Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway Summary and Analysis of Part II, Sections 3-4

Part II, Section Three Summary (p.117-133 "The sound of Big Ben flooded...bowing her head very politely, she went."):

Clarissa was very annoyed. Mrs. Marsham had written her about inviting Ellie Henderson to her party, but Clarissa had purposely not invited Ellie. She was a bore. She was also annoyed that Elizabeth was praying with Miss Kilman. The clock struck three and Richard walked in, holding flowers. He could not bring himself to say he loved her, but she understood. Clarissa thanked him and filled him in on her list of annoyances. Richard told her about Hugh being at lunch and being an ass, and Clarissa mentioned Peter's visit, and how bizarre it was that she had almost married him. Richard held her hand. He then hurried off to some committee meeting, though he was not sure himself whether it was about the Armenians or Albanians. Before leaving, Richard told Clarissa to rest, as he always did, because a doctor once had suggested that she rest after lunch.

Lying down, Clarissa felt selfish that she cared more about roses than suffering Albanians. She felt uneasy and realized that it was because of the negative reactions both Peter and Richard had toward her parties. Peter thought her a snob; Richard thought her childish. Yet, she loved her parties because she loved sharing in people's lives. Parties were her offering to the world, her gift. Clarissa was amazed by the very essence of life, moment to moment, the simple pleasures of seeing beauty. The door opened and Elizabeth entered. Strangely, Elizabeth did not resemble the rest of the Dalloways, but had an almost Asian look to her. Clarissa was bothered because she had become very serious lately. Miss Kilman stood outside the door, and Elizabeth told her mother that they were going to the Army and Navy surplus stores.

Miss Kilman despised Clarissa because, in her eyes, Clarissa was mean and superficial. She felt plain next to Clarissa and cheated by the world. She did not mind Mr. Dalloway; he had invited her to teach history to Elizabeth. Miss Kilman told herself that she pitied women like Mrs. Dalloway. Whenever she was filled with sinister thoughts, she thought of God. When Mrs. Dalloway came out with Elizabeth, Miss Kilman tried not to hate. She told herself there would be a religious victory in the end, and she would triumph. In return, Clarissa felt victimized. She felt that this woman was stealing her daughter. They stood awkwardly together for a moment as Elizabeth ran for her gloves. Then, Miss Kilman and Elizabeth left.

Desperate, Clarissa yelled after Elizabeth to remember her party, but Elizabeth did not hear. Clarissa hated how Miss Kilman wanted to convert everyone, and made others feel small. Clarissa simply wanted people to be themselves. Clarissa pondered love and religion, feeling that the combination had the power to destroy. She thought of Peter, who was filled with knowledge of the world, but who loved flimsy women. Big Ben struck three-thirty. Clarissa noticed the old woman whom she could view in the house adjacent through her window. It seemed to Clarissa that the ringing of the bell forced the lady to move away from her window. All was connected. One needed neither religion nor love to make the connections. Another clock, which always rang slightly after Big Ben, reminded Clarissa to prepare for her party.

Miss Kilman, filled with anger, tried to calm herself by remembering what religion had taught her. However, she resented her ugly body and she resented Mrs. Dalloway. Miss Kilman lived to eat food and love Elizabeth. Miss Kilman and Elizabeth reached the stores. Miss Kilman wished to look at petticoats but was so flushed with anger and frustration that she seemed nearly mad in her selection. Then, Miss Kilman declared that they must have tea. She ate with intensity, leering at the cakes of others while she demolished the food in front of her. Elizabeth thought of how peculiar Miss Kilman was, taking her to teas with clergymen, lending her books on different professions, complaining of her unhappiness, and getting along horribly with her mother.

As Elizabeth looked for her gloves, Miss Kilman desperately hoped the girl would stay with her longer. But, Elizabeth wanted to go. Miss Kilman detained her by saying that she had not finished eating. She asked Elizabeth if she would go to her mother's party. Elizabeth responded that she would probably have to, though she did not like parties. Miss Kilman replied that she never went to parties because she was never invited. She continued talking, feeling sorry for herself and driving a small wedge between herself and Elizabeth. Elizabeth then paid her bill and left.

Part II Section Three Analysis:

The theme of the sea as symbolic of life is invoked as Richard returns from the luncheon with flowers for Clarissa. The suspense is properly built for the moment where Richard will tell Clarissa he loves her. Clarissa has been visited by Peter that morning, and her thoughts continually stray to him. Richard has been provoked to this moment of passion by the very mention of Peter and finally breaks from Hugh so that he can return to Clarissa, the happiness of his life. As he enters their home, the bell signifies the break in time and progression. Woolf writes, "And the sound of the bell flooded the room with its melancholy wave; which receded, and gathered itself together to fall once more, when she heard distractingly, something fumbling, something scratching at the door." The sure-handed prose certainly does not introduce the seeming moment of passion the reader expects. Instead, Woolf's verbiage here reads more like Edgar Allan Poe, foreshadowing a dreaded event through repetition and imagery. The melancholy waves gather their force only to stumble and fumble about. One expects some kind of monster to enter behind this sea rather than a loving husband with flowers. Woolf foreshadows the failure of Richard to say ŒI love you' and to properly communicate with his wife by describing the failed motion of a wave, having to retreat after crashing, only to gather, and crash once more.

Similarly, the reader gets the feeling that Richard has hoped to express his love to Clarissa at other times as well, but has also failed. The failed connection exists between husband and wife, between fellow humans. Clarissa's conversation still returns to Peter. Richard holds her hand, but a gulf exists between husband and wife that allows little verbal connection to take hold. The theme of insanity coupled with sanity appears in this context as Maureen Howard, author of the introduction to the novel, illuminates. She writes, "...Virginia Woolf knew from her own illness how close to endurance and civilization lay insanity and mayhem...It is so difficult to endow our words with meaning. ...Clarity, like simple sentences ­ ŒI love you' ­ is hard to come by." In a war-torn world, crumbled and disillusioned following World War I, Woolf attempted to illustrate the difficulty of simply living. Howard elaborates, "In Mrs. Dalloway, she began to assemble the bits and pieces, to find the angles, the original voice that would make us feel" and thus, communicate successfully again.

In this sense, Richard is no more connected to the meetings he attends. In fact, he fails to know if he is meeting to discuss the Armenians or Albanians. The importance of his societal duties is undermined by his nonchalance, commenting on Woolf's view of the English upper classes and the state of all-important English duty. The reader is acquainted with Richard's many good qualities, yet his loyalty to the status quo and the establishment is mirrored in his leaving his wife for a meeting that he obviously does not care about and in the awe he feels toward Lady Bruton's family history.

Ironically, Clarissa's parties are developed by Woolf, in contrast to Richard's work, as entities of value and significance. Both Peter and Richard, whose opinions she relies most upon, judge Clarissa's parties harshly. However, in this section of the novel, Clarissa comes to realize why her parties are so important to her and the reader learns that the parties signify Clarissa's gift to the world around her. Woolf once described insanity as a form of death because its intense loneliness created a human void for the sufferer. In Clarissa's parties, she fights this emptiness, this void. Clarissa brings people together and thus, creates a human dialogue. She creates life, and thus, sanity. What at first seems quite superficial and vain becomes quite substantial and meaningful upon reflection.

Miss Kilman, however, is one character that cannot be helped by a social offering of this type. The woman is so embittered by her experiences, beliefs, and station in life, that she refuses to open herself to anything that is offered, especially by one viewed as a socialite, such as Clarissa. Her hold on Elizabeth, though, is quite strong and a sexual relationship between the two women is even hinted at. Yet, their connection breaks down during the trip to the store and café. Miss Kilman is extremely self-involved and dependent as shown by her attempts to keep Elizabeth with her. The image of Miss Kilman gobbling down her cake stands as a metaphor for her personality. Though Doris Kilman hungers for companionship and acceptance, she is unable to see beyond the cake in front of her. The text describes the desperation of Miss Kilman when Woolf states, "If [Doris Kilman] could grasp [Elizabeth], if she could clasp her, if she could make her hers absolutely and forever and then die; that was all she wanted." Consumed with jealousy and rage, she loses her grasp on her young friend, becoming nothing more than a ridiculous caricature "fingering the last two inches of a chocolate éclair."

Part II, Section Four Summary (p.133-151 "She had gone...So that was Dr. Holmes."):

Miss Kilman sat alone, despondent. She had lost her Elizabeth. Clarissa had won, after all. She wandered off, forgetting her petticoat until someone ran after her. Miss Kilman headed for a sanctuary of religion. She joined others in the Abbey and knelt in prayer. Elizabeth also wandered. She enjoyed the niceness of the day and decided to take a bus ride. Her life was changing. Already men were falling in love with her. She felt that the attention was silly. Elizabeth wished only to play in the country, with her father. She sat on the bus and enjoyed the fresh air. Meditating on Miss Kilman, she wondered if Miss Kilman's idea about the poor was correct. She paid another penny so that she could continue riding the bus onto the Strand, a working quarter of London. Miss Kilman had said that all professions were open to women of Elizabeth's generation and so Elizabeth thought she might become a doctor, politician, or farmer. She was a lazy child, but the ride motivated her. The people in the Strand rushed about with such importance. Nearing St. Paul's cathedral, she knew it was getting late and she turned for home.

The sun was setting in the Strand as Septimus looked out his window. To him, nature danced through the sunlight on the walls. Rezia dreaded seeing Septimus smile as he often did. Sometimes he would demand that she record his thoughts. She would write down his words, logical or not, on Shakespeare, war, and beauty. Lately, he would suddenly cry out about truth and seeing his old friend, Evans. The doctors had said he should not get excited, but he did. He would speak of Holmes in terms of the evil of human nature. To Septimus, all this was true. This day, Rezia sat sewing a hat for Mrs. Peters, a woman she did not like but who had been nice to the Smiths. Septimus watched Rezia's form and found it perfect. He asked her about Mrs. Peters and her family. He opened his eyes to observe how real the objects in his home were. He held a normal conversation with Rezia about the Peters' which made her very happy. They joked about the hat that would be too small for big Mrs. Peters and Septimus designed the pattern to decorate the top of the hat. Rezia happily sewed his pattern on and Septimus was very pleased. Rezia would always love the hat they created.

Septimus made Rezia try the hat on. The girl with the evening paper arrived. Rezia danced around with her, laughing, as Septimus read aloud from the paper. Septimus fell asleep, slowly slipping from reality. When he awoke, Rezia had gone to take the girl home. He looked for his visions but they were not there. Rezia burst in, still happy. She felt that things had returned to normal. She thought back to when she had first met him, and how he had understood the things that she said. She asked if he liked the hat, but Septimus just sat, looking at her. He believed that he could feel her mind, but he also remembered that Bradshaw had said that he would need to separate himself. It bothered him that Bradshaw had seemed so demanding. Rezia told him it was because he had wanted to kill himself. He inquired where his writings were and she brought them to him. He wanted them burned but she promised to keep them from the doctors. She also promised that the doctors would not separate her from him.

Septimus imagined his wife as a flowering tree, triumphing over the doctors. Rezia heard the voice of Dr. Holmes and ran to stop him from seeing Septimus. Holmes pushed by her. Rezia, Septimus knew, was on his side. Holmes continued up the stairs toward Septimus. Septimus tried to think of ways to escape. The window was the only option he could fathom. He waited to the last minute, enjoying the sun, and then threw himself onto the fence below. Holmes ran in, shouting that Septimus was a coward. Mrs. Filmer ran to Rezia, making her sit down. Holmes gave Rezia a drink that made her fall asleep. She thought of happy memories. Slowly, she realized that Septimus was dead. People outside carried the body away.

Part II Section Four Analysis:

Elizabeth Dalloway is compared often to a blooming flower, the metonym for spring and growth, as she is a young girl coming into womanhood. Against her will, Elizabeth is being drawn into adult life. Woolf writes, "People were beginning to compare her to poplar trees, early dawn, hyacinths, fawns, running water, and garden lilies, and it made her life a burden to her, for she so much preferred being left alone..." This list of images creates in the reader a sense of renewal and vitality that is essential to Elizabeth's character. Miss Kilman employs Woolf's metonyms for Elizabeth when she substitutes, "Elizabeth had gone. Beauty had gone, youth had gone." As Elizabeth breaks from Miss Kilman, Elizabeth renews and revitalizes her sense of self. She enjoys the feel of being alone and outdoors and revels in the noise of the crowds and in life rushing around her. As she rides the bus through London, she is inspired to think of future professions and aspirations. Critic, Manly Johnson, relates, "There is a Dickensian delight in movement and sounds in the description of Elizabeth's recommitment to life on her own..." The ride through London symbolizes a rite of passage for Elizabeth who begins exploring the path from adolescence to vital adulthood.

Woolf also frequently compares Rezia Smith to a tree or flower of life. Johnson explains, "Crippled within, [Septimus] seeks out Lucrezia to marry her, with the instinctive knowledge that her health is what his sickness needs. She appears to him as the tree of life..." As Woolf develops the theme of the sane along side the insane, she again describes Rezia, through Septimus, as a flower attempting to protect her battered husband with her maternal petals. Woolf illustrates, "...she did up the if all her petals were about her. She was a flowering tree..." Rezia too represents vitality and life, and as such, she is incapable of protecting or understanding her husband. Her attention to detail and the love she gives to her hat making depicts the care she gives to the world around her. Rezia's declaration that she and Septimus will not be separated is used to explore the necessity of togetherness in sanity. When she leaves to take the young girl home, Septimus begins to lose his grasp on reality. He falls asleep and when he wakes up, he has clearly returned to the separate world of his own delusions. His desperation is reflected in the text: "That was it: to be alone forever. That was the doom pronounced in Milan..." The devastation caused by the war and his realization that he can no longer feel illustrates the lack of emotional connection Septimus retains to those around him.

The period that Rezia and Septimus spend together before he falls asleep displays a healthiness and happiness rarely felt in the novel. The hat that the husband and wife create together stands as a metaphor for life and sanity. The hat allows the two to communicate, playfully and warmly. They discuss people they know and cooperate in the hat's design and construction. The pattern that Septimus pieces together for the hat symbolizes the novel itself. The novel, as a truly modern novel of the post-World War I era, is also constructed of fragments pieced together. How does one learn about Clarissa's character, for instance? We learn from Clarissa herself, but also from comments and thoughts made by others, by memories discovered, and by symbolic reference. The postmodern novel is a pastiche of reflections, alternating narration, poetic allusion, direct prose, metaphor, dialogue, and character development. Like the hat, several layers of emotion, sentiment, logic, character, and motive create the design. The moment of creation is thus a culmination of life and significance in the novel.

Dr. Holmes, seen as the symbol of the evil of human nature by Septimus, drives the life out of man. He and Bradshaw represent the figures of conversion and proportion detailed earlier by Woolf. In their attempts to smooth over Septimus' very real problems and ultimately, to separate him from the life connection he still holds, the physicians force Septimus to his death. Insanity, in Woolf's eyes, was very near to death. Johnson explains, "In his compulsion to put people away, Woolf casts Sir William as an agent of death." As Septimus awakes from his nap, his thoughts flow directly to Bradshaw's words of separation. Rezia tries to alleviate Septimus' fears, but the arrival of a forceful Dr. Holmes makes the fears very real to Septimus. He feels that he must escape the grasp of Holmes and Bradshaw. Yet, Septimus does not want to die. Before jumping, he states, "But he would wait till the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot." As he jumps, he screams that he will "give it to [Holmes]."Septimus feels pushed into a position where he must save himself from the smothering hold of conversion and proportion. Woolf writes, "[Rezia] saw the large outline of his body standing dark against the window. So that was Dr. Holmes." Holmes is a figure, a symbol, of darkness and destruction whereas Septimus, last alive in the hot sun, reflects ruined innocence and goodness. His moment in the sun foreshadows Clarissa's later reaction to Septimus' death and the connection that will be solidified between them.