Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway Summary and Analysis of Part I, Sections 4-5

Part I Section Four Summary (p.48 -56 "Remember my party, remember...feathers of sleep, sank, and was muffled over."):

Peter mimicked Clarissa as he walked from her house. He had never enjoyed her parties, parties such as hers. He did not blame her, though. He was in love and happy to be so. There was so much he had seen and done of which Clarissa knew nothing. She had grown hard. He thought the way she had introduced Elizabeth was insincere and that Elizabeth had thought so. Clarissa should have plainly said, "Here's Elizabeth." He had been overly emotional when he had visited Clarissa. As always, he had told her everything. Peter felt that Clarissa had refused him.

The bells of St. Margaret's echoed across London, and Peter associated St. Margaret's graceful entrance with Clarissa as the hostess. He imagined her coming in to a room years ago and was swept up in the intimacy of the memory. As the bells died out, they reminded Peter that Clarissa's heart had been ill, and he imagined her falling to the floor, dying. He shook himself from this image and reminded himself that he was not old yet. He had never liked people like the Dalloways and Whitbreads. He had been a rebel, a pioneer, and civilization needed young men like him.

Boys in uniform marched by Peter and, instinctively, he followed them. Soon, he realized he could not maintain their pace and let them pass. He could respect the uniformity in boys, as they did not yet know the troubles of the flesh. Alone in Trafalgar Square, he had not felt so young in years. A young woman passed who enchanted Peter. He transformed her into the woman he had always wanted and began following her through the streets. She seemed to speak silently to Peter, to his soul. He kept up with her until she slowed before a building and disappeared inside. He had had his fun.

He was still too early for his appointment with the lawyer and so walked to Regent's Park to sit. The day was beautiful, and he felt a certain pride for the civility and accomplished air of London. His Anglo-Indian family had administered the affairs of India for years and, though he despised the empire and army, he still felt proud. The pomp was absurd, but admirable. Thoughts of his past continued to combat him, likely a result of seeing Clarissa. He thought of a fight he had had with her father at Bourton. Peter looked for a secluded seat in the park but settled for one next to a nurse and sleeping baby. Peter again thought of Elizabeth, thinking she was peculiar looking and probably did not get along with her mother. Smoking a cigar, he curled the smoke from his lips and decided to try to speak with Elizabeth alone that night. He threw away the cigar and fell into a deep sleep.

Part One Section Four Analysis:

The theme of the intersection of time and timelessness arises as we watch Peter walk through London and wander through Regent's Park as Clarissa had done only a few hours earlier. Unlike Clarissa, however, he does not notice the beauty of the day or feel the effect of the bells on a cosmic, spiritual level. He does not appreciate the moment as Clarissa often does. Instead, everything for Peter relates to his past, present, or fantasy. His thoughts are always internalized. In this manner, time blurs with timelessness as Peter's memories blur with present images, wishes, and fantasies.

As soon as Peter leaves Clarissa's home, he is overcome with combative thoughts. He believes that Clarissa said the wrong thing to Elizabeth, for example. He hates Clarissa's parties. Clarissa dominates his thoughts to the point where external stimuli simply function to remind him of her in different ways. St. Margaret's bells remind him of Clarissa as the hostess. This reference alludes to Clarissa's thoughts earlier in the day of Peter and his comment to her that she would be the perfect hostess. Thus, the bells symbolize a line of conflict between Peter and Clarissa.

Consequently, Peter is soon reminded of Clarissa's heart condition and he pictures her dying. Clarissa's imaginary death foreshadows the death of her double, Septimus, later in the novel. Peter shakes off the bad image because he does not want to think of himself being old enough to die. He thus uses the next images that come his way, the marching boys and the beautiful young woman, as symbols of his youth and his courage.

He tells himself that he was a rebel when young and that the world needed men like him. Peter is trying to rationalize the dissociation he feels from the humanity surrounding him. The waves of emotion he experiences touch on the theme of the sea. The words that describe him following the young woman allude to the motions of the sea. The phrases are short and choppy, yet rhythmic. The text states, "She moved; she crossed; he followed her...But other people got between them on the street, obstructing him, blotting her out. He pursued; she changed" (53). His mood changes again when he stops to actually look around at the world passing him by. He is impressed by the civility of London as compared to the Indian culture in which he had been living. London is a metonym for Clarissa and the type of society she represents. Though Peter wants to rebel, he cannot help but yearn for inclusion within the society he tries to despise.

Part I Section Five Summary (p. 56-64 "The grey nurse resumed...He never saw her again."):

Peter dreamed. The gray nurse knitting beside Peter appeared spectral, blending into images of the sky and the trees. The narrator reminds the reader that an atheist may still experience moments of exultation. As Peter dreams, the narrator reveals the symbolic story of a solitary traveler. The visions that enter the mind of the solitary traveler allow Peter to conceive of him. The traveler sees a figure at the end of the path. She is a giant figure at the end of a great ride. The solitary traveler rides and reaches the mother-like figure. Peter is offered comfort but does not know to whom to reply.

Suddenly Peter awoke, exclaiming, "The death of the soul." In his mind, he had been dreaming of a scene at Bourton, when he had been deeply in love with Clarissa. The scene took place years ago. They had been discussing the housemaid whom had married the neighboring squire. Clarissa criticized the maid's impropriety. Sally mentioned that the maid had given birth before the marriage. Clarissa was abhorred, her manner prudish. The coldness she emanated chilled the whole room and, awkwardly, Clarissa left the table. Clarissa talked to her sheepdog (but spoke to Peter), defending her behavior. Peter remained silent and Clarissa went outside, alone. As the day went on, Peter grew increasingly gloomy. At supper, he arrived late. He did not look at Clarissa at first but when he did, he noticed that she was speaking to a young man. It was Richard Dalloway and suddenly, Peter knew Richard would marry Clarissa.

Clarissa had thought his name was Wickham at first until Dalloway abruptly corrected her. Sally would forever call him, "My name is Dalloway." Peter could not hear of what Clarissa and Richard spoke but he noticed her maternal manner toward him. After dinner, they sat in the drawing room. Clarissa approached Peter to introduce him to Richard. Peter retorted that she was the perfect hostess. She walked away in a huff. Later, the young people decided to go boating in the moonlight and they left Peter standing in the drawing room. Clarissa ran back inside to find Peter. He was suddenly happy. They walked down to the docks talking and, when the boat reached an island, they sat on the grass together. Yet, Peter still somehow knew that Dalloway and Clarissa were falling in love.

Following that night, Peter asked ridiculous things of Clarissa, pushing her away from him. Finally, he sent her a note via Sally to meet him near the fountain. He demanded, repeatedly, that she tell him the truth. She was unyielding. At last, she cried that her and Peter's relationship was over. That night, Peter left Bourton.

Part One Section Five Analysis:

Much of this section takes place in Peter's memory, allowing us to relive the past relationship between Clarissa and him. However, the beginning of the section relates the interesting appearance of the solitary traveler. Though Woolf's prose often edges on the poetic, this is one of the only portions of the novel where her writing becomes extremely abstract. Why? What does the solitary traveler add to this section or the novel as a whole? Critics suggest that the traveler is Peter Walsh, as both are male, primarily alone (at least during the day on which the novel takes place), and over fifty years old. He travels through the wood until reaching the giant figure, who ironically is one of the least imposing figures possible, an old matron or nurse. Thus, the archetype of the eternal feminine is evoked. This figure will reappear as we continue through the novel. The section during Peter's dream introduces the idea to the reader abstractly because of the larger symbolism the feminine figure will hold.

Using Peter's recollection as a vehicle, Woolf provides insight into both Clarissa and Peter's characters. Clarissa is often referred to throughout the novel as being cold, as if she was missing something that warmed other humans. The memory that Peter has describes Clarissa as a prude because she is utterly disgusted by the thought of a woman becoming pregnant before marriage. This occurrence was not supported by her social circle, but her peers obviously do not react in the same way as she. Ironically, however, Sally Seton, a figure who loved rebelling as a youth, deeply attracted Clarissa. Perhaps Clarissa seeks that warmth that other people offer because of her own lack of warmth.

This absence in Clarissa is also suggested in her manner toward Richard. She is eager to bestow a maternal instinct toward Richard, as she would her sheepdog, to compensate for that flaw. It is possible also that the warmth she lacks could inhabit the sense of awakened sexuality that Sally evidently provokes but whom the men do not. Thus, Clarissa can mother a man or a dog, but not feel impassioned by them. Clarissa quickly dismisses the passion of feeling that Peter does awake in her for more tranquil, controllable emotions.

The recollection also illustrates Peter's overabundance of emotion as he allows himself to be ruled by his feelings. He is able to discern future events through his instincts, such as his feeling that Clarissa and Richard will marry. The memory also presents the separation of Clarissa and Peter as a couple, a moment that haunts both characters during the novel. The theme of water is emphasized as the break up takes place at a fountain. The flow of life is symbolized by the flow of the fountain's stream, creating imagery for a change in life that would cause heartbreak, freedom, and loneliness.