Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536
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, and the narrator sets the scene. At dinner Peter wins the respect of those around him. The people at the next table initiate a conversation with him. To them, Peter looks like a successful, worldly man, who understands what goes on around him. Peter looks forward to the party now. He wonders about whom he will talk to, what subjects he should cultivate.
The narrator depicts the evening. Because of the balmy weather, people are dining outdoors, or strolling through the streets. Peter remarks on the changes in London. He walks to Clarissa’s party in Westminster. He watches the activity, notes the heat and the humanity, and feels that the world is rich and lovely. He buys a paper, and sees what Septimus saw: that Surrey is “all out”; their cricket team lost. He feels that cricket helps make life bearable. As he approaches Clarissa’s, he mentally prepares himself for the party.
The section continues the examination of Peter Walsh. We see that others admire him, when we ourselves might not do so. That they think him impressive reveals the gap between how we know ourselves and how others see us. Peter knows himself to be at the mercy of his own thoughts (much as Clarissa does).
When Peter wonders about his future with Daisy, his concerns focus on what others will think of her. This highlights a major theme in the novel: placing value on what other people think. Consider two other women, both mentioned very briefly, who illustrate this issue. In the second section, an Irish woman almost salutes the passing car with a bunch of roses. She resists doing so because a policeman is watching her. In the ninth section, Peter gives a coin to a singing woman, whom people assume is crazy. Her response is, “and if people should see, what matter they?” Clarissa is unhappy when she considers how others see her, while Peter is annoyed by the same thoughts. At seventeen years of age, Elizabeth feels the pressure of this unpleasant reality. As we will see in the next section, the novel has only one character who at any point in her life, acted freely, unmindful of what people thought of her.
A fundamental tension in the novel results from the complexity of human relationships, and with the force of one’s own past on present happiness. Although the war has ended, many people fight for their own happiness every day.
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