Mrs. Dalloway | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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Mrs. Dalloway | Section 6 (Peter Remembers His Love for Clarissa) | Summary

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Summary

Peter Walsh wakes up, repeating the phrase "The death of the soul." He realizes the house in his dream is connected to the Bourton house where he stayed long ago, during the summer when he loved Clarissa. He recalls Clarissa's primness and fear at hearing the news that a housemaid had given birth to a baby out of wedlock. When Sally Seton asked if the baby made any real difference, Clarissa said she'd never be able to speak to the housemaid again. To Peter this reaction marked the death of Clarissa's soul.

That night at dinner, a man named Dalloway came to the Bourton house. Peter saw him talking to Clarissa and knew Clarissa would marry him—her manner toward Dalloway was easy and gentle. Peter grew jealous. Peter realizes now the absurdity of his "demands upon Clarissa." He recalls the moment when he knew Clarissa was serious about Dalloway. Peter pulled Clarissa aside to talk and asked for the truth. Clarissa told him her relationship with Peter had to end. Peter, angry, left Bourton that night and never saw her again.

Analysis

The melancholy persistence of memory is a theme Modernist writers and artists have explored. Peter's past blends into his present. In the past he was annoyed with Clarissa for being worldly, overdressed, and so wedded to social convention that she was unable to think for herself. Calling her "the perfect hostess" is an insult. He recalls the same time that Clarissa remembered earlier at Bourton, but his memories are different—almost of a different experience entirely. He remembers feeling stigmatized, like an outsider. Peter may have realized things about Clarissa she didn't know about herself, like her love for Richard and the way she frightened people.

Like Clarissa he remembers youthful, returned affection in Bourton as his life's happiest moment (though his memory is with Clarissa, and Clarissa's is with Sally). He attaches deep importance to his emotions, in a way that seems almost hyperbolic (overblown) and childish but deeply honest. He recalls the physical details vividly, such as the fountain and the green moss.

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