Part 8 Summary
Last Updated on April 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 385
As Peter watches Septimus and Lucrezia argue, he sees in them a strange representation of his youthful behavior. He thinks of his sorrows and triumphs and loves and losses, then explains that the young married couple is the physical manifestation of his duality as one who wishes for love and one who struggles with existential questions about its very nature. Peter adds that he is far too sensitive for life, dryly remarking that mood swings have always been a large part of his life, both now and in the past.
Considering the past five years of his life, Peter reflects on the many women he has encountered and longed for during that time. He thinks of Sally, who he considers to be the most genuine person in Clarissa's social circle. Peter values Sally's honesty and is taken aback by the fact that she chose to marry a wealthy man and live a conventional lifestyle.
The memory of Bourton persists, recounted through both Peter’s and the narrator's perspectives. It becomes evident that Sally harbored a strong dislike for Hugh, which Peter shares. Peter recalls another conversation in which he and Sally shared their disapproval for one of Clarissa’s suitors, playing back one late evening spent in the gardens discussing Richard Dalloway. They deliberated on how to protect Clarissa from those who might suppress her individuality and ruminated on how to keep her safe from influence. Despite the memory of their distaste for Richard, Peter acknowledges to himself that Richard is essentially a decent person, even back then.
Still thinking of these times that have long since passed, Peter wonders whether his affection for Clarissa remains strong. He refutes the claim, believing that his loving feelings have ebbed away, replaced by fondness and care. They have chosen different paths, and their lives have taken such drastically different trajectories; love has no place for them. Peter wonders if he has wound up where he has because he is too vulnerable to external influence and not capable of self-determinism.
This question of fate reminds Peter of Clarissa’s sister, Sylvia, who was accidentally killed when a tree fell on her at Bourton. Swirling through these memories, Peter returns to the present and recalls his conversation with Clarissa once more, thinking with some embarrassment about his emotional outburst.