Septimus Warren Smith: Character Analysis in Mrs. Dalloway

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His Personality

      Septimus Warren Smith was thirty years old, pale-faced, beak nosed, putting on brown shoes, shabby overcoat and had hazel eyes. The war had disturbed his mind a lot. His was the case of nervous breakdown. This disease had made him exquisite, much sensitive to sound and color.

      He was full of vanity, ambition, idealism, courage, passion, etc. He was progressive, gentle, clever, serious, shy and anxious. He had fallen in love with Isabel Pole lecturing in the Waterloo Road about Shakespeare. Then war started up and he was one of first to volunteer. “He went to France to save England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays, and Miss Isabel Pole, in a green-dress walking in a square.” He developed manliness and got promoted. In the war, he had seen shell explosions with indifference. Even when his friend Evans had died he expressed not enough sentiments. But after the war, particularly in the evenings he started getting “sudden thunder-claps of fear.” Rezia, his wife, wanted to have children because she felt very lonely and one day she cried out but he remained indifferent. He started feeling that he was a criminal because of marrying Rezia without love for her and for making Isabel Pole furious in other things. He said that verdict of nature on such wretch was death.

Mr. Septimus: A Neurotic

      Septimus Warren Smith represented the sordid face of contemporary western civilization. Though the war had ended yet for Septimus it was going on. He was suffering from nervous breakdown. Evans his friend was killed in front of his eyes but he could not express enough sentiments. When he was left alone, he heard voices and saw visions. In order to escape this loneliness he had married Lucrezia, the daughter of a hat-maker of Milan (Italy) but he never became the same as he was in previous days.

His Hallucinations

      He often uttered to himself, ‘‘Let us kill ourselves.” He took no delight in beautiful scenes and sights of nature, or in world outside himself. His troubled soul is very well pictured in the novel: “He lay back in his chair, exhausted but upheld. He lay resting, waiting, before he again interpreted, with effort, with agony, to mankind. He lay very high, on the back of the world. The earth thrilled beneath: red flowers grew through his flesh; their stiff leaves rustled by his head. Music began clanging against the rocks up there.” He opened his eyes and saw beauty of the leaves. But behind the leaves there was Evans who was killed in the war. He saw a dog turning into man and trees taking human forms. When Peter was walking towards him he assumed Evans coming out of the dead.

He was Frightful of World

      Septimus was much scared of Dr. Holmes and Bradshaw. He was unable to take interest in the outside world. Fear of the world and this life had become an obsession with him. He assumed that these people were trying to catch hold of his soul and violate his privacy. So, he grew panic and in order to escape committed suicide.

Mr. Smith is Symbolical of Contemporary Civilization

      In the novel Mrs. Dalloivay Septimus Warren Smith is the representative of the sordid effects of war. He symbolized the neurosis, madness, and miseries caused, by war. He is a praiseworthy satire on the complacency and unthinking acceptance of people like Dalloway's, and Hugh Whitbreads. He is the Woolf’s scathing criticism of the glittering facade of contemporary civilization, which hides within much that is ugly and wicked. Seeing the ambulance carrying the dead body of poor Septimus, Peter exclaims “And that is civilization.”

Conclusion: Mrs. Dalloway’s ‘Double’

      To sum up Septimus is not just a case of war-neurosis who is mishandled by the doctors but a human soul escaping from Holmes and Bradshaw who wished to possess what is not their own. Thus he is an interesting artistic creation through whom Mrs. Virginia Woolf has presented the madness and violent death, love and heartbreak, the ruin of a career. Septimus Warren Smith is not just a character ill-treated by doctors and suffering from nervous breakdown, he is Mrs. Clarissa Daloway’s other self. Mrs Virginia Woolf had first planned Mrs. Dalloway to die, but later on discovered her double Septimus to commit suicide.

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