Virginia wakes up, having dreamed of an idea for the beginning of her book. The time and location has shifted to a suburb of London in 1923. Virginia falls back to sleep and dreams of a park and an old woman sitting on a park bench. Virginia wakes up, and although she has forgotten the idea for her first line, she realizes that she can now begin to write. As she enters the bathroom, she refuses to look in the mirror, afraid that she might catch sight of a shadow that sometimes lurks behind her. This fear cripples her ability to write, and she wants to get a lot of writing done today.
Virginia goes to the dining room and gets coffee but decides not to go talk to Nelly in the kitchen, because she’s afraid that seeing Nelly will put her in a bad mood. Instead she pays a visit to her husband, Leonard, in the copy room. Leonard asks how she slept and whether she has had breakfast. Virginia states that she has had coffee with cream, but Leonard says that this is not enough. She promises to him that she will eat lunch. As he looks at her he realizes how much her intelligence amazes him. Her books, he thinks, will be read for years and years to come. He cannot help but note how much she has aged in the past year.
Virginia retreats upstairs to begin writing. She thinks to herself that if she can remain strong, she can persuade Leonard to move back to London. Their time in the suburb was supposed to cure her, but she hates being so far from the city. She resolves to eat lunch, although she sees not eating as a drug that gives her clarity of mind. She picks up her pen and writes the opening line of her novel: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
The chapter opens with the first lines of Mrs. Dalloway. The place is Los Angeles and the time is 1949. Laura Brown reads Woolf’s novel in bed. She berates herself for not being already up with her husband, Dan. Since it is his birthday, she feels especially guilty and thinks that she should be fixing breakfast for Dan and for her young son, Richie. Ambivalent about her role as a housewife, she senses that the day will be difficult. She knows she has some license to stay in bed a little bit, because she is pregnant, and so she begins reading.
Laura plans to make up for not cooking breakfast by later making a huge birthday cake for Dan. Stalling a little longer, she decides to read one more page from Mrs. Dalloway that describes Clarissa Dalloway’s pleasure at the rush of the morning. The book is so beautiful that Laura wishes she could spend all of her time reading but feels guilty, because she has responsibilities and because other people view reading as a waste of time.
As she reads, Laura thinks about how Dan was once reported missing and feared dead during the war, but the actual dead boy was another boy with the same name. When he came back from the war, he could have had any girl but chose Laura, even though she was an odd bookworm who was a little bit older than he was. She said yes, because she couldn’t imagine saying no to him. At this moment, she stopped being an individual person and became known as Dan’s wife. Laura presses on for another page, reading about Mrs. Dalloway’s joyful wanderings through the streets of London and the booming of Big Ben.