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Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway


by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway Section 2 Summary

  • Returning home, Clarissa is greeted by Lucy, the maid. She feels like a nun returning to the cloister, but still Clarissa feels the power of the moment. She feels blessed (though she doesn’t believe in God, by the way) and is very thankful for servants and for Richard.
  • Lucy announces that Mr Dalloway is out to lunch at Lady Bruton’s house. Clarissa is hurt that she wasn’t invited along because Millicent’s lunches are known for being amusing. The moment suddenly feels empty.
  • Clarissa goes upstairs to her room in the attic. She feels let down, old, shriveled.
  • Her bed is narrow (like a nun’s). She feels sexless, like a virgin; in fact, since her illness, she has slept alone.
  • She feels like she’s disappointed Richard sexually. Women have always charmed her – she has felt momentary attractions to them, which she compares to a "match burning in a crocus" (2.11). (By the way, crocuses are much lovelier than they sound.)
  • Clarissa thinks of the past and of Sally Seton. Had she been in love with Sally? She remembers her as being beautiful and free-spirited.
  • Sally once got in a fight with her family, and then pawned a brooch to get money to visit Clarissa at Bourton. Sally showed Clarissa that there was life outside her social circle; she made Clarissa feel free. And Aunt Helena sure didn’t approve. Sally shocked Clarissa’s family with her manners and behavior.
  • The feelings Clarissa had for Sally were unlike anything else. The two women had a special bond and they swore they would never marry. To be with Sally was to be absolutely fulfilled.
  • One night Sally and Clarissa were walking in the garden, and Sally kissed her right on the lips. "The whole world might have turned upside down!" (1.16). It was the perfect moment – until Peter interrupted them. Peter had a way of ruining things. He was determined to get in the way and always criticized things as "sentimental."
  • Back in the present moment, Clarissa finds the dress she’ll wear to her party that night. It has a rip, which she decides to repair herself; the maids are too busy getting things ready.
  • Clarissa flits about the house, giving instructions to Lucy. She has just begun to mend the dress when the doorbell rings. It is Peter Walsh, who insists on coming in.
  • He thinks she looks older and she thinks he’s about the same. Peter plays with his pen-knife (some things never change).
  • Peter compares his life to hers: he’s been in India while she has been here in London married to Richard. Clarissa wields her scissors as she speaks and she teases him that she won’t invite him to her party.
  • The two of them remember being at Bourton. Clarissa’s father, Justin Parry, never liked Peter. Clarissa adds that he never liked any of her friends (especially those who wanted to marry her).
  • Sadly, Clarissa never visits Bourton anymore.
  • Peter wonders if he should tell Clarissa about Daisy. Compared to Clarissa with her parties and conservative husband, Peter thinks Daisy would seem plain.
  • He assumes Richard and Clarissa think he’s a failure. His life has involved travel, adventure, love affairs, and work, while hers has been about social engagements and parties. (Apparently parties are an indicator of success!)
  • Peter is eager to give the impression that he has had an extraordinary career and that now he’s completely in love with Daisy.
  • It must be a younger woman, thinks Clarissa. And in fact, Peter confesses that Daisy is, in fact, married to a major in the Indian army and has two children. Scandalous! He has come to London to see about arranging her divorce.
  • Clarissa thinks he’s a fool, always involved in some romantic nonsense.
  • Peter suddenly bursts into tears. Richard would never show this much emotion. Speaking of Richard, he’s still off lunching with Lady Bruton not realizing that his wife is fraternizing with a guy who wanted to marry her. Oh well.
  • Clarissa comforts Peter, and he asks her if she’s happy being married to Richard.
  • Clarissa’s daughter enters the room, interrupting the moment. Peter gets out of there pretty quickly, as Clarissa shouts after him to come to her party that night.

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