Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway and those whose lives brush up against hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth; the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness. In the novel, Woolf explores the inner lives of all her characters, and the relationship between women and men, and women and women.
As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Burton. Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton. While Clarissa is transported to past afternoons with Sally, and as she sits mending her green dress, Warren Smith catapults desperately into his delusions. Although his troubles form a tangent to Clarissa's web, they undeniably touch it, and the strands connecting all these characters draw tighter as evening deepens.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was a prolific novelist and essayist, publishing several books and more than 500 essays. Woolf was part of the
Fear no more the heat o' the sun
Nor the furious winter's rages.
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
These lines are alluded to many times. What importance do they have for Clarissa, Septimus, and the novel's principal themes? What fears do Clarissa and other characters experience?