Mrs. Dalloway | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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Mrs. Dalloway | Section 13 (Clarissa Talks with Richard) | Summary

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Summary

Richard asks to sit down and talk to Clarissa, who's still thinking of Peter Walsh. They discuss their distaste for Hugh, Peter's return, and Elizabeth's overly pious tutor, Miss Kilman. Richard cannot tell Clarissa he loves her, but he holds her hand and feels happy.

Since a doctor once ordered Clarissa to rest for an hour after luncheon, Richard brings her a pillow and blanket. Clarissa admires his "adorable, divine simplicity." She realizes both Richard and Peter have criticized her that day for her parties, since they cause her excitement that could damage her health and prove her devotion to worldly pleasures. Clarissa wonders how to defend herself to them and decides she throws parties as "an offering" to celebrate life. Despite her deep love for existence, she knows it will end in death. Elizabeth enters the room quietly, Miss Kilman behind her. Elizabeth has become more serious as she's gotten older, with a dark, exotic beauty unlike her mother's. Miss Kilman stands behind her, listening to Clarissa and Elizabeth.

Analysis

This section reveals that Richard and Clarissa Dalloway are good for each other. They respect each other's solitude. They talk easily about old loves without anger or remorse. Richard is more concerned for Clarissa's health than she is. At the same time she may feel stifled by him. Parties stress her out, but she still wants to give them. He convinces her to invite Ellie Henderson to her party—generous of him, she realizes, but still a "conversion" of his will over hers.

Even though parties expend resources and seem like a frivolous way to spend time, Clarissa knows the human soul needs relaxation and fun. She feels life is reason enough to celebrate. She isn't sure why, or even who the offering is for, ultimately. (For her guests? Her family? Herself? The self of her past?) She's ashamed of her lack of knowledge of world affairs and wishes she were more informed, like others around her. But her contributions, like her inner thoughts, do have value. Nothing, says Woolf, is too trivial to matter, as long as it matters to someone.

Elizabeth is different from her mother; quiet, studious, too serious to enjoy parties. She is compared to the unusual hyacinth flower. The hint of Asian ancestry in her looks and blood points to an English fascination with the "exotic" east of India and China.

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