Love, literature and life are shown to be inextricably linked together in this novel written by a woman who was born in a literary family, whose house was a haven for the artistically inclined, and who married a man of letters. In Mrs Dalloway, Septimus Warren Smith, Clarissa Dalloway, Peter Walsh and Sally Seton are, despite all their tribulations, amply rewarded by their love of letters. Although Richard Dalloway is no reader, his patent love for his wife and his concern for her onetime suitor, emphasizes his humanity and redeems his soul. Characters like Sir William Bradshaw, Lady Bruton and Hugh Whitbread, for all their material prosperity are seen to lack spiritual grace because they, at best, do no more than try to manipulate language for their own ends.
At the opening of the novel, Clarissa Dalloway takes upon herself the task of buying flowers for the party at her house because the servants would have plenty on their hands. It is a beautiful June morning-" fresh as if issued to children on a beach"(5) and Clarissa's thoughts flow back to the time when she was eighteen and perhaps in love with Peter Walsh who was in love with her:
"Musing among the vegetables"--was that it--"I prefer...
, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished--how strange it was!--a few sayings like this about cabbages. (5-6)
It had been assumed at the time that Peter would 'write'-that he would go on to be a writer-but he cheerfully reveals to Sally Seton at the end of the novel that he had written "Not a word!" (207). However, he had always been a good and judicious reader, and a good and judicious critic of life and letters and men and women, as well as an excellent conversationalist. It was his private grief that, because Clarissa had rejected him, he had fallen for all the wrong women and made a mess of his life, but even so, at the end of the novel, the very sight of Clarissa from afar "fills" him "with extraordinary excitement" (215).
One character who seems to live more in the rarefied world of letters than in the real world of life is the relatively young Septimus Warren Smith whose noble mind has been broken by the death of a beloved friend at his side in the war. The world fills him with apprehension, and empathetically we feel, rightly so:
Septimus Warren Smith, aged about thirty, pale-faced, beak-nosed, wearing brown shoes and a shabby overcoat, with hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension in them which makes complete strangers apprehensive too. The world has raised its whip; where will it descend (17)
Septimus lives in a world of his own populated by his own anxieties and fears and by the voices and sounds that speak to him and to him only, and which he feels compelled to record:
Men must not cut down trees. There is a God. (He noted such revelations on the backs of envelopes.) Change the world. No one kills