mrs. Dalloway jump and Miss Pym go to the window and apologize came from a motor car which had drawn to the side of the pavement precisely opposite Mulberry’s show window.”

To the sentence:

“And now, curving up and up, straight up, like something mounting in ecstasy, in pure delight, out from behind poured white smoke looping, writing a T, an O, an F.”

Part Three:
From the sentence:

“What are they looking at?” said Clarissa Dalloway to the maid who opened her door.”

To the sentence:

“She had worn them at Hatfield; at Buckingham Palace.”

Part Four:
From the sentence:

“Quiet descended on her, calm, content, as her needle, drawing silk smoothly to its gentle pause, connected the green folds
together and attached them, very lightly, to the belt.”

To the phrase:

“as Peter Walsh shut the door.”

Part Five:
From the sentence:

“Remember my party, remember my party, said Peter Walsh as he stepped down the street, speaking to himself rhythmically, in time with the flow of the sound, the direct downright sound of Big Ben striking the half hour.”

To the sentence:

“But to whom does the solitary traveler make reply?”

Part Six
From the sentence:

“So the elderly nurse knitted over the sleeping baby in Regent’s Park.”

To the sentence:

“He never saw her again.”

Part Seven:
From the sentence:

“It was awful, he cried, awful, awful!”

To the sentence:

“As he sat smiling at the dead man in the grey suit, the quarter struck the quarter to twelve.”

Part Eight:
From the sentence:

“And that is being young, Peter Walsh thought as he passed them.”

To the sentence:

“There she would sit on the sofa by his side, let him take her hand, give her one kiss. Here he was at the crossing.”

Part Nine:
From the phrase:

“A sound interrupted him; a frail quivering sound,”

To the sentence:

“He gave in.”

Part Ten:
From the sentence:

“Nothing could rouse him.”

To the sentence:

“But Rezia Warren Smith cried, walking down Harley Street, that she did not like that man.”

Part Eleven:
From the phrases:

“Shredding and slicing, dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day,”

To the phrase:

“he would go straight to her, in Westminster.”

Part Twelve:
From the sentence:

“But he wanted to come in holding something.”

To the sentence:

“After that, how unbelievable death was! that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she loved it all; how,every instant…”

Part Thirteen:
From the sentence:

“The door opened.”

To the phrases:

“with a final twist, bowing her head very politely, she went.”

Part Fourteen:
From the sentence:

“She had gone.”

To the sentence:

“Calmly and competently, Elizabeth Dalloway mounted the Westminster omnibus.”

Part Fifteen:
From the words:

“Going and coming, beckoning, signalling,”

To the sentence:

“So that was Dr. Holmes.”

Part Sixteen:
From the sentence:

“One of the triumphs of civilisation, Peter Walsh thought.”

To the sentence:

“He opened the big blade of his pocketknife.”

Part Seventeen:
From the phrase:

“Lucy came running full tilt downstairs,”

To the phrase:

“she must go up to Lady Bradshaw and say…”

Part Eighteen:
From the sentence:

“But Lady Bradshaw anticipated her.”

To the end of the novel.

Teachers will no doubt be sensitive to Woolf’s difficult technique, and divide their assignments accordingly. Allow plenty of time to enjoy this great work.

The Life and Work of Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London on January 25, 1882, and died by suicide on March 12, 1941. She came from a family of writers: her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was a prominent writer during Queen Victoria’s reign, and her maternal grandfather was William Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair.

Virginia Stephen and her sister Vanessa were interested in the arts from their childhoods, Vanessa in painting and Virginia in writing. Their mother’s death in 1895 took a great toll on them, and they were sexually abused by their stepbrother, George Duckworth. Virginia suffered her first mental breakdown when she was thirteen years old and several were to follow throughout her life.

The Stephen sisters settled in Bloomsbury, a section of London that was an unofficial artist’s colony before and after World War I. Virginia married Leonard Woolf in 1912, and in 1917 they started Hogarth Press which operated out of their home in London. Virginia Woolf worked as a typesetter and reader for the press from 1917 to 1937. In addition to the works of the Woolfs’ friends, such as E.M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield, many of Virginia Woolf’s books, including Mrs. Dalloway, were first issued by the Hogarth Press.

Woolf was prolific, with over 35 essay collections, biographies, and novels being published during her lifetime. Her journals and her many other books were published posthumously. Although she is best known for her novels, Woolf’s essays are often anthologized. The essays reveal Woolf’s interest in social questions as they relate to the arts and women writers. She attacked what she considered outdated ideas about literature, arguing that literary expression should not overlook any aspect of human life. While she claimed that the right to vote made no difference to her, Woolf wrote that women must never be silenced. Throughout her texts, Woolf promotes the role as author for literary women.

Despite a successful career, Woolf’s private life was deeply and consistently troubled. Her comfortable marriage did not assuage periods of depression, prompted by self-doubts and, to a lesser extent, world affairs. Recalling the horrors of World War I, Woolf and others watched developments in Germany, and dreaded the prospects of another brutal war and the triumph of anti-semitism.

Also, having endured several breakdowns, Woolf knew the toll mental instability exacted from herself and on her husband. Fearing of another breakdown, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones one day in March 1941, to make herself heavier when she leapt into the River Ouse.

Mrs. Dalloway Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s fourth novel, is the first in which she attained the design she would characteristically impose upon her works of fiction. Rejecting an organization centered on conventional story lines, she focuses upon Clarissa Dalloway, a lady of London high society who is planning a party for her husband’s acquaintances. The action takes place on a Wednesday in June, 1923, between 10:00 a.m. and approximately 3:00 a.m. the next day. In the morning, Clarissa goes out to buy flowers and gives final instructions to her staff. In the afternoon, she receives an unexpected visit from a former suitor named Peter Walsh, talks with her husband, who has brought her flowers, and then takes a nap. In the evening, she entertains her guests as a perfect hostess should. The activities and thoughts of Clarissa during the day provide the core of unity in the book. Other characters and their situations appear when they touch or reflect, ever so slightly or symbolically, Clarissa’s life and its meaning. The reader observes the behavior of her husband Richard at lunch, watches her teenage daughter Elizabeth with her history tutor Miss Kilman (whom Mrs. Dalloway hates), and accompanies Clarissa on a bus ride through London. The reader catches glimpses of unknown strangers who cross Clarissa’s path during the day, among whom figures Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked war veteran who is suffering an episode of insanity.

Clarissa Dalloway represents a rational attitude toward life: She functions well on a day-to-day basis, tends to that which requires attention, and meets the demands made upon her in her situation. She regrets somewhat her marriage to Richard (Peter Walsh seemed to suggest a less predictable and more exciting life) and now realizes that she has lost the sense of individuality she possessed as a young woman, for her identity has been absorbed by her husband’s. Clarissa is also distressed because Elizabeth seems to be too strongly influenced by Miss Kilman, an unattractive but educated woman who has recently converted to religion and seeks a recruit in Elizabeth. The book contains a scathing denunciation of those who, intolerant of diversity, seek to destroy the intellectual liberty of others. Though saddened by life, Clarissa seeks to maintain an inner core of joyfulness while fulfilling her various obligations. An unhappy person deep within, Clarissa is nonetheless filled with a great love for life, a zest for living, and a capacity for temporary but intense joy in her daily experiences.

Beginning work on Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf noted in her diary (October 14, 1922) that she wanted to show the world as seen by the sane and the insane side by side. If Clarissa reflects the sanity of adjustments to reality, Septimus Smith reflects the rejection of rational compromise with life. Though he married a gentle Italian woman (Lucrezia, or Rezia) immediately after the war, their relationship has done little to rescue him from the abyss of terror that madness creates within him. At noon he consults Sir William Bradshaw, a noted medical authority who believes that mental illness is caused by a lack of a “sense of proportion” that can be restored by solitude, rest, and silence. The fate of Septimus now seems sealed: Diagnosed immediately as an advanced case of total breakdown, he is to be committed to an institution later that same day. Septimus, however, prefers death to life on someone else’s terms and kills himself by jumping from a window. Learning during the party of this stranger’s death, Clarissa withdraws to meditate alone. Feeling a kinship with the dead man, she acknowledges that she herself lives close to death, often feeling the terror, an awful fear of being, and draws courage to continue from the simple presence of her husband. She is recalled from reverie by her social obligations and, putting aside these painful thoughts, returns to her guests.

The conviction that a happy life cannot be lived on another’s terms is an important theme of the book. Clarissa lost an important part of herself by marrying Richard and allowing his life to control hers. Peter came to nothing through his failure to choose for himself, longing instead for domination by Clarissa. Mrs. Bradshaw gave her will over in submission to her husband, as did the majority of the doctor’s patients who acquiesced to his judgments concerning “proper proportions” in life. Clarissa fears that her daughter will dedicate her will to God through religious conversion promoted by Miss Kilman, who has already abandoned her own will to a force outside herself that she imagines to be superior.

Mrs. Dalloway Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Clarissa Dalloway makes last-minute preparations for an evening party. During her day in the city, she enjoys the summer air, the many sights and people, and the general bustle of London. She meets Hugh Whitbread, now a court official and a handsome and sophisticated man. She has known Hugh since her youth, and she also knows his wife, Evelyn, for whom she does not particularly care. Other people come to London to see paintings, to hear music, or to shop, but the Whitbreads come to consult doctors, for Evelyn is always ailing.

Mrs. Dalloway shops. While she is in a flower shop, a luxurious limousine pulls up outside. Everyone speculates on the occupant behind the drawn curtains of the car, and everywhere the limousine goes, it is followed by curious eyes. Mrs. Dalloway, who suspects that the queen is inside, feels that she is right when the car drives into the Buckingham Palace grounds.

The sights and sounds of London remind Mrs. Dalloway of many things. She thinks back to her youth, to the days before her marriage, to her husband, and to her daughter, Elizabeth. Her daughter is a problem, mainly because of her horrid friend Miss Kilman, a religious fanatic who scoffs at the luxurious way the Dalloways live. Mrs. Dalloway hates her. Miss Kilman is not at all like the friend of her own girlhood, Sally Seton, whom Mrs. Dalloway truly loves.

Mrs. Dalloway wonders what love really is. She has loved Sally, but she has loved Richard Dalloway and Peter Walsh, too. She married Richard, and then Peter had left for India. Later, she learns that he had married someone he met on board ship. She has heard little about him since his marriage. The day, however, is wonderful and life is wonderful. The war is over, and Mrs. Dalloway is giving a party.

While Mrs. Dalloway is shopping, Septimus Smith and his wife are sitting in the park. Septimus had married Lucrezia while he was serving in Italy, and she had given up her family and her country for him. Now he frightens her because he acts so strangely and talks of committing suicide. The doctor said that there is nothing physically wrong with him. Septimus, one of the first to have volunteered for war duty, had gone to war to save his country, the England of William Shakespeare. When he got back, he was a war hero and was given a good job at the office. The couple has nice lodgings, and Lucrezia is happy. Septimus begins reading Shakespeare again, but he is unhappy and broods. He and Lucrezia have no children. To Septimus, the world is in such horrible condition that it is unjust to bring children into such a world.

Septimus begins to have visits from Evans, a comrade who had been killed in the war, and Lucrezia becomes even more frightened; she calls in Dr. Holmes. Septimus feels almost completely abandoned by that time. Lucrezia cannot understand why her husband does not like Dr. Holmes, for he is so kind and so much interested in Septimus. Finally, she takes her husband to Sir William Bradshaw, a wealthy and noted psychiatrist.

Septimus has a brilliant career ahead of him, and his employer speaks highly of his work. No one knows why he wants to kill himself. Septimus says that he had committed a crime, but his wife says that he is guilty of absolutely nothing. Sir William suggests a place in the country where Septimus could be by himself, without his wife. It is not, Sir William says, a question of preference. Since he has threatened suicide, it is a question of law.

Mrs. Dalloway returns home from shopping. Lady Bruton has invited Richard Dalloway to lunch. Mrs. Dalloway never liked Millicent Bruton because she is far too clever. When Peter Walsh calls, Mrs. Dalloway is surprised and happy to see him again. She introduces him to Elizabeth, her daughter. He asks Mrs. Dalloway if she is happy; she wonders why. When he leaves, she calls out to him not to forget her party. Peter thinks about Clarissa Dalloway and her parties: That is all life means to her.

Peter is divorced from his wife and had come to England. Life is far more complicated for him. He has fallen in love with another woman, one who has two children, and he has come to London to arrange for her divorce and to find a job. He hopes Hugh Whitbread will help him find one in government.

That night, Clarissa Dalloway’s party is a great success. She initially was afraid that the party might not be, but when the prime minister arrives, her evening is complete. Peter meets Lady Rossetter, who turns out to be Sally Seton. She was not invited but just dropped in. She has five sons, she tells Peter. They chat. When Elizabeth comes in, Peter notices her beauty.

Later, Sir William Bradshaw and his wife enter. They are late, they explain, because one of Sir William’s patients had committed suicide. Feeling altogether abandoned, Septimus Smith had jumped out of a window before they could take him to the country. Clarissa is upset. Although the person who had committed suicide is completely unknown to her, she feels the death is her own disaster, her own disgrace. The poor young man had thrown away his life when it had become useless. Clarissa has never thrown away anything more valuable than a shilling. Once she had stood beside a fountain while Peter Walsh, angry and humiliated, had asked her whether she intended to marry Richard. Richard had never become prime minister. Instead, the prime minister came to her parties. Now she is growing old. Clarissa Dalloway knows herself at last for the beautiful, charming, inconsequential person she is.

Sally and Peter talk on. They think idly of Clarissa and Richard and wonder whether they are happy together. Sally agrees that Richard has improved. She leaves Peter and talks with Richard. Peter is feeling strange. A sort of terror and ecstasy take hold of him, and he cannot be certain what it is that excites him so suddenly. It is Clarissa, he thinks. Even after all these years, it is Clarissa.

Mrs. Dalloway Chapter Summary and Analysis

Part 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Clarissa Dalloway: the main character of the novel; spends the day preparing for a party she is hosting that evening Hugh Whitbread: a friend of Clarissa’s and of her husband Richard; holds a post in the Royal House; arrogantly self-assured, he is held in contempt by most of the characters in
the novel

Summary
Clarissa Dalloway goes to buy flowers, since Lucy, the maid, is already quite busy. It’s a June morning, and Clarissa compares it to the mornings at Bourton, the summer home where she had lived long before. It was there that she knew her closest friends, especially Peter Walsh, whom Clarissa recalls is due back from India some day soon, though she is not sure...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Part 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Septimus Warren Smith: a man who fought in the recent World War, and has not been the same since; acts in a disturbed, disoriented fashion Lucrezia Warren Smith: Septimus’ wife, whom he met in Italy; she makes hats, and worries about Septimus and their marriage

Maisie Johnson: a young woman recently arrived in London from Edinburgh, Scotland; asks the Smiths for directions, and is bewildered by her glimpse into their unhappiness

Mrs. Dempster (Carrie): an older woman who observes Maisie Johnson; she thinks about her life, and believes herself lucky

Summary
The loud backfire that startles Clarissa comes from the car of an important personage. The people...

(The entire section is 655 words.)

Part 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Sally Seton: an old friend of Clarissa

Lucy: the Dalloway’s maid

Lady Bruton: vivacious woman who invites Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread to her home for a luncheon

Richard Dalloway: Clarissa’s husband

Summary
Returning from the florist, Clarissa finds that Richard is lunching at Lady Bruton’s. Excluded and hurt, Clarissa appreciates Lucy’s sympathy. The two share a moment of silent communication. Clarissa’s disappointment affects her thoughts. She overreacts internally, imagining herself ancient and alone, because she was not invited. She worries about the extent of her social graces.

Climbing the stairs, Clarissa...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Part 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Peter Walsh: an old friend of Clarissa’s, recently returned from India; He was a suitor of Clarissa’s, back in the Bourton days; 53-years-old

Elizabeth: Clarissa and Richard Dalloway’s 17-year-old daughter

Summary
Clarissa is mending her dress when she hears voices downstairs. It is Peter, returned from India and dropping in unexpectedly. They are pleased to see each other, yet while the conversation begins comfortably, their eyes, voices, and gestures convey the strong emotions that the reunion sparks.

Peter asks about Richard, and Clarissa mentions her party. Clarissa notices that Peter has kept his old habit of playing with his pocketknife. Part...

(The entire section is 579 words.)

Part 5 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Peter leaves, and walks the streets. His mind is reeling from the interviews he has just had with Clarissa. He is upset at her and at himself and wonders about what she and the people in the Dalloways’ social circles whom Peter once knew must think of him. Peter asserts that he doesn’t care what she and they think of him, yet he still evaluates his life and feels like a failure. As consolation, he reminds himself, he is in love, and in that he is fortunate.

Next there is a meditation from the narrator on the city and time. A clock that follows the tolling of Big Ben is likened to a hostess arriving to her guests.

Peter sees a group of boys in uniform, marching in formation. Peter...

(The entire section is 383 words.)

Part 6 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Peter wakes with the words “the death of the soul.” Images crowd thick and fast, as the narrator relates Peter’s dreams. The words Peter spoke as he awakened are connected to his dreams about Bourton, and the summer long ago when he loved Clarissa. A minor scandal about class and marriage caused a rift that stuck in Peter’s mind. He thinks of it as the beginning of the end for so many perfect friendships. He remembers Clarissa’s close relationship with Sally Seton, despite the difficulties that arose between them.

Richard Dalloway comes into Peter’s thoughts, as the man he was sure that Clarissa would marry; Peter was right. The pain he felt, even at that moment, was intense, and what...

(The entire section is 266 words.)

Part 7 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Waking suddenly, Peter considers the park. He sees the Smith couple in their distress.

The story shifts from Peter’s point of view to Lucrezia’s thoughts. It is almost time for Septimus’ appointment with Sir William Bradshaw, the second doctor examining Septimus. Dr. Holmes cannot do anything for Septimus, and calls in the eminent Sir William.

Lucrezia frets over her marriage and her life. Although she wants to love her husband, she is indignant about her suffering, and thinks about the way her life was before Septimus. Lucrezia asks herself why she should suffer so. She knows that Septimus saw horrible things in the war, and lost a close friend, Evans, whom he had met there....

(The entire section is 434 words.)

Part 8 Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Sylvia: Clarissa’s late sister

Summary
Observing Septimus and Lucrezia in their “squabble,” Peter feels that he sees a picture of youth. The narrator discloses Peter’s history regarding relationships, and his perceptions of his choices. That he had always been too susceptible to impressions is blamed for his troubles, and his moodiness has stayed with him, from adolescence to the present.

Peter sums up the last five years, and the women he has thought about. These thoughts lead to Sally Seton, and how Sally was the most authentic of all the people in Clarissa’s circle. Peter appreciated Sally’s integrity, and he is surprised that she married a rich man and...

(The entire section is 495 words.)

Part 9 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Peter’s attention is caught by the sounds of an old, ragged woman, singing nonsense. She does not seem rational. The narrator describes how, throughout the entire history of the planet, the woman had stood there and sang this song about a lost love.

Lucrezia (who is called “Rezia” from this point onward) also hears the woman, and pities her. Yet the pity she feels is mostly for herself. Her unhappiness is overtaking her, and her last hope is that Sir Bradshaw can cure Septimus. She decides to be cheerful and optimistic.

The narrator describes Septimus’ appearance and history. He is a man who could become either successful or merely a survivor. He had a typically troubled boyhood,...

(The entire section is 503 words.)

Part 10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Dr. Holmes: as revealed in the narrator’s tale of Septimus’ illness, he is recommended by Mrs. Filmer, the Smith’s cook

Sir William Bradshaw: the eminent and almost godlike doctor called in to aid Septimus

Summary
The narrative of Septimus’ illness continues. Once he “surrendered” to the influence of others, Dr. Holmes begins to visit. He advises Septimus to take up hobbies. Yet while others think the doctor a wonderful man, he becomes a dreaded enemy from Septimus’ point of view, a man whose jovial attitude hides fiendish machinations and a cunning nature.

When Rezia seems to agree with Holmes’ advice, Septimus feels betrayed and...

(The entire section is 629 words.)

Part 11 Summary and Analysis

Summary:
The section begins with a meditation on time, and the clock under which Hugh Whitbread, on his way to Lady Bruton’s, stops to watch the world around him. He is satisfied with what he sees. He feels confident, aware of his strengths, and does not allow the malice of others to affect his peace.

Lady Bruton considers her lunch guests. She considers Richard clearly superior to Hugh, but she is glad to see them both, to ask their help with a small task. The three sit for a sumptuous lunch before business. Bruton often wonders about what she could have accomplished if only she had been born a man.

During the conversation, Lady Bruton asks about Clarissa, and Richard stops to think about her...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Part 12 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Richard decides to bring Clarissa flowers. Crossing London, he thinks intently about her. His thoughts center on her, and her importance to him. He yearns to come to her in just the right way, speaking words of love and showing that he appreciates her.

Big Ben tolls thrice in Clarissa’s drawing room. She receives a note asking if she might invite Ellie Henderson to her party, and this nettles her. Clarissa had deliberately not invited Ellie, and dislikes feeling pressured to include her. Thoughts about Doris Kilman, who is praying with Elizabeth in another room, also make themselves felt.

Richard surprises her with flowers, but he cannot bring himself to say what he has been thinking....

(The entire section is 417 words.)

Part 13 Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Doris Kilman: a bitter and unhappy woman who spends time with (and might be in love with) Elizabeth Dalloway

Summary
Elizabeth comes in quietly, reluctant to disturb Clarissa, who is napping. The narrator comments upon Elizabeth’s unusual, indeed exotic looks. Miss Kilman waits outside the door, and Clarissa engages in a brief and frigidly polite conversation with her. They are going shopping.

The narrator provides Kilman’s story to explain her poverty and her bitterness. Always clumsy and unlucky, she lost her job during the war due to her feelings about Germany. Now an itinerant teacher and, it seems, young lady’s companion, she is reduced to charity, and is...

(The entire section is 450 words.)

Part 14 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Doris Kilman sits in desolation. Upset, she rocks like a child, and as she leaves, her clumsiness makes her ridiculous. On the street, she sees Westminster Cathedral, which calms and inspires her. Mr. Fletcher, a friend, sees her in the crowd. He views her with pity and compassion, but he fails to stop and talk with her.

Elizabeth waits for a public bus. People have started comparing her to parts of nature, and this bothers her. She has no desire to be noticed, but her unusual, almost oriental looks and her
blossoming womanhood, raise the interests of others.

Through the whirl of colors and movement, Elizabeth’s thoughts come to the reader. She shows compassion for Kilman, yet...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Part 15 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Watching the interplay of light and shadow, Septimus is not afraid. His smiling disturbs Rezia, who wonders, feeling that it has nothing to do with their marriage.

The narrator describes Septimus’ reactions to different events, and how he shows strong emotions suddenly. In a world filled with hidden taunts, all things mean something else, and noble ideas mean nothing.

He comes back, slowly, to the present moment. Rezia is making a hat for Mrs. Peters. He speaks lucidly, and Rezia is grateful. He makes a joke and she is overjoyed. They work on the hat together. Rezia is called away momentarily. For a long moment, Septimus is happy. When it passes, he feels abandoned again. His thoughts...

(The entire section is 523 words.)

Part 16 Summary and Analysis

Summary
As Peter Walsh walks the streets, he compares England and India. He sees an ambulance, which is going to the Smith’s home. He is wondering about himself, about Clarissa, and marriage. She has had a great presence and influence in his life. He enters his hotel, collects his mail, and goes to his room. One of the letters is from Clarissa, saying how nice it was to see him and how he should come to the party. Her efficiency annoys him, for she must have mailed it immediately.

The narrator describes Peter, who thinks about Daisy. Their separation may make her reconsider their relationship. He broods on love, women, Clarissa and Daisy, but most of all on himself. Then he goes down to dinner,...

(The entire section is 536 words.)

Part 17 Summary and Analysis

Summary
The Dalloways’ home is full of commotion. The staff (both the regular servants and those hired for the party) does not want to disappoint their hostess. Mrs. Walker, the cook, feels the most pressure; the Prime Minister is expected.

Mr. Wilkins announces people as they come in. Important figures of London society begin to arrive, yet Clarissa feels sure that the party will be a failure. Seized with worry, she asks herself why she does it. Her answer: better to live and risk than to fade away.

Clarissa sees Peter but does not greet him. His ability to make her judge herself makes her uneasy, especially now. Ellie Henderson, alone and wondering about what she sees, appears pleasant yet...

(The entire section is 519 words.)

Part 18 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Sir and Lady Bradshaw arrive late and apologetic at Clarissa’s party. She greets them, though she is not very fond of this couple. She sees in Sir William a man at the peak of his career, wearied by the misery he has seen. Yet she perceives his cold detachment. He talks with Richard about a recent case. Lady Bradshaw tells Clarissa how, as they were leaving, a call came about a suicide. The news shatters Clarissa. Feeling that death has invaded the party, she goes to an empty room. She is upset at the Bradshaws for introducing the subject; the fact that it was a suicide is the worst part.

She understands the choice of suicide. Her busy habits and parties seem like unworthy trifles, while suicide...

(The entire section is 476 words.)