Mrs. Dalloway

More Alike Than Not: Septimus Smith and Clarissa Dalloway

Eric Auerbach writes in Mimesis that one of the characteristics of the realistic novel of the era between the two world wars is the multi-personal representations of consciousness. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, first published in 1925, the novel delves into the consciousness of many characters. However, one character stands out more than any other: Septimus Smith, a WWI veteran who suffers constantly from the terrible repercussions of trench warfare. The extensive period of time Woolf dwells in his mind is both interesting and puzzling. Why does Woolf choose a secondary character who is insane – what does she hope to accomplish by this decision? Septimus has often been described as Mrs. Dalloway’s double, and on the surface, the comparison could not be stranger. For one, Septimus comes from a poor working background whereas Mrs. Dalloway is the wife of a rich upper-middle class politician. Not only is there a clear social divide, but a psychological one as well. Septimus is insane, whereas Mrs. Dalloway is not. Septimus’ madness seems to serve as a driving edge that crystallizes the distinction between the two characters. However, if we look closer, it becomes clear that the two characters are more similar than different...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 883 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6904 literature essays, 1867 sample college application essays, 279 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in