The eponymous protagonist. The novel begins with
Clarissa’s point of view and follows her perspective more closely
than that of any other character. As Clarissa prepares for the party
she will give that evening, we are privy to her meandering thoughts.
Clarissa is vivacious and cares a great deal about what people think
of her, but she is also self-reflective. She often questions life’s
true meaning, wondering whether happiness is truly possible. She feels
both a great joy and a great dread about her life, both of which
manifest in her struggles to strike a balance between her desire
for privacy and her need to communicate with others. Throughout
the day Clarissa reflects on the crucial summer when she chose to
marry her husband, Richard, instead of her friend Peter Walsh. Though
she is happy with Richard, she is not entirely certain she made
the wrong choice about Peter, and she also thinks frequently about
her friend Sally Seton, whom she also once loved.
in-depth analysis of Clarissa Dalloway.
Septimus Warren Smith
A World War I veteran suffering from shell shock,
married to an Italian woman named Lucrezia. Though he is insane,
Septimus views English society in much the same way as Clarissa
does, and he struggles, as she does, to both maintain his privacy
and fulfill his need to communicate with others. He shares so many traits
with Clarissa that he could be her double. Septimus is pale, has
a hawklike posture, and wears a shabby overcoat. Before the war
he was a young, idealistic, aspiring poet. After the war he regards human
nature as evil and believes he is guilty of not being able to feel.
Rather than succumb to the society he abhors, he commits suicide.
in-depth analysis of Septimus Warren Smith.
close friend of Clarissa’s, once desperately in love with her. Clarissa
rejected Peter's marriage proposal when she was eighteen, and he
moved to India. He has not been to London for five years. He is
highly critical of others, is conflicted about nearly everything
in his life, and has a habit of playing with his pocketknife. Often
overcome with emotion, he cries easily. He frequently has romantic
problems with women and is currently in love with Daisy, a married
woman in India. He wears horn-rimmed glasses and a bow tie and used to
be a Socialist.
in-depth analysis of Peter Walsh.
close friend of Clarissa and Peter in their youth. Sally was a wild,
handsome ragamuffin who smoked cigars and would say anything. She
and Clarissa were sexually attracted to one another as teenagers.
Now Sally lives in Manchester and is married with five boys. Her
married name is Lady Rosseter.
in-depth analysis of Sally Seton.
Clarissa’s husband. A member of Parliament in the
Conservative government, Richard plans to write a history of the
great English military family, the Brutons, when the Labour Party
comes to power. He is a sportsman and likes being in the country.
He is a loving father and husband. While devoted to social reform,
he appreciates English tradition. He has failed to make it into
the Cabinet, or main governing body.
in-depth analysis of Richard Dalloway.
old friend, married to Evelyn Whitbread. An impeccable Englishman
and upholder of English tradition, Hugh writes letters to the Times
various causes. He never brushes beneath the surface of any subject
and is rather vain. Many are critical of his pompousness and gluttony,
but he remains oblivious. He is, as Clarissa thinks, almost too perfectly
dressed. He makes Clarissa feel young and insecure.
Lucrezia Smith (Rezia)
Septimus’s wife, a twenty-four-year-old hat-maker
from Milan. Rezia loves Septimus but is forced to bear the burden
of his mental illness alone. Normally a lively and playful young
woman, she has grown thin with worry. She feels isolated and continually
wishes to share her unhappiness with somebody. She trims hats for
the friends of her neighbor, Mrs. Filmer.
Clarissa and Richard’s only child. Gentle, considerate,
and somewhat passive, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth does not have
Clarissa’s energy. She has a dark beauty that is beginning to attract
attention. Not a fan of parties or clothes, she likes being in the
country with her father and dogs. She spends a great deal of time
praying with her history teacher, the religious Miss Kilman, and
is considering career options.
history teacher, who has German ancestry. Miss Kilman has a history
degree and was fired from a teaching job during the war because
of society’s anti-German prejudice. She is over forty and wears
an unattractive mackintosh coat because she does not dress to please.
She became a born-again Christian two years and three months ago.
Poor, with a forehead like an egg, she is bitter and dislikes Clarissa intensely
but adores Elizabeth.
Sir William Bradshaw
A renowned London psychiatrist. When Lucrezia seeks
help for her insane husband, Septimus, Septimus’s doctor, Dr. Holmes,
recommends Sir William. Sir William believes that most people who think
they are mad suffer instead from a “lack of proportion.” He determines
that Septimus has suffered a complete nervous breakdown and recommends
that Septimus spend time in the country, apart from Lucrezia. The
hardworking son of a tradesman, Sir William craves power and has
become respected in his field.
general practitioner. When Septimus begins to suffer the delayed
effects of shell shock, Lucrezia seeks his help. Dr. Holmes claims
nothing is wrong with Septimus, but that Lucrezia should see Sir
William if she doesn’t believe him. Septimus despises Dr. Holmes
and refers to him as “human nature.” Dr. Holmes likes to go to the
music hall and to play golf.
Lady (Millicent) Bruton
A member of high society and a friend of the Dalloways.
At sixty-two years old, Lady Bruton is devoted to promoting emigration
to Canada for English families. Normally erect and magisterial,
she panics when she has to write a letter to the editor and seeks
help from Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread. She has an assistant,
Milly Brush, and a chow dog. She is a descendant of General Sir
Miss Helena Parry (Aunt Helena)
Clarissa’s aunt. Aunt Helena is a relic of the strict
English society Clarissa finds so confining. A great botanist, she
also enjoys talking about orchids and Burma. She is a formidable
old lady, over eighty, who found Sally Seton’s behavior as a youth
shocking. She has one glass eye.
Clarissa’s dowdy cousin. Ellie, in her early fifties, has
thin hair, a meager profile, and bad eyesight. Not trained for any
career and having only a small income, she wears an old black dress
to Clarissa’s party. She is self-effacing, subject to chills, and
close to a woman named Edith. Clarissa finds her dull and does not
want to invite her to the party, and Ellie stands alone nearly the
whole time, aware that she does not really belong.
wartime officer and close friend. Evans died in Italy just before
the armistice, but Septimus, in his deluded state, continues to
see and hear him behind trees and sitting room screens. During the
war, Evans and Septimus were inseparable. Evans was a shy Englishman
with red hair.
Smiths’ neighbor. Mrs. Filmer finds Septimus odd. She has honest
blue eyes and is Rezia’s only friend in London. Her daughter is
Mrs. Peters, who listens to the Smiths’ gramophone when they are
not at home. Mrs. Filmer’s granddaughter delivers the newspaper
to the Smiths’ home each evening, and Rezia always makes the child’s
arrival into a momentous, joyous event.
Walsh’s lover in India, married to a major in the Indian army. Daisy
is twenty-four years old and has two small children. Peter is in
London to arrange her divorce.
Hugh Whitbread’s wife. Evelyn suffers from an unspecified
internal ailment and spends much of her time in nursing homes. We
learn about her from others. Peter Walsh describes her as mousy
and almost negligible, but he also points out that occasionally
she says something sharp.
boss at Sibleys and Arrowsmith. Mr. Brewer, the managing clerk,
is paternal with his employees and foresees a promising career for Septimus,
but Septimus volunteers for the war before he can reach any degree
of success. Mr. Brewer promotes Septimus when he returns from the
war, but Septimus is already losing his mind. Mr. Brewer has a waxed
moustache and a coral tiepin.
awful poet at the Dalloways’ party. Jim is badly dressed, with red
socks and unruly hair, and he does not enjoy talking to another
guest, Professor Brierly, who is a professor of Milton. Jim shares
with Clarissa a love of Bach and thinks she is “the best of the
great ladies who took an interest in art.” He enjoys mimicking people.