Part 1 Summary and Analysis
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
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 when.
The day is lovely weather for walking. A man named Scrope Purvis sees Clarissa, and thinks of her as charmingly bird-like. Big Ben, the famous London clock tower, tolls the hour of ten a.m. Clarissa’s thoughts flow from one subject to the next, and she sees Hugh Whitbread coming towards her.
Clarissa enjoys seeing Hugh, yet finds him slightly patronizing. Always concerned about looking her best, she feels that his perfect deportment contrasts with the minute flaws she perceives in herself. They chat about Clarissa’s party, and Hugh’s wife, Evelyn’s health, which as usual is poor. Clarissa commiserates.
After Clarissa and Hugh part, she thinks back to Peter and the others from those years at Bourton. She remembers how Peter detested Hugh, and the fact that Hugh was not completely stupid after all, as Peter had claimed. Clarissa recalls a quotation from Shakespeare, and imagines what she would look like if she had a choice; tall and imposing Clarissa decides, instead of stick-like and insignificant, as Clarissa sees herself.
A glove shop reminds Clarissa of her daughter, Elizabeth, who immediately reminds Clarissa of Doris Kilman, an older and very religious woman who seems to have attached herself to Elizabeth. Thinking about Kilman raises strong feelings of anger in Clarissa, which shock and displease her. Troubled by these emotions, Clarissa enters Mulberry’s, the florist, and is immediately soothed by the flowers. She notes the positive effects they seem to have on Miss Pym. While selecting flowers, Clarissa is startled by a car’s backfire.
The novel begins with its own title, and the...
(The entire section is 596 words.)