Mrs. Dalloway Part 5 Summary and Analysis

Virginia Woolf

Part 5 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Peter leaves, and walks the streets. His mind is reeling from the interviews he has just had with Clarissa. He is upset at her and at himself and wonders about what she and the people in the Dalloways’ social circles whom Peter once knew must think of him. Peter asserts that he doesn’t care what she and they think of him, yet he still evaluates his life and feels like a failure. As consolation, he reminds himself, he is in love, and in that he is fortunate.

Next there is a meditation from the narrator on the city and time. A clock that follows the tolling of Big Ben is likened to a hostess arriving to her guests.

Peter sees a group of boys in uniform, marching in formation. Peter admires them, yet his feelings are conflicted. He next sees a young woman, and follows her for a while. He imagines what she might be like, and considers approaching her. When she unlocks a door and disappears behind it, he gives up what he calls “his fun.”

Wondering where to go next, Peter finds Regent’s Park, where he decides to sit and smoke. Out of nowhere, it seems, he thinks of Elizabeth and decides to speak to her at the party that night. He tosses the cigar, and a sudden need for sleep overcomes him. An old gray nurse with a perambulator (baby carriage) watches him sleep. The narrator gives a meditation on the images of sleep and journeying.

Analysis
This is the reader’s first access to Peter’s mind, and in it is found the same kind of disorder seen in Clarissa. He is unhappy for reasons very similar to Clarissa’s sadness. His thoughts about the
past interfere with his present happiness, and his introspection makes him worry about how others perceive him.

This reading section is one of the more abstract in the novel. The narrator’s tangents seem not to coincide with the story, yet the pictures of the city and of time and sleep all contribute to
the great portrait of the human mind that Woolf strives to convey. There is a great sadness and beauty here, which may be appreciated by reading aloud the text and through analyzing the paragraphs one by one.