The heroine of the novel, Clarissa is analyzed in terms of her life, personality, and thought process throughout the book by the author and other characters. She is viewed from many angles. Clarissa enjoys the moment-to-moment aspect of life and believes that a piece of her remains in every place she has visited. She lacks a certain warmth, but is a caring woman who is touched by the people around her and their connection to life in general. Clarissa feels that her parties are her gift to the world and is proud to share herself with others. She loves to be accepted but has the acuity of mind to perceive her own flaws, especially since her recent illness. Clarissa is a representative of an uppity English gentry class and yet, defies categorization because of her humanity and her relation to her literary double, Septimus Warren Smith. She is superficially based on Woolf's childhood friend, Kitty Maxse.
Clarissa's husband, Richard is in love with his wife but feels uncomfortable showing his affection. A member of the government, he continually must attend councils, committees, and important meetings. He is called on by Lady Bruton for counsel, but is viewed by Sally Seton as not reaching his potential. She and Peter feel that he would have rather been in the country on a farm. Clarissa was attracted to him for his direct ideas, command of situations, and facility with animals.
Clarissa and Richard's daughter, she is described as strangely dark and exotic looking. She garners much attention from suitors but would rather spend her time in the country with her father and dog than at her mother's party. She is close to Miss Kilman but finds Miss Kilman odd and awkward at times. She sometimes imagines that she may be a veterinarian so that she can care for animals.
Clarissa's beau before Richard, Peter does not see Clarissa often after their break up. He had moved to India, married, separated, and then fallen in love again. The day of the novel, he returns to London and visits Clarissa. There is still an intensity between them and Peter reveals later to Sally Seton that Clarissa ruined his life by refusing to marry him. He rethinks much of their time at Bourton and decides to attend Clarissa's party even though he hates her parties. He waits the entire party just to speak with her or be near her.
Clarissa's principal servant, Lucy has the run of the house. She is proud of its ability to effuse beauty and honor.
Another servant, Mrs. Walker is older and has been handling the dinners at the parties for many years.
Sally Seton/Lady Rosseter
As a young woman, she was Clarissa's best friend, staying with Clarissa at Bourton because she was considerably poorer than Clarissa. Sally enjoyed causing a raucous by making outrageous claims and acting on a rebellious instinct that led her to smoke cigars, run naked down the halls, and do other crazy stunts that were not condoned by Clarissa's relatives. She represents Clarissa's true but unfulfilled love. As an older woman, she has surprisingly married a wealthy man and had a family, though she retains many of her spirited qualities.
A proper English gentleman, Hugh feels that he makes an important contribution to English society by writing letters to the London Times, helping different committees, attending parties at the Palace, and giving to small charities. He has been friends with Clarissa since childhood. Peter and Richard find him stiff and boring.
The woman whom Richard has hired to tutor Elizabeth in history, she is continually at odds with Clarissa. She has communist sympathies and feels bitter and repulsed by those of wealth and privilege such as Clarissa. Clarissa detests the attention she takes from her daughter as well as her self-sacrificing, condescending demeanor.
The woman who works at the florist on Bond Street, she notes that Clarissa was once very kind. She is polite and apologetic to an extreme.
Septimus Warren Smith
Often considered Clarissa's doppelganger, Septimus was a successful, intelligent, literary young man before World War I. During the war, he wins many honors and friends. After a good friend, Evans, is killed, he realizes that he can no longer feel. Marrying Rezia in an attempt to move on, Septimus never regains an emotional attachment to the world. The couple moves back to London and Septimus returns to his good job, but he slowly slips into further depths of despair and horror. He hears voices, namely of Evans, and becomes extremely sensitive to color and natural beauty. The doctors compound his problems by ignoring them, and they become the embodiment of evil and humanity, in his mind. When Dr. Holmes pushes into his home to see him, Septimus throws himself out the window to his death.
Lucrezia Warren Smith
Septimus' wife, Lucrezia lived in Italy before marrying and made hats with her sister. She is young and fun loving, but becomes seriously humiliated and sad when Septimus starts slipping into insanity. She wanted a normal marriage with children, not a man who talks to himself. When they first met, he had introduced her to Shakespeare and listened to her. Rezia tries to protect her husband from the doctors, but, in the end, she cannot.
A young woman fresh from Scotland, she is frightened by the Smiths in Regent's Park and wonders if she should have come to London after all.
An older, lower class woman in Regent's Park, who imagines the future life of Maisie Johnson based on Maisie's appearance while evaluating her own life.
The daughter of a general, she is an older woman much more concerned with the British Empire than relationships or society. She invited Richard, but not Clarissa, to lunch causing Clarissa to question her own purpose. She and Clarissa have little in common.
The overbearing doctor who first treats Septimus, he insists that nothing is wrong with Septimus and commands that Rezia try to keep his mind on other things. Septimus views him with hatred, feeling that the doctor represents the evils of human kind trying to stifle him. It is Holmes rushing up the stairs past Rezia that persuades Septimus to kill himself.
Sir William Bradshaw
The esteemed psychologist who treats Septimus after Dr. Holmes, Bradshaw recommends rest in the country for Septimus so he can be reoriented to Bradshaw's strict ideal of proportion. He recognizes that Septimus is seriously suffering from post-war anguish. He is hated by Septimus because he represents humanity along with Holmes, by Rezia because he tries to separate the couple, and by Clarissa because he makes the lives of his patients intolerable.
The doctor's upstanding wife, the Lady tells Clarissa of Septimus' death, bringing unwanted death into Clarissa's party. The Lady is a very good amateur photographer, but, ironically, had a mental breakdown years ago.
Lady Bruton's secretary, Milly is also a confidant and good friend. She cannot tolerate the pomposity and extreme politesse exuded by Hugh Whitbread.
A family that is staying at Peter's hotel, they eat dinner at the same time as Peter and befriend him in the smoking room afterwards.
The Prime Minister
The man perceived as close to royalty by English society, the Prime Minister is kind enough to visit the party. The guests are surprised at how ordinary he appears. Many of the other characters reflect on him throughout the novel.
Clarissa's poor, quiet, and less than sociable cousin, Ellie is only invited to the party because another of Clarissa's guests invites her. Clarissa thought her too dull to invite. She speaks only to Richard at the party. The rest of the time, she simply observes the guests and gathers gossip to tell her friend, Edith.
Professor Brierly, Jim Hutton, Lord Gayton, Miss Blow
All guests at Clarissa's party, Clarissa has a few moments to speak to each of them and to try to smooth over any conflicts or boredom.
Miss Helena Parry
Clarissa's old aunt, Miss Parry is part of the memories of Burton, where she chastised Sally and befriended Peter. At the party, she tolerates the crowds and speaks to Peter about Burma. Most are surprised that she is still alive.
The old woman
The neighbor whom Clarissa could view in the house adjacent, the old woman seems a mystery to Clarissa. Though she often appears to be connected to others in her life, Clarissa admires the elder neighbor's privacy. Clarissa watches the woman as Clarissa looks outside after hearing of Septimus' suicide. The old woman's turning off the lights to go to bed triggers Clarissa's realization that she must return to life and her party.
Mrs. Dalloway Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Mrs. Dalloway is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
A stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that gives the impression of a mind at work, jumping from one observation, sensation, or reflection to the next. These varied elements are usually expressed in a flow of words without conventional...