Structural Outline for Mrs. Dalloway

Updated July 22, 1997
Created July 22, 1997

The book begins with Clarissa Dalloway preparing to leave her house to buy flowers for her party. She remembers how she was 18 at her parent’s house in Bourton the summer she refused to marry Peter Walsh. Walking to Bond Street she thinks on how Elizabeth doesn’t care to shop; she is distressed by the hold religious Miss Kilman has on her daughter. At Mulberry’s, the florists, she sees a car with drawn blinds blocking the street. Everyone ruminates about who sits in the car; all believe that it must be an important person.. Suddenly their attention is drawn to an airplane skywriting. Septimus, Clarissa, and all passersby are linked by their cogitation on what the plane is writing.

Clarissa returns home to discover that her husband, Richard, has gone to lunch with Lady Millicent Bruton and she feels abandoned. Thinking about Sally Seton, upon whom she had a crush, she takes the dress she plans to wear that night downstairs and has begun to mend it when she is interrupted by Peter. As they talk, both remember the summer she refused to marry him. Peter leaves when Elizabeth comes in, and he walks aimlessly through London. He follows a young lady and pretends she cares for him. Then he falls asleep in Regent’s Park and dreams of a solitary traveler and an elderly woman.

In the same park, Septimus and Rezia wait for their appointment with Sir William Bradshaw. Septimus thinks he sees his dead friend Evans, but it is only Peter, who thinks Rezia and Septimus are having a lover’s quarrel. As Peter gets into a taxi, Septimus’ past is revealed -- how he loved Shakespeare and Miss Isabel Pole, to whom he used to write poetry. After the war he married Rezia because he was afraid he could not feel. He has been to see Dr. Holmes, a psychiatrist who he wants to escape. Sir William tells Rezia that Septimus simply needs a sense of proportion and he will place him in a home. Rezia is distraught because she does not want to be separated from her husband.

Hugh Whitbread brings Lady Bruton flowers at the lunch with Richard Dalloway where they are to help her draft a letter to the Times about emigration. Lady Bruton mentions that Peter is back in London. Hugh and Richard leave together and go into a jewelry store where Richard decides he wants to buy Clarissa something. He settles on roses, which he brings to her. Clarissa voices her concerns about Elizabeth and Miss Kilman, who soon thereafter come down and leave to go to the army and navy stores. After shopping, Elizabeth and Kilman have tea but Elizabeth is desperate to leave, which she does, leaving Kilman desolate.

Septimus helps Rezia make a hat and she thinks everything will be all right. They are happy for that moment. She decides she will not let Septimus be taken to a home. When she gets up to pack she hears a noise of someone coming up to their rooms. It is Dr. Holmes. Septimus jumps from the window rather than being captured by "human nature," Dr. Holmes.

Peter, going to his hotel, hears Septimus’ ambulance and reflects on the wonders of civilization. After dinner he walks to Clarissa’s home for the party. He later regrets having come and Clarissa herself thinks her party will be a failure. Then Sally Seton, now Lady Rosseter, arrives at the party which now completes the gathering of those from Bourton thirty years earlier. The party begins to get better; the prime minister puts in an appearance. Clarissa is unhappy when Lady Bradshaw tells her about the suicide of Sir William’s patient. She thinks about the young man in another room and realizes that he was significant to her life. Sally and Peter sit together on a couch remembering the past. The party breaks up and Clarissa comes over to Peter, who is very excited to see her come.

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