Mind-read

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1925. Print.

“Peter Walsh!  All three, Lady Burton,Hugh Whitbread, and Richard Dalloway, remembered the same thing how passionately Peter had been in love; been rejected; gone to India, come a cropper; made a mess of things; and Richard Dalloway had a very great liking for the dear old fellow too.”

Peter Walsh is quite the character.  He does some crazy things, such as stalking girls to make himself feel young again.  After his love falls apart he goes to India and marries a girl he meets.  He seems to act reckless due to his emotions.  His friends still love him though, even though he did not act in the most proper way and made a mess of things.  His friends are accepting since they realize that it was his passionate failed love with Clarissa that caused him to act so reckless and crazy.  They all still like him despite his actions.

Peter Walsh’s Mind Read in Mrs. Dalloway

“Mrs. Burgess, a good sort and no chatterbox, in whom he had confided, thought this absence of his in England, ostensibly to see lawyers might serve to make Daisy reconsider, think what it meant.” (157, Harcourt)

This sentence is quite confusing, as it is Peter Walsh’s thought about a time when he had talked to Mrs. Burgess about what she had thought about Daisy. I think that this sentence really draws on the issue of validity in the novel because it is a literal he-said, she-said, and then she-said moment. There is a lot of inference about something that Peter remembers, not even something that is happening during this day. As a reader, the context of the passage is confusing and if one isn’t paying attention, it might be assumed that the thought and narration has switched over to Mrs. Burgess but in actuality it is still Peter. This draws on how the mind works as a train of thought moves from one memory, to one person, to another with very little transition or signposting.

Peter Walsh’s mind-read of Clarissa Dalloway

“She would be frightfully sorry for him; she would think what in the world she could do to give him pleasure (short always of the one thing) and he could see her with the tears running down her cheeks going to her writing-table and dashing off that one line which he was to find greeting him…. ‘Heavenly to see you!’”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 152.

In response to receiving Clarissa’s brief note, Peter Walsh imagines what she must have been thinking as she wrote it. Woolf’s use of the conditional tense emphasizes that this is what Peter thinks what happened, and this may not necessarily be what Clarissa was actually thinking. Her use of semi-colons also trace the way in which Peter constructs this imagining. Typically, what follows the semi-colon is a logical follow-up or support of the previous statement. In this case, each sentence leads into the next to form one big, compound sentence, creating a sense of progression that mimics Peter’s step-by-step construction of Clarissa’s thoughts. Woolf breaks the pattern a little when she adds in parenthesis “short always of the one thing,” which may be interpreted as the possibility of a marriage or romantic relationship between Peter and Clarissa. By creating this break in Peter’s thought process, Woolf detracts from the “fantasy” in his head by sneaking in the present tense reality in which they’ll never be together romantically. As a result, Woolf relates to the reader that Peter’s imagining of Clarissa’s thoughts are what he wants to believe to have happened, but likely did not. When Peter quotes Clarissa’s one line at the end, Woolf uses a gruff and sarcastic tone that indicates Peter’s frustration of having been made to think about what Clarissa was thinking when she wrote the note.

 

Mrs. Dalloway

“As a cloud crosses the sun, silence falls on London; and falls on the mind. Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. Where there is nothing, Peter Walsh said to himself; feeling hollowed out, utterly empty within. Clarissa refused me, he thought. He stood there thinking, Clarissa refused me.”

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 49.

There’s excellent imagery in this excerpt that emphasizes Peter Walsh’s thoughts. The cloud crossing the sun is a huge metaphor for the way that he is feeling because Clarissa refused him. He feels “hollowed out” and “empty”.