Mrs Dalloway: Pages 48-82
One of the most prominent themes within this passage is that of love and the way in which two of the characters, Peter and Clarissa, choose to deal with their feelings. Within this section of Mrs Dalloway we learn a great deal about Peter and Clarissa’s love, their past and the way in which their approach to emotion and passion is very different.
Peter’s love for Clarissa is natural and real and he is unable to control his feelings for her in a restrained manner, “to his utter surprise, suddenly thrown by those uncontrollable forces thrown through the air, he burst into tears; wept; wept without the least shame, sitting on the sofa, the tears running down his cheeks” (46). We are provided with very immature images of Peter and he is portrayed as a child throwing a tantrum. Clarissa, on the other hand remains a calm and controlled motherly figure who comforts his maternally.
Within the passage Clarissa continues to appear as cold, without passion. Clarissa’s lack of warmth is a continual theme throughout the novel and in this passage her treatment of Peter and Richard (who she also treats maternally) echoes these images of a stilted woman who is devoid of any sexuality.
The difference between the two characters on an emotional level is further enhanced within the memory of Peter’s proposal to Clarissa. He proposed to her at a fountain, ” in the middle of a little shrubbery, far from the house, with shrubs and trees all around it, the spout (it was broken) dribbling water incessantly. How sights fixed themselves upon the mind! (64). The fountain is symbolic of Peter and Clarissa’s conflicting conceptualization of love. The slow dribble of he fountain symbolizes the lives of the two characters, Clarissa’s suppression of her feelings coupled with Peter’s embracement of his, causes a painful situation that can be likened to the eternally dripping fountain; it will continue to drip and drip in a constant reminder until, at some point someone takes action to resolve it.
Woolf, Virginia S. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1981