Though Peter constantly doubts himself and his decisions, at the hotel and the dinner he momentarily reveals the kind of man he could be, or wants to be. Until now, Peter has seemed hysterical, bursting into tears in front of Clarissa and claiming madly to himself that he no longer loves her. At the hotel, however, he seems composed and in control. As he moves about his room, he imagines how Daisy sees him: as a reliable man who shaves, dresses, and takes firm control of life’s small details. He suspects he cannot actually make her happy, and that she will be better off without him, but he seems to like the feeling of being depended on and looked up to by this younger, foolish girl. At the dinner Peter slides more fully into this version of himself. With dignified detachment he selects wine and eats his dinner, showing more composure than at any other point in the novel. When Peter orders his Bartlett pears, the new Peter seems to crystallize. He knows exactly what he wants, and says so clearly. Gone, for the moment, are the usual hemming and hawing, the incessant justifications and qualifications that usually bloat his thoughts and desires. For this short moment at the table he is comfortable in his own skin.

Clarissa recognizes the conflict between nurturing her need for privacy and fulfilling her desire to emerge and communicate with others, which is why she throws her parties. Peter compares people to fish that swim for ages in the gloomy depths and occasionally need to come to the surface and frolic in the “wind-wrinkled waves.” People need to form community, however brief; they need to gossip at parties. The effort to communicate requires endurance, which is why Peter prepares himself and opens his knife before entering the party and why Clarissa purses her lips and creates a composed “diamond” face for the world. Septimus was tortured in the private world of his own soul after the war and, with his inability to hold himself together, was also at the mercy of the public world. He could no longer summon the endurance necessary to face the world or even exist in it, and even Peter and Clarissa hang on by only a thread—the tenuousness of which is emphasized by the knife and scissors with which they greet each other earlier in the day. Though Peter often misjudges and criticizes Clarissa, he admires her endurance and strength. Clarissa may have her failings and weaknesses, but her determination to stitch together her internal and external worlds, however briefly or infrequently, makes her a remarkable woman.