Dalloway" is a day-in-the-life story that folds back and forth in time, examining one woman's life decisions and one man's postwar nightmare. The woman is Clarissa Dalloway, a "perfect hostess" in her early fifties. She contemplates the decisions she made thirty years ago. The man, intended by the author to be Clarissa's "double," is the shell-shocked war veteran Septimus Warren Smith who suffers delayed flashbacks over the wartime death of a comrade. The novel follows parallel stories of Clarissa and her "double," whom she has never met. Their lives are connected through interaction of external events in time and space, such as Clarissa's evening party, a motor car passing both, an airplane overhead. Septimus and Clarissa parallel and contrast each other in many aspects of characterization, as in their emotional problems, their marriage, their pasts, their suicidal impulses and their homosexual relationships. However, Clarissa will ultimately differ from Septimus, who fails to confront the requirement of the society and is driven to commit suicide the night of Clarissa's party. .
Clarissa and Septimus are joined in time and space as Clarissa is shopping on Bond Street. Among the London traffic, Clarissa is pondering how to make sense of her life in relation to other people: "in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive of the people she had never met" (12). Clarissa's feeling that we are part of everything and live in each other is supported as the reader is given a cross-section view of London as various people in the city respond to the same event. The motor car, for example, is used as a spatial device to unify the individual characters as they respond to it with curiosity, terror or patriotism. "Mrs. Dalloway. looked out with her little pink face. Everyone looked at the motor car.