Analysis of the Connection between Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith in Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf is one of the worlds most noted female writers. Mrs. Dalloway is her magnum opus, wherein she chronicles the day in the life of a novels protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway. The events the author portrays take place at some moment within the World War I and the World War II. With her novel, Virginia Woolf creates a fictitious replica of the United Kingdoms society after the WWI. The writer is depicting the relationships among people and their lifestyles. The novel is loosely based on Virginia Woolfs own experiences. The two characters that represent different aspects of the authors personality are Clarissa Dalloway herself, the novels protagonist, and her acquaintance, Septimus Warren Smith. Septimus is an insane WWI veteran. Mrs. Dalloway and Mr. Smith never meet together, though they have a lot in common. The reason is that even though the novel implies that the two characters may have met each other, as evidenced by the narration itself, they share the similar views about society, living, and morality.
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As provided by Virginia Woolf herself as the author of the novel, Septimus Smith is Clarissa Dalloways double. Clarissa and Septimus know each other through Doctor William Bradshaw. Sir William Bradshaw is a psychiatrist. In the book, he represents the upper social class of the British community. Both heroes perceive the reality similarly. The existing order of things upsets them. Mrs. Dalloway and Mr. Smith see the community in the same way as oppressive of all people such as themselves, i.e. emotional, generous, gentle, and restless. Clarissa and Septimus both experience some difficulties navigating through many aspects of their daily life. They fear of their emotions and are overwhelmed by feelings. It is is one of the main reasons why they try to hide them. Both characters had to part with the people that they considered as important to them once. Regardless of what happened in their pasts, they realize that they have the reputation to maintain.
Clarissa Dalloway is an introspective and pensive housewife. She and her husband Richard have a seventeen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. As the readers get introduced to Mrs. Dalloway at the very beginning of the novel, she is making all arrangements that are necessary to meet guests. It is about to happen later the same day. Septimus Warren Smith is a soldier and a WWI veteran, who becomes more and more alienated with each day from all other people he knows. As Ban Wang states, Mrs. Dalloway and Mr. Smith participate in the psychical tendency to escape the imposition of the social system and symbolic order (186). What both characters are trying to do is to liberate themselves, as well as find the inner balance and harmony through letting their imagination, their sensitivity, their bodily rhythms, their unconscious desires break through the dominant signifying practice (Wang 186). Assuming that the scholars premise is correct, it is possible to take it as the following proof. Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith share the similar idea of what society and the relationships among people should be. Unlike Septimus, the heroine is able to identify herself very closely with the material objects she has surrounded herself with. Speaking of such aspects, the assertion above seems the valid assumption, since the novel contains many detailed descriptions of the interior of Dalloways house in Westminster and her outfits.
The symptoms of Septimus emotional turmoil are overt. Mr. Smith is suffering from the shell shock. Apart from that, Septimus has lost his dear friend, Evans. He is still talking to him; he loved him so much and still misses much (Woolf 67). Smith keeps himself closed; and he is focused on his own senses and feelings most of the time. It leads to complete hallucinations both visual and auditory. Septimus only connection with the world outside himself is his wife, Lucrezia, a hatter of Italian descent. She tries hard to help her husband to fight with his demons that have occupied his body and soul. Despite having the serious psychological problems that Smith is facing, he is still a receptive and perceptive man. Septimus Warren Smith is a man, who acknowledges his duty to protect and take care of his wife and family. Eventually, the moment comes when nothing is left for him to hold on to. It happens when he notices that his wife has taken off her wedding ring. On a metaphoric level, Smith takes it as a sign that he is not responsible for Lucrezias welfare. It sounds cynically, Septimus uses this fact as an excuse of what he is determined to do. Thus, the madness of Mr. Smith becomes his downfall and leads to the his tragic end.
It is possible to look at this heros suicide in the novel from several perspectives. On the one hand, Septimus deed is a conclusive proof that he is suffering. It shows the pain that he feels; and it traumatizes him severely. Therefore, he cannot take it anymore. On the other hand, the characters quality of being perceptive may as well imply that he still identifies himself with material objects. Regarding this, even if Septimus Smith identifies himself with the material objects, these things may have a symbolic meaning to him.
It is a firmly held belief that in Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf plants the seeds of Septimus and Clarissa harboring the same-sex tendencies. Smith is assumed to have been linked to the friend he misses. Mrs. Dalloway, prior to her marriage, had a close friendship with free-spirited and mischievous Sally Seton. Incorporating the delicate matter such as sexual orientation into the narrative structure of the novel might have the purpose of showing the oppressiveness and strictness of patriarchal values. Such principles were ruling over the life of the British society in the early twentieth century.
Mrs. Dalloway is a narrative that abounds with the urban sceneries. Johanna Garvey maintains that there is some sort of connection between the descriptions of London and the interior of e Dalloways house, as well as the state of consciousness of the main characters (65). Septimus Smith, according to Garvey, lost himself in the time and space of the city. The scholar believes that, for Septimus, time and space have lost their official ordering (Garvey 65). Coupled with his sensibility, emotional instability, the aftermath of the post-traumatic stress disorder, and an inability to perceive time and space adequately are all of the causes of the descent into madness. It seems a rather bold assumption, but the evidence supports that Clarissa is more capable of restraining herself than Septimus is. The struggle that Mr. Smith is going through is insufferable. Apart from that, he is disillusioned by people. Mrs. Dalloway, even though she loses illusions as much as Septimus, leads an active social life. Clarissa get lost in the circle of friends and acquaintances, unlike Mr. Smith. He is totally disappointed in society and the principles it abides by, and has no strength to be as resilient as his female double.
There is no denying the fact that Clarissa sympathizes with Septimus. She pities him; and, yet, it is possible to assume that she understands why he committed suicide. Moreover, at some point, she wishes she were able to do the same. Some critics also claim that Mrs. Dalloway, when analyzing Mr. Smiths death, is being condescending (Edmondson 23). Assuming that the statement cited above is correct, the only plausible explanation to her condescending tone is as follows. Clarissa Dalloway finds support in her husband; and she realizes that her daughter needs her (Woolf 138). Septimus Smith, on the other hand, stands alone. It does not matter how hard his wife tries, she cannot get through to him. The news of Mr. Smiths death truly upsets Mrs. Dalloway. One of the probable reasons for that is that they mention death at a party that Clarissa hosts. However, Mrs. Dalloway clearly admires Mr. Smiths courage.
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Mrs. Dalloway is loosely based on Virginia Woolfs own experience. It means that the author herself in her lifetime has encountered some losses. The writer took the deaths of her mother and her elder half-sister hard. Her relatives deaths have affected the writers personal and professional life. As far as Mrs. Dalloway is concerned, the novel itself can be regarded as her attempt to assess and artistically reconsider her life choices and what she had to go through in her lifetime.
Mrs. Dalloway is the novel wherein the relationships between the characters are the focal point. Mrs. Dalloway and her husband Richard are a link that connects all other characters within the novel. The resemblance is remarkable between Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith. The two ones have very much in common in terms of their respective modes of thinking, their views, the value systems, and moral principles. The characters never meet in the book, although they obviously know each other. Mrs. Dalloway and Mr. Smith alike do not even suspect they think similarly and may be experiencing similar problems. Both characters bear some resemblance to Virginia Woolf herself. By and large, there seems to be no connection between Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith other than that the two persons are merely acquaintances. Still, they have very much in common. They complement each other in the novel quite harmoniously. Thus, understanding the resemblance between these characters is important to comprehend the novels conflict better.