What? Why?

If she worried about these parties he would not let her give them. Did she wish she had married Peter? But he must go.

He must be off, he said, getting up. But he stood for a moment as if he were about to say something; and she wondered what? Why? There were the roses

-Woolf, Mrs.Dalloway, 116

Here we see some tension between Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway because of the lack of verbal communication between the two. I also find it interesting how Richard goes from one thought about the party and then immediately to thinking about Peter, even though Clarissa has given him no reason to think that.


Peter not letting go of Clarissa

“But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her…however; there she was…No, no, no! He was not in love with her anymore! He only felt…unable to get away from the thought of her …which was not being in love, of course; it was thinking of her, criticizing her, starting again after thirty years, trying to explain to her…she was worldly; cared too much for rank and society and getting on in the world.”

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway (pg. 66)

The passage starts off with Peter remembering his early relationship with Clarissa and the men she could have married. Peter tries to avert his liking to Clarissa, thinking negatively of her and bringing his mind to his present conversation with her in which he was reminded of her flaws.  However, the text shows Peter in a real-time attempt to grapple with the fact that he lost Clarissa. His extensive criticisms can be interpreted as a defense mechanism to cope with losing Clarissa, projecting Richard’s traits onto Clarissa. Peter cannot let the idea of Clarissa go, her memories of her continue to bother and resent him.

Just Get Up, You’re Fine!

“Once you stumble, Septimus wrote on the back of a postcard, human nature is on you. Holmes is on you. Their only chance was to escape, without letting Holmes knowl to Italy— anywhere, anywhere, away from Dr. Holmes” (pg. 90).

This passage shows the clear difference between Septimus and Dr. Holmes in terms of mental health. Woolf wants us to see how afraid Septimus is of the world, while also showing how out of touch people can be about mental health if they haven’t experienced it themselves. You can’t make a mistake or be weak without people putting pressure on you to be better.

Connected Pieces


“a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him…But with Peter everything had to be shared; everything gone into. …And it was intolerable and when it came to that scene in the little garden by the fountain, she had to break with him or they would have been destroyed, both of them ruined, she was convinced; though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the anguish; and then the horror of the movement when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India!” (Woolf 10).

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway (pp. 10) (passage  originally selected by tangled_yarn)

I found the considerable amount of semi colons in this passage interesting as they do not divide two complete sentences, but instead connect various pieces of Clarissa Dalloway’s memories. As a result, the audience experiences a version of her memories that is more personal and authentic than a simple retelling of events.

memories, not movie scenes

“Though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the anguish; and then the horror of the moment when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India! Never should she forget all that! Cold, heartless, a prude, he called her. Never could she understand how he cared”

p. 10, Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Penguin Classics, 2020.

I love the fact that Woolf uses feelings, emotions and paraphrased fractions of speech to describe memories instead of the typical use of sensory descriptors. It really gives better insight into the characters themselves and humanizing them, while keeping the narrative more personal.

Memory Triggered

“And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky.”

Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway,” 47.

Woolf captures the human experience of being swept up in memory by sensory triggers. The experience of hearing Clarissa’s “tinkling” and “rustling,” sounds bring Walsh back to the days of his youth, when he spent time with Clarissa on the terrace in Bourton.

Commonplacing Woolf, 10/1/23

“He would be back from India one of these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished-how strange it was!- a few sayings like this about cabbages.”

-Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway