chapter  5
12 Pages

Mrs. Dalloway

Three years after the appearance of Jacob’s Room, Woolf published Mrs. Dalloway (1925), the book that established her reputation as an important contemporary novelist. Like Joyce’s Ulysses, first published in book form three years earlier in Paris, Mrs. Dalloway appropriates the unities of time and place, presenting the thoughts and experiences of three main characters-Clarissa Dalloway, Peter Walsh, and Septimus Warren Smithduring the course of a single day in London in June of 1923. The action of Ulysses, which also takes place on a June day, but in Dublin in 1904, includes a burial, a birth, a visit to a brothel, and-the day’s most significant event-the late-night meeting of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, the novel’s protagonists. The day experienced by the main characters in Mrs. Dalloway, however, has equal if not greater significance for them; after an absence of five years, Peter Walsh returns from his life as a colonial civil servant in India and renews his painful friendship with Clarissa, who had refused his proposal many years ago to marry Richard Dalloway instead. During the same day, Septimus Warren Smith, a mentally disturbed young war veteran under the care of the physician Sir William Bradshaw, takes his life by throwing himself from a window; Bradshaw reports the event to Clarissa’s husband later that evening at the Dalloways’ party, which Peter attends, bringing together the disparate experiences of the three main characters at the end of the novel.