She loves the world for being rude and indestructible, and she knows that other people must love it too, poor as well as rich, though no one speaks specifically of the reasons. Why else do we struggle to go on living, no matter how compromised, no matter how harmed? Even when we’re further gone than Richard; even if we’re fleshless, blazing with lesions, shitting in the sheets; still, we want desperately to live.

Clarissa Vaughn thinks this to herself as she walks through the park on the way to buy flowers. Clarissa wonders how people maintain such a strong will to live even in the face of unspeakable suffering. She thinks that all people want desperately to live, even when they are as sick as Richard. Clarissa views the human spirit as indestructible, which makes Richard’s eventual suicide all the more shocking and devastating. Seeing all the people around her enjoying the park inspires Clarissa’s humanist thoughts. Like Virginia Woolf, who longs to return to London, Clarissa equates the city with life itself. They both see the city as a place where they are truly alive, where the vibrancy and rudeness of the energy around them feel sustaining and revitalizing.

Clarissa and Virginia’s experiences with the city, whether loving it or longing for it, contrast sharply with Laura Brown’s. Laura goes to downtown Los Angeles only to check into a hotel and be alone. Laura’s wistful thoughts of suicide, an act which she compares to “walking out into a field of brilliant snow,” are the opposite of Clarissa and Virginia’s desires for the muddled, rude nature of life. Laura is not “further gone than Richard,” she is not “blazing with lesions.” Objectively, she seems to have a comfortable and satisfying life. But Laura still feels stifled and unsatisfied and contemplates taking her life. Clarissa’s belief that life is full of meaning and promise cannot account for Laura’s pessimistic worldview. To some extent, Clarissa is naïve about the realities and struggles of human existence. Her overall optimism contrasts with Laura’s dark considerations of her life and the ways she might escape it.