The whole novel has been building to the culmination of Mrs. Dalloway 's party. Mrs. Dalloway has spent the day preparing for it, and as she has done so, we have followed her thoughts--her stream of consciousness--as well as her outward activities, so by the time the party starts, we...
The whole novel has been building to the culmination of Mrs. Dalloway's party. Mrs. Dalloway has spent the day preparing for it, and as she has done so, we have followed her thoughts--her stream of consciousness--as well as her outward activities, so by the time the party starts, we have a strong sense of who she is and who the players are in her life, though we have only "known" her a few hours.
At the party, these various strands come together. On one level, the party, attended by the prime minister and a host of lords and ladies, represents a pinnacle of Mrs. Dalloway's "career" as a successful society hostess. Her lot in life may be narrow, and differ from her broader hopes as a young girl, but she carries it off beautifully--and Woolf illustrates that it is not nothing, this woman's world of the successful party.
The party also brings together so many characters from Clarissa's past and present intermingled: Peter Walsh, who showed up earlier in the day, and Clarissa's early love, Sally Seton, who, in her usual unconventional way, crashes the party without invitation. Clarissa's young adult daughter is also there, showing herself off to perfection.
And finally, the parallel plot lines of Clarissa and Septimus are brought together at the party, as she hears about his suicide from Dr. Bradshaw, a party guest.
What is important about the party is how much goes on beneath the surface. Woolf's project is to show that nine-tenths of the reality of a person's identity is submerged. What plagued Woolf was how to get to and express that hidden reality. She does so by showing Mrs. Dalloway's identity at the party as composed of multiple fragments: her own memories, her past as other people perceive it, what other people think she is now, and what she is to herself in the present moment, not just a supremely successful hostess, but a woman who feels for and identifies with why Septimus killed himself. Like Mrs. Dalloway herself, the novel and the party suggests that all people are composed of many different strands.