Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dreams are always better than realities

Trapped in the past, Peter obsessively contemplates what could have been, allowing him to get lost in a world of implausible realities. Instead of stepping forward in his life, he consistently makes an effort to step backwards. Unlike the other characters in Mrs. Dalloway, who indulge themselves in thoughts of the past, Peter appears highly unsatisfied with the path his life has taken since Clarissa refused his proposal.

Although Peter attempts to move on, he is incapable of ignoring his feelings for Clarissa. He admits how it is “impossible that he should ever suffer again as Clarissa had made him suffer. For hours at a time (pray God one might say things without being overheard!), for hours and days he never thought of Daisy” (77). Consumed by his love for Clarissa, Peter rarely thinks about how he plans on helping Daisy divorce her husband or what their future together holds. Instead, he spends time imagining what possessed Clarissa to marry Richard all those years ago. At the conclusion of the novel, all of Peter’s thoughts for Daisy disappear and are replaced by thoughts for Clarissa.

Thus, the reader almost forgets that Daisy is the reason why Peter returns to England in the first place. One cannot help but accuse Peter of using Daisy as an excuse in order to return to England and see Clarissa. In the book’s final moments, Woolf confirms that Peter’s undying love belongs to Clarissa and not Daisy. When he declares, “what is this terror? What is this ecstasy? He thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement,” the reader already knows that the “terror” and “ecstasy” he is experiencing is none other than Clarissa (190).

Even after all the arguments and years spent apart, he still experiences a knot in his stomach when he sees Clarissa; unfortunately, no real future exists for these past lovers besides the one in Peter’s head; nevertheless, one tends to make “up the better part of life,” according to Peter, a man whose dreams were squashed by reality (53).

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

(Your post is the first time I realized that in both Mrs. Dalloway and Saturday there are characters named 'Daisy'...)

Peter's memories of the past are largely bitter, and he has allowed the bitterness of his past to chase him through the rest of his life. Clarissa ('dry' though some may take her to be!) is capable of inspiring great emotion in people. It may be that her greatest role in life is as a catalyst.