Mrs Dalloway

Themes and Colors
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
Social Criticism Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Psychology and Perception Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Mrs Dalloway, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Death Theme Icon

Though much of the novel’s action consists of preparations for a seemingly frivolous party, death is a constant undercurrent to the characters’ thoughts and actions. The obvious example of this is Septimus, who suffers from mental illness and ends up killing himself. In his inner dialogue Septimus sees himself as a godlike figure who has gone from “life to death,” and his situation as a former soldier shows how the death and violence of World War I have corrupted his mind. Peter Walsh fears growing old and dying, and so tries to pretend he is young and invincible by living in fantasies and pursuing younger women. Clarissa is also preoccupied with death even as she goes about the business of enjoying life, making small talk, and throwing parties. From the start she feels the danger of living even one day, and repeatedly quotes from Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, a passage about the comfort of death: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun / Nor the furious winter’s rages.” In the parallel characters of Septimus and Clarissa, Woolf shows two ways of dealing with the terror of living one day – Clarissa affirms life by throwing a party, while Septimus offers his suicide as an act of defiance and communication. These two characters never meet, but when Clarissa hears about Septimus’s suicide she feels that she understands him.

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Death ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Death appears in each section of Mrs Dalloway. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Death Quotes in Mrs Dalloway

Below you will find the important quotes in Mrs Dalloway related to the theme of Death.
Section 1 Quotes

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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Section 7 Quotes

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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But he would wait till the very last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings – what did they want? Coming down the staircase opposite an old man stopped and stared at him. Holmes was at the door. “I’ll give it you!” he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area railings.

Related Characters: Septimus Warren Smith (speaker), Dr. Holmes, Mrs. Filmer
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem 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.

Lorem 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.

Section 9 Quotes

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:

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Lorem 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.