Short summary - Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

British literature summaries -

Short summary - Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf

The action of the novel takes place in London, among the English aristocracy, in 1923, and takes only one day in time. Along with real events, the reader gets acquainted with the past of the heroes, thanks to the "stream of consciousness."

Clarissa Dalloway, a fifty-year-old socialite, the wife of Richard Dalloway, a member of Parliament, has been preparing in the morning for the upcoming evening reception at her house, to which all the cream of English high society should be welcome. She leaves the house and heads to the flower shop, enjoying the freshness of the June morning. On the way, she meets Hugh Whitbred, a friend she has known since childhood, now occupying a high office in the royal palace. She, as always, is struck by his overly elegant and well-groomed appearance. Hugh always put her down a little; next to him, she feels like a schoolgirl. Clarissa Dalloway remembers the events of her distant youth when she lived in Borton, and Peter Walsh, in love with her, always freaked out at the sight of Hugh and assured him that he had no heart, no brains, but only manners. Then she did not marry Peter because of his too picky character, but now no, no, yes, and she would think what Peter would say if he were nearby. Clarissa feels infinitely young, but at the same time inexpressibly ancient.


She goes into a flower shop and picks up a bouquet. On the street, a sound similar to a shot is heard. It crashed into the sidewalk the car of one of the «most significant» persons of the kingdom - the Prince of Wales, the Queen, perhaps the Prime Minister. In this scene, there is Septimus Warren-Smith, a young man of about thirty, pale, in a frayed finger and with such anxiety in his brown eyes, that whoever looks at him is immediately worried too. He walks with his wife Lucretia, whom he brought from Italy five years ago. Shortly before that, he told her that he would commit suicide. She is afraid that people would not hear his words, and tries to quickly lead him away from the pavement. Nervous seizures often happen to him, he has hallucinations, it seems to him that the dead appear in front of him, and then he talks to himself. Lucretia can no longer endure this. She is annoyed at Dr. Dome, who assures: everything is in order with her husband, absolutely nothing serious. She pity herself. Here, in London, she is completely alone, away from her family, the sisters, who are still in Milan in a comfortable room and make straw hats, as she did before the wedding. And now there is no one to protect her. Her husband does not love her anymore. But she will never tell anyone that he is crazy.


Mrs. Dalloway with flowers enters her house, where the servants have been scurrying around for a long time, preparing him for the evening reception. Near the phone, she sees a note from which it appears that Lady Brutn called and wanted to know if Mr. Dalloway would have breakfast with her today. Lady Brutn, this influential high-ranking lady, did not invite her, Clarissa. Clarissa, whose head is full of gloomy thoughts about her husband and about her own life, rises to her bedroom. She recalls her youth: Borton, where she lived with her father, her friend Sally Seton, a beautiful, lively and direct girl, Peter Walsh. She takes out a green evening dress from the closet, which she is going to wear in the evening and which needs to be fixed, because it burst at the seam. Clarissa starts to sew.

Suddenly, a doorbell rings from the street. Peter Walsh, now a fifty-two-year-old man who had just returned from India to England, where he had not been for five years, takes off up the stairs to Mrs. Dalloway. He asks his old girlfriend about her life, about her family, and tells himself that he came to London in connection with his divorce, as he is in love again and wants to get married a second time. He kept the habit of talking with his old knife with a horn handle, which he is currently clenching in a fist. From this Clarissa, as before, feels with him a frivolous, empty chatterbox. And suddenly Peter, struck by elusive forces, strikes into tears. Clarissa reassures him, kisses his hand, pats her knee. She is surprisingly good and easy with him. And the thought flickers in my head that if she married him, this joy could always be with her. Before Peter leaves, her daughter Elizabeth, a dark-haired girl of seventeen, enters the room with her mother. Clarissa invites Peter to his reception.

Peter walks around London and wonders how quickly the city and its inhabitants changed while he was not in England. He falls asleep on a bench in the park, and he dreams of Borton, how Dalloway began to care for Clarissa and she refused to marry Peter, as he suffered after that. Waking up, Peter goes further and sees Septimus and Lucretia Smith, whom her husband brings to despair with his eternal attacks. They are sent for a visit to the famous Dr. Sir William Bradshaw. A nervous breakdown that grew into a disease first occurred in Septimus back in Italy, when at the end of the war, which he volunteered for, Evans, his arms comrade and friend, died.

Dr. Bradshaw states the need to put Septimus in a mental hospital, according to the law, because the young man threatened to commit suicide. Lucretia in despair.

At breakfast, Lady Brutne, incidentally, tells Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread, whom she invited to her important business that Peter Walsh had recently returned to London. In this regard, Richard Dalloway on the way home embraces the desire to buy Clarisse something very beautiful. He was excited by the memory of Peter, of his youth. He buys a beautiful bouquet of red and white roses and wants, as soon as he enters the house, to tell his wife that he loves her. However, he does not have enough spirit to decide on this. But Clarissa is already so happy. The bouquet speaks for itself, and even Peter visited her. What more could you want?

At this time, her daughter Elizabeth, in her room, is engaged in history with her teacher, who has long become her friend, extremely unsympathetic and envious Miss Kilman. Clarissa hates this person for taking her daughter from her. As if this overweight, ugly, vulgar, woman without kindness and mercy knows the meaning of life. After class, Elizabeth and Miss Kilman go to the store, where the teacher buys some unimaginable petticoat, eats cakes at the expense of Elizabeth and, as always, complains about her bitter fate that nobody needs. Elizabeth barely escapes from the stuffy atmosphere of the store and the society of the obsessive Miss Kilman.

At this time, Lucretia Smith sits in his apartment with Septimus and makes a hat for one of his acquaintance. Her husband, again briefly becoming the same again as he was at the time of falling in love, helps her with advice. The hat comes out funny. They are having fun. They laugh carelessly. The doorbell is ringing. This is Dr. Dome. Lucretia goes down to talk with him and not let him in to Septimus, who is afraid of the doctor. Dome tries to push the girl out of the door and go upstairs. Septimus in a panic; horror engulfs him, he is thrown out of the window and is smashed to death.


Guests, respectable gentlemen and ladies, are approaching the Dalloway. Clarissa meets them, standing at the top of the stairs. She perfectly knows how to arrange receptions and hold on to people. The hall is quickly filled with people. Even the prime minister calls in briefly. However, Clarissa is too worried, she feels how old; Reception, guests no longer give her the same joy. When she follows the departing prime minister with her gaze, she reminds herself of Kilmansha, Kilmansh as the enemy. She hates her. She loves her. Man needs enemies, not friends. Friends will find her whenever they want. She is at their service.

With a great delay, the Bradshaw couple arrives. The doctor talks about Smith's suicide. In him, in the doctor, there is something unkind. Clarissa feels that in misfortune she would not want to catch his eye.

Peter arrives and Clarissa Sally, a friend of her youth, who is now married to a wealthy manufacturer and has five adult sons. She had not seen Clarissa almost from her youth and drove into her house, only by chance finding herself in London.

Peter sits for a long time, waiting for Clarissa to take a moment and approach him. He feels fear and bliss in himself. He cannot understand what plunges him into such confusion. This is Clarissa, he decides to himself.