Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

For Clarissa, religion is a touchy subject. The idea of being confined to any one doctrine or idea is frustrating, demobilizing, and removes one's individuality: "Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing-room, tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are! For now that the body of Miss Kilman was not before her, it overwhelmed her - the idea. The cruelest things in the world, she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eavesdropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; love and religion. Had she ever tried to convert anyone herself? Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves?" (Woolf 123). Part of her hatred for love and religion stems from her hatred for Miss Kilman, who is pulling Elizabeth, one of Clarissa's only potential sources for love and affection, away from her mother. Miss Kilman, the recently converted Christian, who tries to spread her newfound ideologies upon Elizabeth through prayer and attending religious service, but hates Clarissa just as much as Clarissa hates her. Clarissa is right to tie love and religion together, because they are not mutually exclusive. One of the biggest staples of Christianity is love: "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8-10). While Miss Kilman lives in faith, she does not live in love: "She despised Mrs. Dalloway from the bottom of her heart. She was not series. She was not good. Her life was a tissue of vanity and deceit" (Woolf 125). Clarissa sees this contradiction and wonders, then, what religion is good for. She does not understand how love or religion can save anyone's soul, especially her own.

This is because Clarissa's religion is not of love but of time. She lives for a mortality that is slowly ticking away, and she sees this mortality in all those around her, especially when she hearts the ringing of Big Ben: "Big Ben struck the half-hour. How extraordinary it was, strange, yes, touching, to see the old lady (they had been neighbours ever so many years) move away from the window, as if she were attached to that sound, that string. Gigantic as it was, it had something to do with her. Down, down into the midst of ordinary things the finger fell making the moment solemn. She was forced - so Clarissa imagined, by that sound, to move, to go - but where? ... Why creeds and prayers and mackintoshes? when, thought Clarissa, that's the miracle, that's the mystery; that old lady, she meant, whom she could see going from chest of drawers to dressing-table. She could still see her" (Woolf 124). The mystery of life, of existence, however temporary, is what brings everyone together on a physical level. Religion brings people together spiritually, but time and the inevitability of death unites everyone on the most basic of levels. People are united in their own mortality, because no one lives forever. Clarissa's idea of religion speaks to her yearning for connection to those around her, and to her unease when she realizes her own days are numbered. Time is her supreme being, because time pushes and orders the world in the same way Christians believe God controls humanity.

Questions for Discussion:

1. How do faith and religion play a role in Clarissa's life?

2. Why does she tie love and religion together? What makes them "the cruelest things in the world," in her eyes?