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This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.
We share Peter’s point of view as he leaves Clarissa’s house. Peter believes Clarissa has grown hard and sentimental. He criticizes her harshly to himself, thinking unhappily that her girlhood timidity has become conventionality in middle age. Then he begins to worry that he annoyed her with his unexpected visit and is embarrassed for having wept in her presence. One moment Peter feels thrilled that he is in love with Daisy and has a life in India about which Clarissa knows nothing, while the next moment he feels anew the blow of Clarissa having rejected him thirty years before. The sound of St. Margaret’s bell sounding the half-hour makes him think of Clarissa’s death, which upsets him, as does the thought of growing old himself.
Though he will eventually have to ask Richard’s help in finding a job, Peter tells himself he does not care a straw what the Dalloways think of him. He admits he has been a failure in some sense, as when he was expelled from Oxford, but he feels the future lies in the hands of young men such as he was. A group of military boys march by, and Peter feels respect for them.
In the middle of Trafalgar Square, Peter feels suddenly free. Nobody except Clarissa knows he is in London. He begins to follow a young woman who seems to become his ideal woman as he looks at her. He compares her to Clarissa and decides that she is not rich or worldly, as Clarissa is. He wonders if she is respectable. Peter feels like a romantic buccaneer and is impressed by his own adventurousness. The woman takes out her keys and enters her house, never having spoken to Peter, which does not trouble him very much. He thinks of Clarissa telling him to remember her party that night.
Peter decides to sit in Regent’s Park and smoke before his appointment with the lawyers, with whom he will arrange Daisy’s divorce. He observes London and is proud of its level of civilization. He remembers how he was unable to get along with Clarissa’s father. Having chosen a seat beside an elderly gray-haired nurse with a baby asleep in its stroller, Peter remembers Elizabeth. He expects that Elizabeth does not get along with Clarissa, as he feels Clarissa has a tendency to overdo things, which might embarrass Elizabeth. Soon Peter falls asleep.
He dreams about a solitary traveler who conceives of different images of women. The traveler, who seems to be Peter himself, imagines a woman made of sky and branches who bestows compassion and absolution. He imagines this woman as a siren, someone who might lure him to his death with her beauty. Finally, he imagines a mother figure who seems to wait for his return. When the image of the woman, now a landlady, asks if she can get the solitary traveler anything else at the end of the dream, he realizes he does not know to whom he can reply.
Peter wakes up saying “The death of the soul,” and he links the dream and those words to a scene from Bourton in the early 1890s. That summer, Clarissa is shocked to hear about a neighbor who had a baby before she was married. Clarissa’s prudish reaction makes Peter feel that the moment marks the death of her soul. Her reaction seemed not only prudish but also arrogant, judgmental, and unimaginative, and others who were at the table at the time were uncomfortable with her blatant scorn of and lack of sympathy for the woman.
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