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After Louis leaves, Clarissa chats with her daughter,
Julia. Both women feel sorry for Louis, but Clarissa thinks to herself
that she wishes she could be as unencumbered and lonely as he. Clarissa hugs
Julia but feels awkward and uncomfortable around her. Julia tells
her mother that she has just stopped by the apartment to pick up
a backpack and that her friend Mary Krull is waiting outside so that
they can go shopping for boots. Clarissa tells Julia to bring Mary
inside, and Julia goes downstairs and tells Mary she would like
her to get to know her mother better.
Clarissa and Mary make awkward small talk. Mary is a lesbian activist
who believes Clarissa is deluded for thinking that the world hates
her less for trying to assimilate into a heterosexual ideal of domesticity.
Clarissa feels similarly strange around Mary and disapproves of
Mary’s belief that being loud and outspoken is somehow virtuous.
Before Julia and Mary leave, Clarissa reminds Julia about the party
for Richard that night. As they walk out, Mary thinks about how
in love with Julia she is and how her love will never be reciprocated.
As night falls, Virginia stands at the window feeling
unhappy. The headache seems to be returning, but she tries to convince
herself that she won’t have a relapse. She decides to take a walk
and passes the dead thrush in its grave in the garden. The bird’s
body looks smaller now that it is dead, and Virginia feels sad at
its lack of dignity. After she exits the garden, she turns toward
Virginia decides that she wants to go to London and sets
off for the train station. When she arrives, she discovers that
she must wait for another twenty minutes for the next train. While
waiting, she thinks about how worried and angry Leonard will be
even if she calls him and tells him she’s leaving. She decides to
call after she has arrived in London so that he won’t be able to
do anything. She decides to take a walk around the block and bumps
into Leonard, who has come looking for her. He scolds her for leaving
the house, but she reassures him that nothing is wrong. As Leonard
coaxes her to come back to the house, Virginia feels sorry for him
because he doesn’t know that she meant to disappear—to escape. They
set off for the house and she tells him that she wants to move back
to London. He says they should discuss it over dinner.
The character of Mary Krull calls into question the domestic
life that Clarissa draws comfort from. Inspired by the sour tutor
Miss Kilman in Mrs. Dalloway, Mary Krull is a social
activist whose attitudes about her own homosexuality are more defiant
and political than Clarissa’s. Clarissa has fashioned a comfortable
life for herself based on the traditional family structures she
feels most comfortable with. Though some might consider her relationships
with Richard and Sally to be unusual, Clarissa finds solace in the
familial relationships she has established, even as she has sometimes
questioned whether they provide her the fulfillment she desires.
Mary believes that Clarissa deludes herself into thinking
her middle-class, domestic lifestyle somehow exempts her from being
an outsider in society. In contrast, Clarissa feels that Mary Krull
defines herself by her rage and her extremism and refuses to find
joy in the simple pleasures of life. In the midst of this tension,
the two women both feel deep love and affection for Julia, even
though both Mary and Clarissa feel that the other is leading Julia
astray. Mary’s thoughts call attention to the doubts that Clarissa
has expressed about the choices that she has made and the ways she
has sought to make a life for herself in the face of societal disapproval.
Virginia feels trapped in Richmond and wants to escape
back to the energy of London. As she teeters on the brink of relapsing
madness, she impulsively leaves the house. The decision is extremely impractical,
as it is unclear what she will do or where she will go once she
gets to the city. Her actions come out of a desperate attempt to
feel free from the prospect of experiencing the headaches again. She
wants to literally escape from the demons that haunt her and feels
that her only way out is to go back to London.
Virginia’s impulse to escape Richmond starts to fade after
she arrives at the train station, and Leonard’s arrival means that
she won’t be going anywhere. Though touched by his concern, she
feels sad that he doesn’t realize the degree to which she feels
tormented by madness and how much she wants to return to the city.
The scene echoes the events of the prologue, in which Leonard chases
after Virginia but finds her too late. Here in the train station,
the first indications of Virginia’s desire to physically escape
her own life become apparent. While in this instance she simply
wants to depart from the suburbs and head to the city, later she
will want to depart from her life altogether.
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