Part 18 Summary

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Last Updated April 6, 2023.

Sir William and Lady Bradshaw arrive at Clarissa's party late and apologize for their tardiness. Although Clarissa does not like them very much, she still greets them warmly and welcomes them into her home. Clarissa notices that Sir William seems tired from the sadness he has witnessed in his career and comments on the strange sense of emotional distance she senses from him.

Sir William talks to Richard about a recent case while Lady Bradshaw tells Clarissa that they received a call about a suicide as they were leaving, which disrupted their timing. This news deeply upsets Clarissa, and she feels like death has intruded upon the party. She retreats to an empty room, feeling angry at the Bradshaws for bringing up the subject, thinking that the fact that it was a suicide makes their faux pas even worse.

Alone in the room, Clarissa stares out the window at the cityscape before her and attempts to comprehend the decision to commit suicide. In comparison, she feels that her daily routines and social events are insignificant and terribly mundane; suicide, on the other hand, is a profound commentary on the nature of existence. She realizes there is a significant divide between those who choose to make this statement and her own disconnected life.

Although Clarissa is content with her life alongside Richard and feels happy, she holds a certain admiration for the man Lady Bradshaw mentioned and feels an unexpected sense of connection to him. As the party winds down, Clarissa knows she must speak with Sally and Peter but has yet to find the time. The pair of old friends converse without Clarissa, reflecting on how things have changed since Bourton: Peter had aspirations to become a writer but never pursued them; Sally's once-fiery demeanor has become more subdued; and Clarissa has embarked on a journey that neither of them ever expected from her. 

The Dalloway home slowly empties, but Sally and Peter linger, continuing to wonder about Clarissa's whereabouts. The conversation turns to Elizabeth, whom Richard has trouble recognizing, as she has grown up so fast and become her own person. Eventually, Sally decides to leave, but Peter remains, fiddling with his pocket knife and patiently waiting for Clarissa to return. When he finally catches a glimpse of her, his heart soars, buoyed with joy but tinged with fear, and he moves to reach her.

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Part 17 Summary