Mrs. Dalloway: Chapter 1 - Summary

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Mrs. Dalloway’s Reminiscences when she visits the Market in order to buy Flowers for her evening Party.

      Dalloway's a very rich family have been living in London for the last twenty century. Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, the wife of Richard Dalloway, is a middle-aged woman of fifty-one. Mr. Richard Dalloway is the conservative Member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and expected to become the Minister of Cabinet rank very soon.

      It's a fine morning in June and Mrs. Dalloway is going to buy flowers for the party that is going to be held in the evening. Her maid-servant Lucy is very much busy in the domestic pursuits thus Mrs. Dalloway has to go to buy flowers. That morning is very calm and fresh as if issued to children on a beach. The striking of Big Ben, the church clock, seems to her very musical. Victoria Street is very much loved by her because it is full of life and movements. People of all sort, dejected and happy can be seen in Victoria street. One can easily overhear the roar and thud of carriages, trams, cars, buses, the sounds of brass bands, barrel-organs, or the zooming of some airplane or the galloping of horses on some mysterious errand. The lovely diamond broaches in the shop windows and Muslim frocks of laughing girl attracts her a lot in the way. She wants to purchase the frock for her daughter Elizabeth but she has to resist it in order to economize.

      This whole surrounding reminds her of the time when she was a girl of eighteen. Now she gets herself transferred in the past times when in the morning she was standing near an open window in Bourton seeing the flowers with the smoke winding off the tree, she was feeling the exhilarating touch of fresh breeze. At that moment Peter Walsh, her childhood friend and lover told her, “Musing among the vegetables”. Now she starts thinking about Peter Walsh who is expected to come back from India very soon. As she thinks about Peter Walsh, many things associated with him — his smile, pocket knife, his eyes etc. are recalled by her.

      Thus, the clock time of June takes her back to the time when she was living with her parents at Bourton. She recalls how she often went out for morning walks and the air came “like the flap of wave; the kiss of a wave, chill and sharp.” She recalls how she told Peter Walsh, “I prefer men to cauliflowers.”

      Now, passing through the Victoria Street she enters St. James Park. There she finds perfect silence with duck swimming slowly. She confronts her old friend Hugh Whitbread there who has “a little job at court.” He is carrying a dispatch box with Royal Arms on it. He says to her that his wife Evelyn is ill again and they have to come up to London in order to consult the doctors. Then, he gives a compliment to Clarissa D allow ay that “She looked like a girl of eighteen”. He leaves her with the promise to come in the party.

      Meeting of Hugh Whitbread further engenders her past memory that though Hugh Whitbread is a nice man yet he is never liked by either Peter Walsh nor her husband. She fails to understand why Peter Walsh regarded him as a man “with no heart and no brain and manners of a country gentleman,” although Hugh Whitbread is a very unselfish man, highly dutiful to his mother.

      Again an stimulation of past memory, and she feels that she has failed to forget Peter Walsh even after a long separation. Still few petty scenes make her remind him. Now she recalls the moment when by the fountain in the garden of Bourton she had rejected the love of Peter and turned in favor of Richard for marriage. The memories of Peter’s style and manners are still fresh in her mind. He called her, “a perfect hostess’ and envisaged that she would marry a Prime Minister. She had shouted over this remark of “perfect hostess” taking its meaning that she was insincere and pretender. Soon after that she had separated herself from him. Peter has gone to India, married a woman who met him during his journey. Thus his life was a failure and Clarissa is angry for that matter.

      The moments of the rejection of Peter Walsh’s love often impinches her mind but she finds her decision right because she is of the opinion that after marriage also women must have some privacy, independence and freedom. With Peter, she had to share everything but with Richard, it is no problem.

      Though Mrs. Dalloway is fifty-one yet she is full of “divine vitality”, she always adored, and she adored still, to dance, to ride. She continued to muse, as she walked. Now she critically examines herself like a lady of little knowledge only gifted with the skill of knowing people almost by instinct. She knows no history, no language. For a moment she remembers the people she knows specially Sally Seton, her girlhood friend, but her attention gets diverted by some object of person in the scene she is passing through. Now she thinks of death and feels a strange longing of being disappeared, unseen and unknown as she walks on Bond Street.

       She thinks of her daughter as she passes by the window of a glove shop that she does not care at all for gloves but cares her dog very much. She cares her tutoress Miss Doris Kilaman, a lady in green mackintosh bitter and frustrated because of her dismissal from school at war. She was a big, coarse and brutal creature who always made others conscious of their inferiority and her superiority. This is the cause why Mrs. Dalloway hates this woman who often puts her in psychical pain and spoils her pleasure in beauty in friendship in being well, in being loved, in making home delightful.

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