Quote 4

Clarissa had a theory in those days . . . that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death . . . perhaps—perhaps.

This quotation occurs as Peter Walsh walks back to his hotel. He hears the ambulance go by to pick up Septimus’s body and remembers Clarissa’s passion during their youth. Clarissa was frustrated at how little one person could know another person, because she felt that so much of a person existed out of reach of others. A person’s soul was like a plant or a tree, with a small part showing aboveground and a complex, unseen root system existing underneath. Although Clarissa had experienced death at a young age when her sister Sylvia died, she did not want to believe that death was the absolute end. Instead she believed that people survived, both in other people and in the natural world. To know someone beyond the surface, one had to seek out the people and places that completed that person. The structure of Mrs. Dalloway supports Clarissa’s theory, since most of the novel concerns people’s thoughts rather than surface actions. These thoughts connect to people and things far beyond the people and things that are ostensibly closest to them.

Clarissa told Peter of this transcendental theory while riding on an omnibus with him through London. The omnibus, an open-air bus that offers a view of everything around, symbolizes the ease with which the friends could once share their deepest thoughts. As adults, they are restricted by the repressive rules of English society, which is symbolized by great and somber automobiles with their blinds drawn. Clarissa still believes in the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world, and she thinks about it during her walk to the shops. However, Peter and Clarissa no longer feel so easy sharing their most deeply held ideas with one another, and Peter supposes Clarissa has hardened into a boring and shallow upper-class society wife who would no longer consider such ideas true or important.