The difficulty of reconciling her innermost self with her exterior or surface self weighs constantly on Clarissa’s mind, and the doors and windows that appear throughout the book represent this conflict symbolically. At Clarissa’s house, workers take the doors off the hinges for the party, where Clarissa will gather people together and try to facilitate communication. She remembers that the blinds used to flap at Bourton, during a time when her need for privacy and her desire for communication were both, to some degree, attainable. Peter himself, in some ways, serves as a doorway between Clarissa’s two selves. Through him, Clarissa can return to the days at Bourton and evaluate her choices, as though she can go back in time and change her mind. When Peter runs from the room and leaves her house, the noise from the open door is overwhelming and makes Clarissa’s voice almost disappear. In his absence, real life, the present, sets in again. In real life, Clarissa is torn between the need for solitude and the glimmering surface world of society, and trying to move between the two states of being is almost a physical effort, much like physically removing doors from hinges.

Characters continually interrupt one another’s significant moments of communication. Peter interrupts Clarissa’s revelatory moment with Sally at Bourton, intervening before the women’s intimacy can continue or intensify. Elizabeth interrupts Peter’s encounter with Clarissa, another interruption that thwarts intimacy, stopping them from delving too deeply into their private feelings. Clarissa and Peter are both critical judges of others’ characters, and they meet like challengers, Peter with his knife in his hand and Clarissa with her scissors. They are conscious of one another’s failures—and of their own. This moment with Peter is charged with the potential to set Clarissa’s life on a new course, whether Peter reveals lingering feelings or simply raises doubts in Clarissa’s mind. For better or worse, Elizabeth halts the communication of their interior selves with her entry. Time moves on, and Peter walks out. Clarissa struggles to maintain communication and reminds him about her party, but her voice nearly disappears in the rush of the opening and closing door.

Clarissa is aware of having compromised by marrying Richard, who offered her a traditional, safe life path that is less threatening than the passion-filled path Peter or even Sally could have offered her. Though she enjoys beautiful things and society and appreciates the privacy she has with Richard, she is dissatisfied in some ways and worries that she fails to satisfy him as well. Richard, unlike more passionate characters, such as Sally and Septimus, has no association with nature, which underscores his pedestrian personality. Clarissa has found safety and comfort with Richard, a simple upholder of English tradition, but she felt passionate love for Sally, who subverted that tradition in many ways. Sally sold a family heirloom to go to Bourton, held feminist views, and shocked the upholders of old England, such as Aunt Helena. Clarissa describes her feeling for Sally as a match that burns in a crocus, a type of flower. The natural imagery of heat and flames often marks the thoughts of characters who feel deeply, including Clarissa and Septimus. The fire is spectacular, but never without threat. Richard is the foundation of her life, Clarissa admits, but part of her wonders what life could have been like without him, danger and all.

The line Clarissa quotes from Othello not only foreshadows Septimus’s suicide but also points to the magnitude of Clarissa’s own youthful feelings for Sally. In the play, Othello fervently loves his wife, Desdemona, but eventually kills her out of mistaken jealousy. Tortured by regret, Othello then kills himself. Othello cannot trust his good fortune, and loses it. By likening herself to Othello and Sally to Desdemona, Clarissa suggests not only the depth of her feeling, but also that it was she who killed the possibility of love with Sally—and with that some part of herself.