Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf

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Plot Summary

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Mrs. Dalloway | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Mrs. Dalloway begins on a Wednesday in June 1923 in Westminster, in central London, as a middle-aged society woman, Clarissa Dalloway, goes to buy flowers for a party that night. She walks through the Westminster section of London, passes Buckingham Palace, cuts through St. James's Park, crosses Piccadilly, and heads to Bond Street. A mysterious motorcar drives down the street, and an airplane appears in the sky. Westminster residents and visitors, all shaken by the recent atrocities of World War I, speculate about the car and airplane. Veteran Septimus Warren Smith and his wife, Rezia, are especially alarmed.

Clarissa's old lover, Peter Walsh, visits her and asks if she's happy. Clarissa thinks of Peter and another former lover, Sally Seton. Later that morning Peter goes to the park and has a suggestive dream. Recently returned from five years in India, he notices many changes in London.

Septimus and Rezia see a new psychiatrist, Sir William Bradshaw. Septimus is considering suicide and frequently hallucinates, seeing his commanding officer, Evans, who died in the war. Bradshaw recommends Septimus be taken alone to a rest home.

Clarissa's husband, Richard Dalloway, has lunch with politically involved friends Lady Bruton and Hugh Whitbread. They write a letter to the newspaper about emigration (Lady Bruton's project) and honoring the war dead. Richard returns home with flowers for Clarissa. In the afternoon Elizabeth, Richard and Clarissa's daughter, goes shopping with her history tutor, Miss Kilman. While Miss Kilman goes to the church at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth rides the omnibus to the Strand.

Later that afternoon Septimus relaxes at home while Rezia works. When Septimus becomes alarmed by another flashback, Rezia tells him nothing will separate the two of them. Septimus's old doctor, Dr. Holmes, shows up at the house, agitating the couple. Feeling cornered, Septimus jumps out of the window, hitting the fence below and killing himself.

Peter receives a letter from Clarissa, expressing how glad she was to see him. He decides to attend her party. Feeling alone among the many guests, Clarissa hears from Lady Bradshaw about Septimus's death. Though she never met Septimus, Clarissa feels sympathetic toward him. Reflecting on his death makes her realize all she has and all her life with Richard has given her. She sheds her feelings of failure and rejoins the party.

Mrs. Dalloway Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Clarissa thinks she hears a pistol at the flower shop.

Rising Action

2 London residents notice the motorcar and airplane.

3 Peter visits Clarissa.

4 Septimus sees Evans in the park.

5 Septimus and Rezia visit Dr. Bradshaw.

6 Richard brings flowers to Clarissa.


7 Septimus commits suicide after Dr. Holmes's visit.

Falling Action

8 Peter decides to attend Clarissa's party.


9 Clarissa hears of Septimus's death at her party.

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