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Sally sits at lunch with her friends Oliver St. Ives and
Walter Hardy in Oliver’s apartment. Oliver discusses a film project
he plans to pitch, a thriller in which the hero is gay, and explains
that he wants Walter to write the script. He asks for Sally’s advice—and
though she thinks the film could never work, she keeps her thoughts
to herself. The magnitude of Oliver’s charisma and star power makes
her feel that any contrary opinion would be out of place. Instead
of talking, she looks around her apartment and thinks about the
macho flamboyance of the decor.
After they finish lunch, Walter and Sally chat outside.
Walter asks how Richard is feeling, and Sally suddenly resents Walter
for being so healthy when Richard is so sick. As they walk to the
subway, they pass a clothing boutique with beautiful shirts in the
window. Walter stops in to buy a gift for his lover, Evan, and Sally
thinks about how she has never had an easy time buying presents
for Clarissa. A sudden wave of deep affection for Clarissa grips
her, and she thinks about how sad she would be to lose her. She
stops by a corner deli and picks up a bouquet of yellow roses for
Laura drives back to pick up Richie after she finishes
half of the book and checks out of the hotel. She seesaws back and
forth between her world and the world of Mrs. Dalloway.
When she reaches Mrs. Hatch’s house, she stands outside for a moment
before going in. She thinks that she is nothing, that she is hovering
in a sense of nothingness and craves death. She contemplates driving away
but forces herself to go in. Richie runs toward Laura and starts crying.
After comforting Richie, Laura puts him in the car and they drive
home. In the car, Richie tells Laura in a strange, self-conscious tone
of voice that he loves her. She tells him that she loves him too and
asks what’s wrong. She realizes that he senses that something is wrong
and that she’s been acting strangely. Since Richie watches her so
observantly, Laura knows that he will be aware of everything she does.
Clarissa goes to Richard’s apartment to help him get ready
for the party. He doesn’t answer when she knocks, so she goes right
in. All of the windows are open and Clarissa is shocked at how bright
the apartment looks. When she finds Richard, he sits straddling
the windowsill. She asks him to come down, and he tells her he cannot
go to the party. He feels choked by his disease and asks Clarissa
to call his mother. As he rants, he asks her to tell him a story
about her day and she recounts her trip to buy flowers. He reminds
her about the time in Wellfleet when she walked sleepily out of
a glass door in the early morning and how he thought it was the
most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He says that he thinks he’s
failed in his work by never creating anything that beautiful.
After he tells Clarissa he loves her, Richard falls backward
out of the window. Clarissa tears down the stairs after him and
approaches Richard’s still body on the ground. As she kneels by
his body, she puts his hand on his shoulder and pulls his robe from
his face to reveal his head injury. Unsure of what to do, she waits
with Richard for a while. If he were alive, she thinks about how
she would tell him how courageous he’s been to love for so long,
to try to create so long. She would apologize to him for wanting
such an ordinary life and for wanting him to come to her party and
talk to her guests.
Though Sally loves Clarissa, she has trouble understanding
her. This chapter is the first time we see inside the head of one
of the partners of the main characters. Although Leonard, Dan, and
Sally care for Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa, respectively, they
seem unable to truly understand the three women. Her interactions
with Oliver and Walter show that Sally often keeps her thoughts
to herself and avoids confrontation. She realizes that she doesn’t
fully understand Clarissa’s needs and always seems to buy her the
wrong kind of gift. While Walter has no trouble selecting a shirt
for Evan, no matter how ridiculous the shirt is, Sally feels frustrated
by the fact that she cannot figure out what Clarissa truly wants.
At the end of the chapter, her spontaneous selection of yellow roses
from the corner deli shows that she does love Clarissa and wants
to show the depth of her devotion.
Laura realizes that Richie watches her constantly and
she is not as alone as she thought she was. She has felt detached
and alienated from her husband and son. Dan doesn’t understand who
she is, and Richie seems too young to have any insight into her
thoughts and feelings. Richie has always been a blank slate, just
a child who is present all the time but can’t offer a peer’s understanding
or insight. When she comes to the realization that he can always
see her and understand her, she feels shocked and surprised. She
cannot come to terms with her interconnectedness with her family
and her debt to Richie. She feels overwhelmed by the idea that her
family could sense her reticence and confusion about her role as
a mother and wife.
After all of Clarissa’s reflections about the importance
of hanging onto life, her best friend commits suicide before her
eyes. Richard’s desire to leave the simple joys of life behind challenges
Clarissa’s ideas about the sanctity of life and love. Perhaps Clarissa
celebrates life because she has not had to face Richard’s illness
and the demons that come with it. When she stays with Richard’s
body for a time, she feels guilty for trying to force Richard to
fit into her happy life. She cannot tell if she only wanted him
to be happy so that she could be happy and questions whether she
was a selfish friend.
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