Mrs Dalloway

Clarissa Dalloway Character Analysis

The novel’s eponymous protagonist, a middle-aged, upper-class lady throwing a party. Clarissa is married to the conservative politician Richard Dalloway but is deeply affected by her past love for Sally Seton and her rejection of Peter Walsh, and she often dwells on the past. Clarissa is sociable and loves life, especially the small moments and sensations of the everyday. At the same time she is constantly aware of death and feels that there is a great danger in living even one day. Clarissa considers the privacy of the soul the heart of life, but she also loves communicating with others and throwing parties, bringing people together, which she considers to be her great gift. Though she is intelligent and was once radical, she has grown conventional in middle age, and others sometimes think her frivolous.

Clarissa Dalloway Quotes in Mrs Dalloway

The Mrs Dalloway quotes below are all either spoken by Clarissa Dalloway or refer to Clarissa Dalloway. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of Mrs Dalloway published in 1990.
Section 1 Quotes

For having lived in Westminster – how many years now? over twenty, – one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker)
Related Symbols: Big Ben
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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How he scolded her! How they argued! She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she had cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of the perfect hostess, he said.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Prime Minister
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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But every one remembered; what she loved was this, here, now, in front of her; the fat lady in the cab. Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 3 Quotes

But she could remember going cold with excitement, and doing her hair in a kind of ecstasy… and going downstairs, and feeling as she crossed the hall “if it were now to die ‘twere now to be most happy.” That was the feeling – Othello’s feeling, and she felt it, she was convinced, as strongly as Shakespeare meant Othello to feel it, all because she was coming down to dinner in a white frock to meet Sally Seton!

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Sally Seton
Page Number: 34-35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then came the most exquisite moment of her whole life passing a stone urn with flowers in it. Sally stopped; picked a flower; kissed her on the lips. The whole world might have turned upside down! The others disappeared; there she was alone with Sally.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway, Sally Seton
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 6 Quotes

Her emotions were all on the surface. Beneath, she was very shrewd – a far better judge of character than Sally, for instance, and with it all, purely feminine; with that extraordinary gift, that woman’s gift, of making a world of her own wherever she happened to be. She came into a room; she stood, as he had often seen her, in a doorway with lots of people round her. But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her; she never said anything specially clever; there she was, however; there she was.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway, Sally Seton
Page Number: 75-76
Explanation and Analysis:

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She enjoyed practically everything… She had a sense of comedy that was really exquisite, but she needed people, always people, to bring it out, with the inevitable result that she frittered her time away, lunching, dining, giving these incessant parties of hers, talking nonsense, saying things she didn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her discrimination.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 7 Quotes

Really it was a miracle thinking of the war, and thousands of poor chaps, with all their lives before them, shovelled together, already half forgotten; it was a miracle. Here he was walking across London to say to Clarissa in so many words that he loved her.

Related Characters: Richard Dalloway (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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And there is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect, thought Clarissa, watching him open the door; for one would not part with it oneself, or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect – something, after all, priceless.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Richard Dalloway
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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But to go deeper, beneath what people said (and these judgements, how superficial, how fragmentary they are!) in her own mind now, what did it mean to her, this thing she called life? Oh, it was very queer. Here was So-and-so in South Kensington; some one up in Bayswater; and somebody else, say, in Mayfair. And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom?

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was! – that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all…

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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The cruelest things in the world, she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eavesdropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; love and religion. Had she ever tried to convert any one herself? Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves? And she watched out of the window the old lady opposite climbing upstairs. Let her climb upstairs if she wanted to; let her stop; then let her, as Clarissa had often seen her, gain her bedroom, part her curtains, and disappear again into the background. Somehow one respected that – that old woman looking out of the window, quite unconscious that she was being watched. There was something solemn in it – but love and religion would destroy that, whatever it was, the privacy of the soul.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), The old woman across the way
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

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Section 9 Quotes

“How delightful to see you!” said Clarissa. She said it to every one. How delightful to see you! She was at her worst – effusive, insincere. It was a great mistake to have come. He should have stayed at home and read his book, thought Peter Walsh; should have gone to a music hall; he should have stayed at home, for he knew no one.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lady Bradshaw (poor goose – one didn’t dislike her) murmured how, “just as we were starting, my husband was called up on the telephone, a very sad case. A young man (that is what Sir William is telling Mr. Dalloway) had killed himself. He had been in the army.” Oh! thought Clarissa, in the middle of my party, here’s death, she thought.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Lady Bradshaw (speaker)
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:

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She had once thrown a shilling into the Serpentine, never anything more. But he had flung it away… A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Septimus Warren Smith
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

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But that young man had killed himself.
Somehow it was her disaster – her disgrace.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Septimus Warren Smith
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

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…and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun. She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night! She felt somehow very like him – the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Septimus Warren Smith, Peter Walsh, Sally Seton
Related Symbols: Big Ben
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing eLorem ipsumLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“I will come,” said Peter, but he sat on for a moment. What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

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Clarissa Dalloway Character Timeline in Mrs Dalloway

The timeline below shows where the character Clarissa Dalloway appears in Mrs Dalloway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Time Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
It is a June morning in London, and Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class, fifty-two-year-old woman, is hosting a party that night. She offers to buy... (full context)
Time Theme Icon
Clarissa has recently recovered from influenza. She goes out into the street and hears Big Ben... (full context)
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Clarissa feels that she loves life and all the little moments and movements of the people... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Clarissa thinks about how she has always liked Hugh, though her husband Richard and her old... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Clarissa then thinks more about Peter Walsh, who has been in India for years but is... (full context)
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Clarissa keeps walking and thinks about death. She has always felt that “it was very, very... (full context)
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Clarissa looks at open books in a shop window. She thinks about how she does not... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Clarissa walks past a glove shop and thinks about her daughter, Elizabeth, who cares nothing for... (full context)
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Miss Kilman always wears an uncomfortable mackintosh (a rubber raincoat), which Clarissa sees as Miss Kilman’s way of constantly reminding the world of what a martyr she... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Clarissa goes into the flower shop and is comforted by all the beautiful flowers. She has... (full context)
Section 2
Social Criticism Theme Icon
...patriotic, as they feel they have been “within speaking distance of the majesty of England.” Clarissa thinks that it is probably the Queen in the car, and she conflates the Queen... (full context)
Section 3
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Clarissa returns home, and as she enters her house she feels like a nun who is... (full context)
Social Criticism Theme Icon
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Clarissa learns that Richard has been invited to lunch at Lady Bruton’s house without her, and... (full context)
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Clarissa takes off her hat and feels a sudden “emptiness about the heart of life.” She... (full context)
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Clarissa does sometimes feel attracted to women more than to men, and then she can experience... (full context)
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Clarissa describes Sally in detail – in their younger days Sally was dark-haired, wild, and poor.... (full context)
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Clarissa remembers the “purity, the integrity” of her love for Sally, and she remembers being overcome... (full context)
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One night Clarissa, Sally, Peter, and another friend were out walking. Clarissa and Sally fell behind, and “Sally... (full context)
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Clarissa now thinks more of Peter, and how she owes much of her intellectual life to... (full context)
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Clarissa looks at herself in the mirror. She thinks of herself as a person who brings... (full context)
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Lucy comes in, thinking how wonderful Mrs. Dalloway is, and she offers to help Clarissa with the dress. Clarissa refuses but thanks her. She is thankful that her servants like... (full context)
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The front doorbell rings, breaking Clarissa’s reverie. She is surprised to hear that it is Peter Walsh, who has just returned... (full context)
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The two make small talk and Peter feels irritated with Clarissa for her society lifestyle and for choosing to marry the Conservative Richard. He notes that... (full context)
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Peter feels a judgment in Clarissa’s wealth and happiness, as if he has been a failure, and he reassures himself that... (full context)
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Clarissa is disappointed that Peter has succumbed to falling in love again, but she asks Peter... (full context)
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Peter is suddenly overcome by his memories and his perceived struggle against Clarissa, and he bursts into tears. Clarissa takes his hand and kisses him, and she briefly... (full context)
Section 4
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The narrative now follows Peter Walsh as he leaves Clarissa’s house. He criticizes Clarissa angrily to himself, thinking that she has grown sentimental and insincere.... (full context)
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...Margaret’s bell rings (a few minutes after Big Ben) and it makes Peter think of Clarissa’s illness and the fact that she will die someday. He reassures himself that she is... (full context)
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...her as his ideal woman as he watches her – not worldly or rich like Clarissa. He imagines how he would first greet the young woman, and Peter feels like a... (full context)
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...He recognizes that “one makes up the better part of life,” and he thinks of Clarissa’s parting plea that he remember her party. Peter keeps walking, feeling optimistic because it is... (full context)
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...English empire and army. He starts reminiscing, and realizes that it is his meeting with Clarissa that is making him nostalgic. He remembers how he could never get along with Clarissa’s... (full context)
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...nurse with a baby in a stroller. Peter remembers Elizabeth, and suspects that she and Clarissa don’t get along, as Clarissa tends to trust her own charm too much and overdo... (full context)
Section 5
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...Bourton in the early 1890s. That was the summer when he was in love with Clarissa, and she and some others were gathered around a table talking. Someone brought up a... (full context)
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Clarissa was shocked to hear this, which was not so strange at the time, but Peter... (full context)
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...Richard Dalloway had come to Bourton for the first time. Peter saw him sitting with Clarissa’s Aunt Helena, and he knew instinctively that Clarissa would marry Richard someday. He was hurt... (full context)
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After this burst of anger Peter felt love and passion for Clarissa again whenever she showed him kindness, but he knew that Richard Dalloway was also falling... (full context)
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In his passion Peter had often written to Sally Seton about Clarissa, and finally he confronted Clarissa by a fountain one afternoon. He considers this scene the... (full context)
Section 6
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Peter remembers Sally in her wild younger days and how she hated Hugh Whitbread. Clarissa and her other friends all admired Hugh for his charm and respectability, but Sally once... (full context)
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Peter does object to Richard’s views on poetry though, and he wonders how Clarissa can stand them. Richard says that decent people should not read Shakespeare’s sonnets because “it... (full context)
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Peter thinks of Clarissa as having a special gift of being, that wherever she is “there she was.” He... (full context)
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Peter thinks that Clarissa has a special genius for bringing people together, especially intellectuals and artists. He knows that... (full context)
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Clarissa was at first angry at God for this tragedy, but later she became an atheist... (full context)
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Peter realizes that he will never suffer for love again in the way that Clarissa made him suffer, and he wonders if he is really in love with Daisy, as... (full context)
Section 7
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Back in the present Big Ben tolls twelve o’clock, Clarissa lays her green dress on her bed, and Septimus and Rezia arrive for their appointment... (full context)
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...that Hugh is kind and worthwhile. She does not like “cutting people up” the way Clarissa does. Richard arrives and Lady Bruton tells them that she wants their help, but they... (full context)
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...respect for her and likes well-set-up women from great families. Lady Bruton asks him about Clarissa, and Richard thinks of how Clarissa feels that Lady Bruton doesn’t like her. Lady Bruton... (full context)
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Hugh interrupts to say that he met Clarissa that morning. Lady Bruton says that Peter Walsh is back in town, and they all... (full context)
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...leisure time – when the Labour Party comes into power. Richard reminds Lady Bruton of Clarissa’s party, and she says that she might or might not come. (full context)
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Hugh demands to be seen by a particular clerk and Richard considers buying something for Clarissa. He once gave her a bracelet, but she never wears it, which pains him to... (full context)
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Richard heads home to see Clarissa, feeling especially affectionate because of his thoughts of Peter Walsh. He buys a bouquet of... (full context)
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...Peter Walsh and how he used to be jealous of Peter. Now he agrees with Clarissa when she says she was right not to marry Peter, as Richard feels that Clarissa... (full context)
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At home, Clarissa is upset because her “dull” cousin Ellie Henderson has asked to come to her party,... (full context)
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Richard wants Clarissa to take a break from her preparations, and they sit down together. Richard holds her... (full context)
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Before he leaves, Richard sets Clarissa up for “an hour’s complete rest after luncheon,” as per the doctor’s orders, and Clarissa... (full context)
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Clarissa thinks about how this is her only gift – having parties as an offering of... (full context)
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...is poor and she has no desire to please anyone with her appearance. She finds Clarissa rich, shallow, and condescending, but admits that Richard is kind. (full context)
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...Christianity two years earlier, and since then she feels that she doesn’t envy women like Clarissa, but only pities them. In reality she despises Clarissa, and wishes all the fine ladies... (full context)
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Looking at Clarissa, Doris Kilman thinks of God and suddenly feels serene and righteous. Clarissa gets up to... (full context)
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...Doris Kilman’s threat, which is like a “prehistoric monster,” suddenly seems to shrink and crumble. Clarissa laughs at Miss Kilman and says goodbye. She calls out for Elizabeth to remember her... (full context)
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Clarissa looks out the window and watches an old woman in the house opposite hers climb... (full context)
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Love seems just as bad as religion to Clarissa, and she thinks of Peter Walsh as an example – he is a wonderful man... (full context)
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Doris Kilman goes outside with Elizabeth, trying to control her hatred of Clarissa. Miss Kilman thinks that Clarissa laughed at her for her ugliness, and she tries to... (full context)
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...bitterly that she has been denied all the pleasures and luxuries that were given to Clarissa Dalloway. All Miss Kilman lives for now is Elizabeth, food, and her small comforts of... (full context)
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...and recognizes that her mother makes an effort to be kind to Miss Kilman. Once Clarissa had offered Miss Kilman flowers from Bourton, and Miss Kilman had squashed them in a... (full context)
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...thinking that she “genuinely loves” her, and she fears that Elizabeth will leave her for Clarissa. Miss Kilman continues her self-pitying tirade, though she knows it is unappealing to Elizabeth. (full context)
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...Elizabeth has left her, and with her has gone youth and beauty. She thinks that Clarissa Dalloway has triumphed. Miss Kilman blunders off through the streets in a daze and then... (full context)
Section 8
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Peter remembers how he and Clarissa used to ride the omnibus and explore London together. Clarissa had a theory then that... (full context)
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Peter reminisces about his thirty-year-long friendship with Clarissa. They have fought often, but overall Clarissa has influenced him more than anyone else. Peter... (full context)
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Peter goes to his room and finds a letter from Clarissa, saying how “heavenly” it was to see him that morning. He is upset by this... (full context)
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Peter imagines the moments after their meeting that afternoon – he pictures Clarissa regretting her refusal of Peter’s marriage proposal, wishing that she had changed the world with... (full context)
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...fox-terrier on her knee. She is dark and beautiful, and looks much more “natural” than Clarissa. Their relationship has also been very different, as Daisy caused Peter no torment and totally... (full context)
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Peter makes up his mind to go to Clarissa’s party. He tells himself that he wants to ask Richard about what the Conservatives are... (full context)
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...people pass by on their way to the movies and admires their fashion. He remembers Clarissa’s Aunt Helena, who pressed flowers, had a glass eye, and seemed to belong to a... (full context)
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...muses that the past and tradition can enrich experience, and then he sets off for Clarissa’s with great expectations. As he walks he looks at the lighted windows of people’s houses,... (full context)
Section 9
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...the party, including an old woman who has been helping the family for forty years. Clarissa greets everyone with “How delightful to see you!” Peter Walsh arrives and finds her “at... (full context)
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Clarissa sees Peter in the corner, criticizing her with his eyes, and she worries that the... (full context)
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The wind blows a curtain out and a guest beats it back and keeps talking. Clarissa takes this as a sign that the party has really begun and might be successful... (full context)
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Sally hasn’t seen Clarissa in years, but she happened to be in London and heard about the party. Clarissa... (full context)
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The Prime Minister arrives, interrupting Clarissa and Sally’s reunion. In his appearance he looks ordinary and almost laughable, but everyone still... (full context)
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...him mercilessly in his thoughts, watching Hugh patronizing and flattering other guests. Then he sees Clarissa in her “silver-green mermaid’s dress” and feels that she still has her ability “to be;... (full context)
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Clarissa shows the Prime Minister out. She feels the intoxication and pleasure of the party now,... (full context)
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Old Mrs. Hilbery tells Clarissa that she looks like her mother, and Clarissa is suddenly moved to tears. Two intellectuals... (full context)
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Clarissa speaks briefly with Lady Bruton. Both women respect each other, but they have little to... (full context)
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Sally catches Clarissa by the arm, but Clarissa is still busy entertaining. She asks Peter and Sally to... (full context)
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The Bradshaws arrive and Clarissa is obligated to speak to them. She dislikes Sir William, though she can’t pinpoint why.... (full context)
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Clarissa muses on Septimus’s death and thinks of it as an act of communication and defiance,... (full context)
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Clarissa thinks of Septimus’s death as somehow “her disaster – her disgrace.” She has chosen conventionality... (full context)
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Clarissa hears the noises of the party and knows she must go back out. She thinks... (full context)
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Meanwhile Peter and Sally are reminiscing about the past and wondering where Clarissa is. They discuss their current lives and realize how they have changed so much from... (full context)
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...Hugh had once tried to kiss her in the smoking-room at Bourton. Sally wonders why Clarissa has never visited her in all these years, and she says that Clarissa is a... (full context)
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Peter tells Sally that his relationship with Clarissa had “spoilt his life,” as he could not be in love like that twice. Sally... (full context)