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Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway


by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway Section 6 Summary

  • Peter Walsh thinks about civilization as an ambulance swiftly passes him on the street. After India, England seems so organized. He wonders who’s in the ambulance but then dismisses the thought as too morbid and sentimental.
  • He thinks back to when he used to ride the omnibus with Clarissa. They lamented how difficult it was to really and truly know someone. Clarissa believed in seeking out places in order to understand people; she was always really friendly and cordial with strangers. Peter thinks about the deep impression Clarissa has made on his life.
  • Arriving at his hotel, Peter thinks back to the days of Bourton, when he took long walks with Clarissa. Today, he receives a letter from her telling him how nice it was to see him. He feels annoyed thinking of how she must have sent the letter immediately after he left. (That's so Clarissa.)
  • Peter begins to think of Daisy and how different she is from Clarissa. A friend warned him that Daisy shouldn't get a divorce and marry Peter, who is so old. She would have to leave her children and bear the judgment of others. Peter isn't too concerned: he thought he’d write books if he retired.
  • He shaves and goes to have dinner in the hotel dining room. He’s self-conscious of what the other diners must think of him. They admire him and think he’s important; especially the way he orders Bartlett pears (hmmm). He thinks about Clarissa’s party and how he’ll ask Richard what the government’s plans are with India. Way to think of conversation topics ahead of time, Pete.
  • He enjoys the long evening, how it's still light out (it's June). As he walks to Clarissa’s, Peter thinks about the beauty in London. He cherishes the sight of people preparing for a nice evening, couples walking, parties, and diners enjoying meals outside.
  • At Mrs Dalloway's house, servants are busy making last-minute preparations for the party. Everything looks beautiful.
  • There’s excitement that the prime minister himself will be coming. (That’s weird: he couldn’t make Shmoop's party…)
  • Some other stuff is going down, too:
  • The cook, Mrs Walker, is unfazed by his arrival; she’s only worried about undercooking the salmon.
  • The men request the Imperial Tokay, a sweet-tasting wine.
  • Elizabeth is worried that her dog is acting up.
  • You know, the usual.
  • As guests arrive, their names are announced. Clarissa greets everyone in her charming way, which Peter finds irritatingly fake. Clarissa can feel Peter's disapproval and she frets that Peter is criticizing her.
  • She’s just grateful that she’s not an old frump like Ellie Henderson. She wonders why Peter bothered to come if he felt so darn scornful of her.
  • Clarissa begins to calm down, seeing that her party might be a success after all.
  • Ellie Henderson takes mental notes of every detail and every guest. Richard is the only one who's friendly to her.
  • At all of her parties, Clarissa begins to feel out of sorts: not herself, almost unreal.
  • The hired butler, Mr Wilkins, announces the arrival of Lady Rosseter, who turns out to be Sally Seton. Sally has changed a lot, now a mother of "five enormous boys" (6.25), she tells Clarissa.
  • Just then, the prime minister arrives. Clarissa is distracted. A feeling of greatness fills the room, even though he looks strikingly ordinary.
  • Peter is disgusted by all of the snobbery. He sees Hugh and notes how fat that doofus and villain has become. Ouch.
  • Watching Clarissa stirs profound feelings for Peter: her green dress and earrings, her elegant ways; she embodies the exquisiteness of the moment. He still insists to himself that he’s not in love with her anymore. We're not buying it.
  • As Clarissa says good-bye to the prime minister, she thinks of how tepid (lukewarm) he makes her feel. The hatred she feels for Miss Kilman is a far more powerful and meaningful emotion to her.
  • Clarissa mingles with her guests, but they all seem mediocre in spite of their surface accomplishments.
  • Old Aunt Helena eventually shows up. She’s very old, but not dead, as some thought. Clarissa once again abandons Peter for a conversation with her. Aunt Helena wants to talk about Burma and orchids (naturally). Clarissa moves on to talk to Lady Bruton and has an awkward exchange with her. Then Lady Bruton sees Peter Walsh and thinks about his failures.
  • Sally and Peter are eager to talk to Clarissa, but she’s too busy with her other guests. Sally has changed a lot: she’s no longer a wild rebel and she no longer champions causes and dislikes men. But she still is charming, that's for sure.
  • Clarissa greets Sir and Lady William Bradshaw. The very sight of Bradshaw affects Clarissa physically. He deals with people who have profound mental problems. He makes the tough decisions.
  • Clarissa once asked for his advice, but the appointment was oppressive and she couldn’t wait to leave. She knows he’s competent, admired, and at the top of his profession, but something about him disturbs her.
  • Suddenly Lady Bradshaw blurts out that one of her husband’s patients just killed himself. Way to have some tact, Lady Bradshaw.
  • Clarissa is repulsed that death has been mentioned at her fine party. She walks into a room by herself, outraged that someone has "brought" death into her party.
  • She thinks about the young man who killed himself, threw it all away. She wonders why.
  • She’s never flung anything away – except a coin into a lake. (Not quite the same.)
  • Everyone had memories of Bourton all day, but they would grow old. By killing himself, the young man preserved something, found meaning, reached a "centre."
  • Clarissa thinks about Sir William Bradshaw and the sinister power he wields, how he must have ruined everything for this man. She understands the awful fear; she had felt it just that morning. She feels disgraced by Septimus' power to give it all up; it's something she could never do.
  • Clarissa walks to the window and sees her neighbor again. For once, the woman is looking straight back at her. Clarissa feels a deep connection to Septimus. "He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun" (6.92).
  • Meanwhile, Sally and Peter are talking on the couch, laughing and waiting for Clarissa. Peter thinks about how Sally used to be dressed in rags and is now a Lady.
  • They scoff together at Hugh Whitbread, but Peter thinks himself a failure compared to all of the dignified people at the party.
  • They talk about how Clarissa is a snob, though they both love her. Clarissa can be hard on people.
  • Peter confesses that his life has been difficult, but Sally reassures him that Clarissa never loved Richard the way she loved Peter. Peter watches Elizabeth talking to her father, noting the warmth between them. He concedes that Richard isn’t a bad man.
  • Sally goes to talk to Richard and Peter decides to join her, but a sudden feeling of terror and ecstasy comes over him.
  • Clarissa has returned.

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