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Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway


by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway Section 5 Summary

  • Arriving home, Richard finds that Clarissa is upset that her frumpy, dull cousin Ellie Henderson is coming to her party. It’s enough that Elizabeth is spending time with that awful Miss Kilman; what more could go wrong?
  • Richard enters holding flowers. He can’t bring himself to say "I love you," but she understands what he’s thinking.
  • They talk about Miss Kilman, Peter Walsh, the party, and writing the letter for Lady Bruton. He wonders why she gives these parties when they stress her out so much.
  • He leaves again to go to a meeting about Armenians or Albanians. It's always something.
  • Clarissa cherishes the independence that she and Richard have in their marriage. But he looks after her, making sure she rests after lunch. She feels a twinge of guilt for caring more about roses than Armenians. (We all have those moments, don't we?)
  • As she lies down, Clarissa tries to figure out why she feels so disturbed. She didn’t like how Peter and Richard criticized her parties. They’re an offering: her form of creation, a gift.
  • While Clarissa is resting, Elizabeth comes into the room very quietly, while Miss Kilman waits outside the door in her unsightly mackintosh (that's a raincoat). As you might remember, Mrs Dalloway doesn't think very highly of her: she’s poor and over forty, she resents the rich, and she looks down on Clarissa’s background and limited education. She is entitled and bitter, pious and judgmental.
  • Clarissa feels that Miss Kilman is stealing Elizabeth away from her.
  • Elizabeth leaves with Miss Kilman to have tea. Clarissa considers love and religion detestable. (This thought makes some sense in the context: remember that Miss Kilman brings Elizabeth to Catholic meetings.) She becomes repulsed by the idea of Miss Kilman’s body and her efforts to convert people to Christianity.
  • Climbing the stairs, Clarissa looks out the window at the house across the way. She often watches a woman who leaves there; she finds the woman peaceful compared to the thought of Peter Walsh’s oppressive love. Interesting comparison.
  • Now we're in Miss Kilman's thoughts. (You still with us?) Miss Kilman is concerned with controlling the flesh. She thinks that Clarissa mocks her ugliness. She despises Clarissa’s shallowness and vanity. Her own desires are simple: tea, a hot water bottle, some clothing, and comfort.
  • Miss Kilman knows she has an unlovable body, but does she have to suffer for that? Why should she suffer while Clarissa has all of the comforts she needs?
  • Elizabeth and Miss Kilman enter the Army and Navy Stores. They shop a bit and then have some tea and cakes. Miss Kilman eats greedily while eying a pink cake being eaten by a child.
  • She lectures Elizabeth about the war: not everyone thought the English were right, not everyone was full of patriotic emotion. Elizabeth should come to one of her meetings and hear the different opinions.
  • Miss Kilman makes people feel bad for having things, for not suffering like she does.
  • Elizabeth is eager to leave (she's not interested in this woman), but Miss Kilman asks if she’ll go to her mother’s party that evening.
  • As she shoves an éclair into her mouth, Miss Kilman announces that she doesn’t get invited to parties, but she actually doesn’t pity herself for that (though she clearly does).
  • She almost blurts out that she pities Elizabeth’s mother, but knows that such a remark is going too far. Elizabeth hastily gets out of there, and immediately, Miss Kilman feels her absence deeply and profoundly. She decides to go pray at Westminster Abbey.
  • Elizabeth boards an omnibus, which moves through neighborhoods that are unfamiliar to her.
  • She’s relieved to be free of Miss Kilman: too much talk of suffering. Elizabeth pays another penny to go up the Strand (a street in London). Seeing all of the working people makes Elizabeth want to have a profession, to be a doctor or a member of Parliament or something.
  • She feels very daring being at the Strand: it’s not the kind of thing a Dalloway does. She realizes that it’s gotten kind of late, and her mother will be worried. It’s time to go home.
  • Now we’re back with Septimus again. He’s lying on a couch in his home, watching the light dance on the walls and the trees move outside the window. He recalls a line from Shakespeare, "Fear no more," which he repeats to himself.
  • Rezia sits nearby making a hat. Her husband’s behavior is really disturbing to her. The desk drawer is full of his crazy ideas about war and death and Shakespeare, and he claims to know everything.
  • Now he sees Evans in the room, singing.
  • Once, the cleaning lady read his notes and laughed mockingly.
  • To Septimus, Dr Holmes represents everything that’s wrong with human nature.
  • Septimus lies on the couch, fearing (aloud) that he will fall into flames. His fears seem so real that Rezia looks around for actual flames.
  • Rezia continues to make a hat for the landlord’s daughter, Mrs Peters.
  • Septimus squeezes his eyes shut. "He would not go mad" (5.105). He looks around, hoping that he doesn’t have any hallucinations now that his eyes are open. All is okay, for now.
  • He’s afraid that Rezia’s face will look deformed, so he peers at her face from behind his hand.
  • Rezia and Septimus share a laugh about Mrs Peters – about how ridiculous she would look in the hat, like a pig at a fair. For the moment, everything feels normal. To Rezia’s great relief, Septimus seems like his old self right then.
  • A knock at the door startles Rezia. (Is it Sir William Bradshaw coming to take Septimus away?) But it’s just a young girl bringing the newspaper, as she does every evening. Septimus starts to fall asleep.
  • Once again, Septimus begins to hear the "voices of the dead" (5.129). He cries out for Evans.
  • It’s getting late and Bradshaw will be there soon. This doctor believes that it’s not healthy for the unwell to be around people who are fond of them.
  • Septimus feels a deep loathing for Holmes and Bradshaw, believing they’re after him. He asks Rezia to bring him his papers, with pictures of people with wings, diagrams, faces in waves, notes on beauty, death, Time, Universal love, and Shakespeare.
  • He looks at Rezia. She’s a flowering tree. She is a miracle. But he fears the judges (Bradshaw and Holmes).
  • They hear noises downstairs. Rezia runs to prevent Holmes from coming up right away. She needs time to prepare herself and Septimus.
  • Holmes pushes his way past Rezia. Desperately, Septimus looks around for some way to kill himself right there and then. A bread knife? Razors? The gas fire? He doesn’t actually want to die, but he can’t be given over to the doctors. He just can’t.
  • And just like that, Septimus throws himself out the window, shouting, "I’ll give it to you!" (5.152) In the blink of an eye, he is impaled on the railings outside.
  • Just then, Dr Holmes walks in and calls Septimus a coward. The landlady, Mrs Filmer, arrives and tells Rezia that her husband's body is horribly mangled.
  • Rezia is worried that they’ll bring the body in the room and she takes a sedative given to her by Dr Holmes; she falls asleep.

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