Mrs. Dalloway Part 3 Summary and Analysis
by Virginia Woolf

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Part 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Sally Seton: an old friend of Clarissa

Lucy: the Dalloway’s maid

Lady Bruton: vivacious woman who invites Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread to her home for a luncheon

Richard Dalloway: Clarissa’s husband

Returning from the florist, Clarissa finds that Richard is lunching at Lady Bruton’s. Excluded and hurt, Clarissa appreciates Lucy’s sympathy. The two share a moment of silent communication. Clarissa’s disappointment affects her thoughts. She overreacts internally, imagining herself ancient and alone, because she was not invited. She worries about the extent of her social graces.

Climbing the stairs, Clarissa thinks of the attic, where she reads late at night. The couple has an understanding that since Clarissa’s unexplained “illness,” she sleeps alone, and she feels she has failed Richard because some part of her has kept her apart from him physically. This part of her centers on “a virginity preserved through childhood which clung to her like a sheet.” Clarissa’s thoughts about love lead directly to Bourton and Sally Seton. Clarissa recalls those times in great detail, both the events and people’s comments about what others did. More than anyone else, it is Sally who occupies Clarissa’s memories.

Clarissa remembers Peter Walsh, and wonders what he might say about her now. She thinks about her age, and she ponders her own face. She finally shrugs off these broodings, and selects the dress she wishes to wear for that night’s party, but it’s torn. Planning to repair it later, she descends the stairs and talks to Lucy about the silver.

This reading section contains the first highly detailed account of Bourton, where Clarissa once lived. Woolf makes the past at least as important to the characters as the present. It is an important factor in their lives, and often a major obstacle to their happiness.

Many memories about Bourton regard a particular summer, full of incidents and conversations that occurred thirty-four years before. We learn that Clarissa is 52-years-old in the novel’s present, and remembered being eighteen at the beginning of the novel, when the sounds of windows opening “transported her back” to Bourton.

These memories raise questions about love and the mystery...

(The entire section is 562 words.)