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Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf plot summary

Mrs Dalloway is a novel written by Virginia Woolf. The story in the novel takes place within one day, where Clarissa Dalloway is getting ready for a party. Clarissa is an upper class housewife, who has organized a party in the evening. the book begins in the morning, when Clarissa is walking through the streets in London, shopping for the party. She reminisces her days of youth, and questions her choice of marrying Richard Dalloway, a politician. She was loved by a man called Peter Walsh, who had proposed her for marriage. However, Clarissa refused the proposal and chose Richard as her husband. After she had finished shopping for flowers, Clarissa unexpectedly meets Peter Welsh in her home. They both get engaged in talking about their past. Peter had never gotten over Clarissa even after facing rejection. The two had always been critical about each other. They passed judgement about each others’ lives since the earlier years. Peter tells her that he is in love with a married woman in India and wants to marry her. Peter makes a question to Clarissa, if she is happy with Richard. However, Clarissa’s daughter Elizabeth enters the scene, and Peter leaves the house. Peter then visits Regent’s Park and thinks about his past days of loving Clarissa.

The story changes to another scene. Septimus Warren Smith, a World War I soldier is suffering from shell shock. Shell shock is a condition where soldiers who have seen the horrors of wars develop trauma, making it hard to live a normal life. Septimus lives with his wife Lucrezia Smith. The couple is seating in Regent’s Park while waiting for Dr. William Bradshaw, who treats Septimus. Septimus continuously sees hallucinations of his dead friend Evans who died in the war. Septimus was a poet who loved Shakespeare, just before going into the war. He was full of life and was an enthusiastic person. However, war changed him completely. He became numb, suffering from shell shock after the death of Evans. Septimus thinks England has not become what he had fought for. He doesn’t wish to be a part of it, and becomes suicidal. He is being treated by Dr. Holmes, who thinks that he doesn’t suffer from any serious illness. That afternoon, Lucrezia fixes an appointment with Dr. Bradshaw, a popular doctor. He plans to shift Septimus into a mental asylum.

In another scene, Richard Dalloway is having lunch with Lady Bruton and her husband Hugh Whitbread , members of the aristocratic society. They talk about different topics, and the two men help Lady Bruton write an article to the newspaper. Richard returns home with a bouquet of roses for his wife, and plans to tell her that he loves her. But when he sees her, he cannot express his feelings to her. Clarissa values this privacy but she feels that there is a void in their marriage. She feels as if her husband doesn’t know everything about her, as he should. Clarissa’s daughter Elizabeth goes shopping with Miss Killman, her history teacher. Miss Killman is trying to convert Elizabath into Christianity, and she is an ugly, poor woman. Clarissa and Miss Killman despise each other, as both regard each other as a negative influence over Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Septimus and Lucrezia are in their apartment sharing moments of happiness. Dr. Holmes arrives at the scene. Lucrezia tries to stop him, but Dr. Holmes pushes her aside and walks towards Septimus. Septimus becomes hallucinatory and thinks Dr Holmes to be a monster coming to take put his soul. In order to save himself, Septimus jumps off the window, killing himself. Peter hears the siren of the ambulance, who is going to pick up Septimus’s dead body and thinks about the advancement in London’s civilization. He then goes to Clarissa’s party in the evening, where he sees many of the aristocratic people gather. Clarissa tries her best to make the party successful, but she is worried of Peter’s silent criticism, that is always ready for her. Another character, Sally Seton arrives at the party. She was the lover of Clarissa during her teenage years. She is now married to a rich man. The two women discuss about their past life. Dr. William Bradshaw arrives with his wife, who tells about the death of his patient Septimus. Clarissa then goes into another room to think about the subject of death that had been included in her party. She relates to Septimus, and thinks he was a pure soul, who didn’t compromise with anyone. She considers privileged people like herself responsible for his death. She thinks of her own life as being shallow, as compared to Septimus’s life. The party comes towards the end, and the guests leave. Clarissa enters the party room again, and Peter is excited to see her.

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