Peter Walsh: Character Analysis - in Mrs. Dalloway

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His Personality

      Peter Walsh is next to Mrs. Dalloway as a major character in the novel. He was a middle aged man of over fifty. When he came to meet Clarissa Dalloway after his return from India where he had spent five years, Clarissa found him exactly the same, “the same queer look, the same check suit, a little cut of the straight, his face is a little thinner, dryer, perhaps, but he looks awfully well, and just the same.” He had the peculiar habit of fidgeting with a large pocket knife, and it is through this peculiar habit that he is at once made real and vivid.

      Peter Walsh’s Opinion about Dalloway's
Peter Walsh was in love with Clarissa when she was a girl. He was so deeply in love with her that he wanted to marry her. But she did not like his possessive nature. Even after her long marriage with Richard Dalloway at this age of fifty, they felt love for each other. He did not hate Mr. Richard Dalloway for being Clarissa’s husband. On the contrary, he admired him. He did not like many things in Clarissa. “There is always something cold about Clarissa”. He disliked the way Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway had introduced her daughter to him. “Here is my Elizabeth”. ‘My’ had continued to haunt him even after leaving Clarissa.

His Early Interest

      He is first introduced in the novel through the “stream-of-consciousness” of Mrs. Dalloway. When she recollected her days in Bourton (thirty years ago), she remembered that Peter Walsh frequently visited her home. At that time he was more interested in the world of man than in the nature. He himself had once said that, he preferred men to cauliflowers. He was interested in science, politics, philosophy and poetry. When Peter was young he wanted to be a poet. He did not like wanderings aimlessly. His another interest was in Clarissa to whom he had formed fancy even at the age of over fifty. Though he found Clarissa very cold, hard and prudish yet his love for her was very intense and passionate.

His Love For Clarissa Dalloway

      Peter loved Clarissa very much despite their quarrels and all his critical remarks about her. Her love had a formative influence of far-reaching significance. When he was in Regent’s Park he had been thinking of that painful and horrible scene when Clarissa had very coldly rejected his love. He had never been able to overcome that feeling which caused him great spiritual anguish. He had left England for India after that awful scene. As far as Clarissa’s opinion about Peter is concerned, she thought that he had married a wrong woman. Peter Walsh did not know anything about her who met him on board the ship going to India. Now, after her death, he was in love with a married woman Daisy who had two children. Clarissa thought Peter most possessive, wayward and unconventional.

Peter Walsh: A Failure

      Peter Walsh regarded his life as a great failure in comparison with the Dalloway’s, Whitbreads and Brutons. He represented the ideal of disinterested intellectual pursuits in contrast with the ideal of material success represented by them. He was over fifty but still looking for such a petty job which Richard Dalloway or Hugh Whitbread could easily secure for him. They all regarded him as an unfortunate failure but he felt proud of himself and tried to console himself that though he had no worldly comforts and luxury yet he had been adventurous man and very much devoted to the pursuit of truth and knowledge. He had preserved his soul from the satiric effects of materialism.

Peter Walsh’s Critical Attitude and his Solicitude For Clarissa

      Mrs. Dalloway remembered that once Peter Walsh had called her a “perfect hostess”, one who would probably marry a Prime Minister. The phrase “perfect hostess” made her furious because of its suggestion of insincerity, artificiality, hypocrisy and triviality. When they were in Bourton he was always critical about her. He did not like her coldness, prudishness and intolerance. He detested her sentimentalism and “narrow” views.

      Though Peter Walsh thought that he was no longer in love with Clarissa but his extreme emotional agitation on the first meeting with Clarissa after five years, his sudden burst into tears etc. all indicate the contrary. His incomplete question which he asked to Clarissa, “Does Richard...?”, it meant, “Does Richard love her, and take care of her?” It shows his extreme love and solicitude for her. It is a clear evidence of his nobility and generosity.

      To sum up: “An admirable person this Peter Walsh, we perceive; he is critical, aware, detached, and holds to the supreme virtues of truth and reality. He is shedding a cool clear light on the frailties of Mrs. Dalloway No longer in love with her, he is doubtless able to see her, if not wholly (he admits that) at least steadily. But then we remember the tears he shed in her room not long ago; we remember a certain irritation with the way she said, ‘Here’s my Elizabeth’. Tears, we know, blur the vision, make things wobble; irritation distorts. Perhaps a tear, not quite shed, remains in Peter Walsh’s eyes, a trace of irritation scratches a little like a grain of sand under the lid. We shall not quite accept Peter’s portrait, we shall suspend our judgment trifle longer, in case new light from another quarter should be shed on Mrs. Dalloway.”

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