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...
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