A Dr. Bradshaw
See Sir William Bradshaw
B Sir William Bradshaw
While Dr. Bradshaw, unlike Dr. Holmes, immediately grasps the gravity and nature of Septimus’s condition, he is still not a likable character. He seems very similar to Dr. Holmes. The book’s argument against these doctors is that they are primarily concerned with managing individual cases of social and psychological distress without being interested in the causes of such problems. Thus, these doctors are still a part of the problem. They help to maintain the status quo by smoothing over difficulties instead of approaching psychological disturbance as evidence of deep social problems that must be addressed.
C Lady Bruton
Lady Bruton is the character with whom Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread have lunch. She is a woman of strong character and active in public and political life. She always uses her influence in matters about which she feels strongly. Her new interest is in emigration, that is, encouraging young British couples to emigrate to Canada, one of the British Commonwealth countries. She asks Richard and Hugh to revise her letter to the editorial section of the major London newspaper, the Times, the forum in which she plans to air her views.
Daisy is referred to in passing as the woman whom Peter Walsh is to marry. Peter is in London arranging matters for her divorce, among other business, as she is presently married.
E Clarissa Dalloway
Clarissa Dalloway is the principal character of Mrs. Dalloway, since it is her party that gives definition to the narrative and her point of view dominates the book. She was born Clarissa Parry, and the day the novel takes place, she is approximately 50 years old. Her husband is Richard Dalloway, and they have one child, Elizabeth. The overwhelming impression Clarissa gives is that she is a solitary, even isolated, being, and that she is often consumed with thoughts or feelings of death and mortality. This is not only because her thoughts of friends are for those of her youth and not present ones, but also because she seems to desire isolation. She chooses Richard Dalloway over Peter Walsh as a husband not because she loves him more, but because she believes Richard will not consume all of her personality and time, or all of her emotional and intellectual reserves. Clarissa sleeps in her own room, in a small single bed that is likened to a coffin, and such suggestions and imagery of isolation and death surround her throughout the book.
The reader gains a sense of Clarissa’s character both from her own thoughts and from what other characters, especially Peter, think about her. Besides the fact that she has inspired love, which speaks well of her, she is also someone whom others, and herself, think flawed. Peter’s notion that she is the “perfect hostess” sums up this suspicion of her weakness. Clarissa is well-off and does not work, putting her in a position to cultivate her preferences, which are the pursuits of beauty and social harmony. While she knows that these are worthy pursuits, she and her friends nevertheless wonder whether this is a wholly ethical way to live. The question she and they ask is whether or not she should be more like her husband or Lady Bruton and take a more obviously practical role in public and political life.
F Elizabeth Dalloway
Elizabeth Dalloway is Clarissa’s daughter. She is just coming of age, and she is somewhat in the thrall of her history tutor, Doris Kilman. However, Elizabeth is also her own person. When she goes out on a shopping trip with Miss Kilman, she soon parts from her tutor and steals a few hours to be by herself before she must return home to get ready for her mother’s party.
G Richard Dalloway
Richard Dalloway, despite being Clarissa’s husband, does not play a large role in the novel. He was not as close to Clarissa as Peter and Sally were during their youthful days. Rather, in the various characters’ memories of their mutual past, Richard is a late arrival on the youthful scene. He arrives around the time Clarissa is thinking about marriage and presents himself as the perfect husband for her, in contrast to Peter. He is a politician and member of Parliament and the Conservative Party, demonstrating Clarissa’s and his relative social and political conservatism, especially compared to Peter and Sally.
H Ellie Henderson
Ellie is Clarissa’s cousin, whom Clarissa invites to her party at the last minute at the request of a mutual acquaintance. Ellie is not well-off and gets out very seldom, so she is grateful to have the opportunity to attend such an exciting affair.
I Dr. Holmes
Dr. Holmes is an overbearing and controlling doctor who does not understand Septimus’s condition and whose ignorance and arrogance do Septimus more harm than good. His arrival at Septimus’s apartment is the last straw for the young man. Rather than fall under Holmes’s control, Septimus throws himself out of a window, killing himself.
J Miss Doris Kilman
Doris Kilman is a single, educated woman to whom life has not been particularly kind or just. While she possessed employment of some security before the war, her refusal to jump on the war bandwagon and call all Germans enemies made her unpopular and caused her to be dismissed from her post. Left to fend for herself during the lean war years, she scrapes together a living from incidental tutoring and lecturing. She feels great bitterness about her misfortunes and develops a religious fanaticism that makes her extremely unpopular with Clarissa, who fears and resents the woman’s influence on Elizabeth.
Lucy is the principal housemaid in the Dalloway home, and she and the cook are primarily responsible for readying the house for the party.
L Aunt Parry
See Miss Helena Parry
M Miss Helena Parry
Clarissa’s aunt is a minor character in the book. She figures early on as the relative at Bourton whom the younger people seem to enjoy shocking. She surprises Peter at the end of the book by still being alive and by being present at the party.
N Sylvia Parry
Sylvia, Clarissa’s sister, is only mentioned in passing, but is significant nevertheless. She was killed by a falling tree at Bourton. The name “Sylvia” is Latinate, meaning “wild” or “woods.” Her death signifies the death of youth and freedom, as Clarissa’s freedom and youth ended at Bourton when she decided to marry. That is, her life since Bourton has been one in which she is not so much her own person as Richard’s wife.
See Lucrezia Warren Smith
P Lady Rosseter
See Sally Seton
Q Sally Seton
Sally, with Peter and Clarissa, was a member of the close triangle of friends who often spent time together at Bourton. Sally delighted her friends with her vibrant personality and her legendary exploits. Clarissa was so taken by Sally that she fell in love with her, as she realizes years later. Sally, like Clarissa, went on to marry, marrying a self-made man whose success eventually earns him high social distinction, giving Sally the title “Lady Rosseter.”
R Lucrezia Warren Smith
Lucrezia, or Rezia, is Septimus’s wife. He met her in Italy where he was stationed for part of World War I, as Italy was one of Britain’s allies during the war. While she was happy to marry Septimus and set out to a foreign country, now in London she is in despair because Septimus is no longer the same man she married. His war trauma is now deep-seated and advanced and she finds herself alone and confused about what is happening to her husband.
S Septimus Warren Smith
After Clarissa, Septimus is the character of most importance. His story parallels Clarissa’s to a certain extent, as both characters are radically isolated and seem at odds with prevailing forces in the world. Septimus came to London as a young man in search of a career, and he showed early promise. He was an excellent worker interested in furthering his education, but then he went off to war. He returned from the war having fought bravely, but also with shell shock, a condition little understood at the time. He and his wife first seek help from a general practitioner, instead of immediately consulting the psychological specialist, Dr. Bradshaw, demonstrating people’s unfamiliarity with mental disease and how to manage it at the time. Septimus is a portrait of a distressed mind, going through the hours of his last day, entertaining delusional thoughts and experiencing hallucinations, and ultimately, killing himself.
T Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh is an Anglo-Indian, that is, a British citizen who worked in India during Britain’s administrative colonial control of that country. At the time of the book’s events, he is visiting London. Peter is defined mostly by his having been deeply in love with Clarissa Dalloway and by his intention, during his youth, of marrying her. In fact, he still seems to be in love with her, despite having married after she rejected him, and despite the fact that he is planning to marry for a second time. Of the group of close, youthful friends, Sally, Clarissa and himself, he seems more like Sally than like Clarissa. Sally and Peter were very lively; they took chances and espoused forward-looking political and social views.
U Hugh Whitbread
Hugh Whitbread is deemed by most characters in the book (Peter, Sally, Richard) to be dull and uninteresting. There is the sense that he is a little ridiculous and quite conventional. Clarissa has the most sympathy for him as she appreciates his good qualities. Foremost amongst his good points are his loyalty and obedience. He always tried to please his mother and he looks after his ailing and fragile wife, Evelyn, dutifully.