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...
(The entire section is 963 words.)
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Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is a worldly, fashionable, upper-class wife and perfect hostess who is described by the narrator as possessing a "virginity preserved through childbirth." As Clarissa's day progresses through the details of the party, Woolf explores her many shifting moods and recollections and contrasts them with the views and opinions of many other characters in the story, in addition to the changes in feelings which Clarissa experiences throughout her day. For example, Clarissa keeps mentally returning to a day in June in 1889 when she was eighteen and involved with Peter Walsh; she becomes obsessed with the memories and with her decision not to marry him because he is to return to London, and also because she sees herself at an earlier age in the form of her eighteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth who stands ready to enter society.
Clarissa's relationship with her husband Richard is considerate and kind; however, there are verbal and emotional boundaries that they do not cross with each other. There is a great deal of strength in the love that they share because they have both tended to it carefully. Unfortunately, it is literally between them — it binds them loosely but it is also a barrier which is self-imposed but is also protective.
Richard Dalloway would like to be a country gentleman but he is not able to demand it for himself. His vision of a country life is a lost dream because he is more secure in his government post and in...
(The entire section is 659 words.)
Clarissa Dalloway is the principal character of Mrs. Dalloway, since it is her party that gives definition to the narrative and her point of view dominates the book. She was born Clarissa Parry, and the day the novel takes place, she is approximately fifty years old. Her husband is Richard Dalloway, and they have one child, Elizabeth. The overwhelming impression Clarissa gives is that she is a solitary, even isolated, being, and that she is often consumed with thoughts or feelings of death and mortality. This is not only because her thoughts of friends are for those of her youth and not present ones, but also because she seems to desire isolation. She chooses Richard Dalloway over Peter Walsh as a husband not because she loves him more, but because she believes Richard will not consume all of her personality and time, or all of her emotional and intellectual reserves. Clarissa sleeps in her own room, in a small single bed that is likened to a coffin, and such suggestions and imagery of isolation and death surround her throughout the book.
The reader gains a sense of Clarissa's character both from her own thoughts and from what other characters, especially Peter, think about her. Besides the fact that she has inspired love, which speaks well of her, she is also someone whom others, and herself, think flawed. Peter's notion that she is the "perfect hostess" sums up this suspicion of her weakness. Clarissa is well-off and does not work, putting her in...
(The entire section is 322 words.)
See Sir William Bradshaw
Sir William Bradshaw
While Dr. Bradshaw, unlike Dr. Holmes, immediately grasps the gravity and nature of Septimus's condition, he is still not a likable character. He seems very similar to Dr. Holmes. The book's argument against these doctors is that they are primarily concerned with managing individual cases of social and psychological distress without being interested in the causes of such problems. Thus, these doctors are still a part of the problem. They help to maintain the status quo by smoothing over difficulties instead of approaching psychological disturbance as evidence of deep social problems that must be addressed.
Lady Bruton is the character with whom Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread have lunch. She is a woman of strong character and active in public and political life. She always uses her influence in matters about which she feels strongly. Her new interest is in emigration, that is, encouraging young British couples to emigrate to Canada, one of the British Commonwealth countries. She asks Richard and Hugh to revise her letter to the editorial section of the major London newspaper, the Times, the forum in which she plans to air her views.
Daisy is referred to in passing as the woman whom Peter Walsh is to marry. Peter is in London arranging matters for her divorce, among other business, as she is...
(The entire section is 1285 words.)