Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Clarissa Dalloway, a woman fifty-two years old and chic, but disconcerted over life and love. A June day in her late middle years is upsetting to Mrs. Dalloway, uncertain as she is about her daughter and her husband’s love, her own feelings for them, and her feelings for her former fiancé, lately returned from India. Years before, Peter Walsh had offered her agony and ecstasy, though not comfort or social standing, and so she had chosen Richard Dalloway. Now, seeing Peter for the first time in many years, her belief in her motives and her peace of mind are gone. Engaged in preparations for a party, she knows her life is frivolous, her need for excitement neurotic, and her love dead. Meeting her best friend, Sally Seton, also makes her realize that their love was abnormal as is her daughter’s for an older woman. Although she knows that her husband’s love for her is real and solid, she feels that death is near, that growing old is cruel, that life can never be innocently good again.
Richard Dalloway, her politician husband, a Conservative Member of Parliament. Never to be a member of the Cabinet or a prime minister, Richard is a good man who has improved his character, his disposition, his life. Loving his wife deeply but silently, he is able only to give her a conventional bouquet of roses to show his feeling, a fortunate gift because roses are the one flower she can stand to see cut. Devoted to his daughter, he sees her infatuation as a passing thing, an adolescent emotional outlet. He is gently persuasive among his constituents and colleagues, and in thought and deed a thoroughly good man.
Peter Walsh, a widower lately returned from India to make arrangements for the divorce of a major’s wife, a woman half his age whom he plans to marry, again an action to fill the void left by Clarissa. Perceptive and quick to understand motives for unhappiness, Peter sees his return to England as another step in his failure to live without Clarissa. Unnerved by seeing her again, he blurts out his recent history, and he continues the cruel probe all day and that night at her party.
Septimus Warren Smith
Septimus Warren Smith, a war casualty who commits suicide on the night of Mrs. Dalloway’s party and...
(The entire section is 963 words.)
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