Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway Summary and Analysis of Part II, Sections 1-2

Part II, Section One Summary (p. 64-94 "It was awful, he cried...Dr. Holmes, looking not quite so kind."):

Peter felt awful; the sun was so hot. Still, when the nurse's little girl ran into a woman's leg, Peter laughed aloud. The leg belonged to Lucrezia Warren Smith, who had left Septimus to talk to himself and was wondering why she should suffer. Why was she no longer in Milan, she asked herself and began to cry. Rezia realized that it was time to take Septimus to see Sir William Bradshaw, who might be able to help him. Septimus would probably be talking to himself, or to his friend Evans, who had died in the War. A friend dying was not rare, however, and Rezia did not understand why Septimus became stranger and stranger. There were times when the couple was happy but then Septimus would mention killing himself, because, he explained, people were wicked. Dr. Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him. Holmes said that one was responsible for one's own health.

Rezia reached out to Septimus but her husband backed away, pointing at her hand. She explained that her finger had grown too thin for her wedding band, but he knew that the ring's absence meant that their marriage was over. Septimus felt relieved, until he thought he saw a dog that was changing into a man. His nerves were stretched thin and he began talking to himself again. Opening his eyes, however, he realized that beauty was everywhere. Rezia told him that it was time to go. The word "time" set off a bundle of emotions, climaxing with Evans' voice telling Septimus that the dead were coming from Thessaly, where Evans had been killed. He saw Evans approaching. Rezia told Septimus that she was unhappy.

Peter Walsh saw the unhappy couple and attributed the awful scene between them to being young. London had never been so enchanting. Peter had always been able to change his mood rapidly. In the five years between 1918-1923, London had changed. Respectable newspapers could write about bathrooms. Single women could put on make-up in public. He thought of Sally Seton, and how she had unexpectedly married a rich man and lived in a big house. Still, of all of Clarissa's old friends, he had always liked Sally best. She could see through the artificiality of the Whitbreads and Dalloways. The two had bonded over this dislike for artifice, and the fact that Clarissa's father liked neither one of them. And, now Peter would have to ask Hugh Whitbread or Dalloway for a job. Richard was not really so bad, Peter thought. Clarissa had probably fallen in love with him because of his ability to take charge. She thought Richard independent for not liking Shakespeare's sonnets.

Clarissa would have never married Hugh, Peter knew. She knew what she wanted. When she walked into a room, one remembered her. Peter struggled to remind himself that he was no longer in love with her. Even Clarissa would admit that she cared too much for societal rank. She cared about the dukes and duchesses. Peter knew that she threw parties because she felt that Richard should have them. Her opinions, from marriage, had become subdued by Richard. Still, she was one of the largest skeptics Peter knew. She went through a phase of reading Huxley after seeing her sister, Sylvia, killed in an accident. It was Clarissa's nature, however, to enjoy, and she did. She needed people to bring out her sense of humor. She surely adored Elizabeth, who would think her and her friends, like Peter, boring and tiresome. Peter's passions remained strong but, being older, he could analyze them more objectively. He no longer really needed people anymore. Perhaps he truly was in love with Daisy even though he scarcely had thought of her recently. Because Daisy loved him in return, he could relax. Jealousy had caused his rush of emotions at Clarissa's that morning. After all, his coming to London was not so he could marry Daisy, but to finalize her divorce. Clarissa had affected him because she might have spared him from these travails.

A woman's incomprehensible song rose from the subway station that Peter had reached. The song seemed like an ancient song of love. Peter gave the woman a coin. Rezia Smith also saw the old woman and pitied her. For some reason, seeing the woman made Rezia feel that everything was going to be okay. Sir William Bradshaw, she thought, would help Septimus. Looking at Septimus, one likely thought he was a well-educated clerk. Septimus had left home for London at a young age, leaving a note behind him. In London, he had fallen in love with Miss Isabel Pole, a woman who fueled the poet in him by lending him books and speaking of Shakespeare. Mr. Brewer was Septimus' manager at the office of Sibleys and Arrowsmiths. He knew that Septimus would be very successful if he maintained his health. He advised Septimus to play sports to strengthen himself.

Septimus was one of the first volunteers for the army in World War I. He went to protect Shakespeare and Isabel. Septimus gained strength and was promoted. He became friends with his officer, Evans, who died just before the war ended. Septimus was glad that he felt no grief over the death, until he realized that he had lost the ability to feel. In a panic, he married a young Italian girl, Lucrezia. Lucrezia adored his studiousness. The couple moved to London and Septimus returned to his post. He wondered if life lacked meaning. He read Shakespeare again and understood now that Shakespeare had despised love between man and woman. After five years of marriage, Lucrezia wanted to have a baby. Septimus, however, could not fathom bringing a child into the world. Rezia became increasingly unhappy. Septimus unhappily felt nothing when she wept. He wondered if he would go mad and, progressively, he did surrender to madness.

Dr. Holmes could not help. Septimus knew nothing was physically wrong with him, but he figured, his crimes were still great. He felt nothing; he had married without love. The third time Holmes came to see him, Septimus refused him. Holmes pushed in anyway. Even though Septimus had talked of suicide, Holmes told him to shake off his depression. Septimus felt that Holmes, representative of human nature, was after him. He hated Holmes. Rezia could not understand this dislike. Without Rezia's support, Septimus felt deserted. He heard the world telling him to kill himself. One moment, he saw Evans, and cried out to him. Rezia entered his room, panicked, and called for Holmes. Upon seeing Holmes, Septimus screamed in horror. The doctor, annoyed, advised that they see Dr. Bradshaw.

Part II Section One Analysis:

The archetype of the feminine maternal is represented by the woman seen by the solitary traveler and now, the vagrant woman singing in the subway. She sings of eternal love. The figure serves as a vehicle to transition the reader from Peter to Rezia Smith, two characters lacking companionship. The theme of eternal love is examined within the theories held by the love interests of Peter and Rezia: Clarissa and Septimus, respectively. Clarissa espoused a theory in earlier chapters when she reflected on the idea that a piece of her remained in every place she has been. As Manly Johnson, critic, notes, "...[Clarissa's] theory [is] about the affinities between people and how one must seek out those who complete one: the Œunseen part of us' might survive, Œbe recovered somehow attached to this person or that.'"

Septimus' theory of the beauty in the world does not differ greatly, and it is through their similar approaches to the world about them that one begins to see the real similarities between Septimus and Clarissa. He too notices the ever-present beauty of the moment. In fact, Septimus can be said to fill the void of feelings that Clarissa lacks. Septimus first applauds himself for not feeling sadness when his friend, Evans, is killed and then punishes himself for not feeling it afterward. However, as critic, Isabel Gamble, asserts, "The real truth is, of course, that Septimus has felt too deeply, has been shaken and numbed by shell shock and the war, specifically by the death of his friend, Evans; his feelings have flowed through channels deeper than any so far sounded by Clarissa. But he has never gone by the first paralyzing numbness to see, consciously, the reality of his emotion." Septimus believes that his initial emotionless reaction to Evans' death is real and progressively bases his construction of reality on this miscalculation. Instead of facing his grief, he represses it until the remainder of his reality is shattered. He pictures dogs turning into men (an inversion of the image he created to represent himself and Evans, as dogs, playing in front of a fire) because the truth has become demented in his mind to the point of delusion. One must applaud Woolf's coupling of the sane and insane as an advanced social commentary. She illustrates the humanity lacking in a sane person and the depth of feeling possessed by an insane character, reversing the stereotypes that plagued them both.

Septimus represents a Œlost generation' of men following the end of World War I. As the pomp and circumstance of British upper class society continues, a group of men return from war unutterably changed but without a resource to ease their frustration. The politics of a Britain still trying to dominate world politics cannot peacefully absorb a collection of men so altered from the British civilization that had sent them to the war. The reflection of war, its effect on postwar society, and the British infatuation with the memory of it are inseparable from the main plot of the novel, though many readers try to diminish the postwar circumstances within the book. However, as Lee R. Edwards, critic, mentions, nothing necessitated Woolf's inclusion of characters' comments on the War, characters involved with the military such as Lady Bruton and Miss Parry, Peter's thoughts concerning Empire and the marching boys, or Septimus' mental anguish. The novel takes place five years after the war but exists within its shadow. Simple contemplation transforms into social commentary when one realizes the import of the many references to the post-war environment. For instance, Peter's simple musing of the marching boys has a malicious subtext because of the mechanical manner in which the boys are described. Young and eager, the boys lose their individuality as we watch. As Edwards describes, "...[They are] human beings who have shifted their allegiance to some set of monumental abstractions."

Septimus, we learn, shifted his allegiance from Shakespeare and Isabel Pole to the British cause. However, his goal in signing up for the army was to protect those very things. He is persuaded to join the army by his boss because he lacked the manliness that only athletics or war could provide. Yet, turning into a man allows Septimus to keep neither Shakespeare nor Isabel Pole. He loses the ability to appreciate either. He is stripped of his passions. His mentality is replaced by a hardened vision that teaches one not to love and not to care. He tries so hard not to feel that the guilt he does feel incapacitates him. As Edwards deftly theorizes, "Surviving, unfortunately, killed him; for Septimus was finally unable to turn himself into a statue by a simple exercise of will...He feels anguish because of the discrepancy between his feeling that the natural world is beautiful, the human world corrupt, and guilt because, despite the discrepancy, the feeling for goodness and the beauty of life persist."

Part II, Section Two Summary (p.94-117 "It was precisely twelve o'clock...Lunch parties waste the entire afternoon, he thought, approaching his door."):

At noon, Clarissa finished her sewing and the Warren Smiths neared Sir William Bradshaw. Rezia guessed his home because of the prestigious gray motorcar out front. Bradshaw would often have to travel long distances to see rich country patients, while his wife would do worthy work back in London, attending bazaars or taking photographs. Bradshaw earned his prestige through hard work. As Septimus walked in, Bradshaw knew immediately that Septimus had suffered a mental breakdown. He also recognized the great mistakes Dr. Holmes had made. In the short conversation Bradshaw had with Septimus, he learned that Septimus placed great importance on symbols. A letter from Mr. Brewer had been sent to Bradshaw about Septimus, detailing his financial security and advanced career post.

It did not detail the crimes to humanity that Septimus pictured he had committed. Bradshaw took Mrs. Smith to a room nearby and asked if Septimus had spoken of killing himself. Embarrassed, she replied that he had. Bradshaw reassured her that Septimus needed a long rest in a country house to regain a sense of proportion. Rezia doubted that Septimus would agree but Bradshaw responded that it was a case of the law. When they returned to Septimus, Rezia burst out that he was ill and needed to go to a home. Septimus asked if it was a home of Dr. Holmes. Though slightly annoyed, Bradshaw assured him that it was a home of his. Septimus equated Bradshaw with Holmes and with the evil of human nature. Septimus wondered if he confessed his crimes, would they let him go. But, he could not remember his crimes. As the couple left, Bradshaw told Rezia he would take care of everything.

Rezia felt angry and deserted. Bradshaw had given them his three-quarters of an hour and he had prescribed proportion to straighten out Septimus' delusions as he would for all cases of the sort. He would make all of London's unfit share his proper sense of proportion. Yet, as the narrator explains, there is another side to proportion, termed conversion. A gray line exists between the two terms. One had to wonder if Bradshaw did not like to impose his will on others weaker than he. Bradshaw showed his patients that he was in control, and they, often, broke down in his presence. He then remade them in his likeness.

The Smiths traveled up Harley Street around the same time that Hugh Whitbread passed a nearby clock. The narrator jumps to Hugh. Hugh was the type to delve into matters superficially. Still, he had been an honorable member of high society for years. He may not have participated in any great movements but he had made an impact on many small, important reforms. He was always impeccably dressed and maintained the best manners. On this day, as with every visit to Lady Bruton, he brought carnations for the luncheon. Lady Bruton preferred Richard Dalloway to Hugh. She had invited both to lunch to ask for their services. However, she thought it best to wait until they had eaten to approach the subject.

The luncheon was elaborate. Richard had a great respect for Lady Bruton, as she was the great (or great-great) granddaughter of a General. As they neared the serving of coffee, Lady Bruton abruptly asked about Clarissa. Clarissa doubted that the Lady liked her, and it may have been true. Lady Bruton cared more for politics than people and thought women caused their husbands to reject military posts. Suddenly, Lady Bruton mentioned that Peter Walsh was back in town. She was interested in seeing Richard's response. Richard thought that, when he returned home, he would tell Clarissa he loved her.

Lady Bruton wished everyone were "broad and simple." She had become very involved with the idea of emigration to Canada, especially for young people. She figured that if Richard advised her and Hugh wrote to the Times for her, as he could do very well, then her plans would be activated. She waited until they were smoking and then asked Millie to bring the papers. When Hugh finished writing, Lady Bruton was so pleased with the letter that she flung her arms around Hugh and graciously thanked them both. As Richard stood to leave, he asked whether he would see Lady Bruton at Clarissa's party. Possibly, she retorted. Lady Bruton did not like parties. After her guests had left, she retired to her room, feeling proud and powerful.

Richard and Hugh stood at a street corner, hoping to part but frozen in place. Finally, they decided to enter a shop. Richard had not cared about Canada and he did not care about the necklaces Hugh saw in the shop. He then remembered Clarissa and Peter and thought of buying Clarissa a gift. Soon, however, he was so disgusted by Hugh's pomposity that he wished to leave. He did want to buy Clarissa something, though. He bought Clarissa roses and rushed home to tell her that he loved her. He had not said it in years. Truly, he thought, it was a miracle that he had married her. Clarissa had said to him that she was right refusing Peter. She wanted support from him. He rushed through parks and past homeless women. He rushed by Buckingham Palace, full of prestige and tradition. Richard felt very happy, rushing home to profess his love.

Part II Section Two Analysis:

The more the reader has learned about Septimus, the more he can see that Septimus is slipping from sanity. He feels so extremely guilty, confused, and powerless that he has lost the power to control his emotions. Woolf brings to the fore the ineptitude of the day's psychiatric help with the characterizations of Holmes and Bradshaw. These characterizations allow her to air her grievances, to some extent, against the evils of the doctors whom she has visited throughout her episodes of mental instability. Bradshaw is capable of noticing the mistakes made by Holmes in not realizing the severity of Septimus's problems, but he too takes a forceful and dominating approach to Septimus.

Woolf imposes an interesting section onto the narrative in which the author appears to speak out. Though Bradshaw has agreed to help and tells Rezia that he will make all the necessary plans, Rezia feels deserted and betrayed. Why? Woolf responds to this question in her discussion of proportion versus conversion. In Bradshaw's attempt to make his patients adhere to his sense of proper proportion, he converts them into new, unoriginal form mirroring the doctor himself. In effect, he takes the life out of them, the agency out of their being. Woolf felt that many of the doctors with whom she came into contact were more trying to convert her than heal her. As Johnson notes, "In his compulsion to put people away, Woolf casts Sir William as an agent of death. For insanity, as she describes it, is isolation from people, from things, from all the stuff of life ­ death, in short." It is not a coincidence that the other doctor's name is Holmes and that Bradshaw wishes to send Septimus to a home. As Septimus asks when told the plan, " One of Holmes' homes?" After this realization, Septimus equates Bradshaw to Holmes. Symbolically, they both are figures of evil that stifle the life out of an ailing human being. Bradshaw's country home represents the isolation and the conversion, as well as the psychiatric insensitivity, forced on the mentally ill of Woolf's time.

Similarly, the sterile, stolid character of Lady Bruton is developed during this section of the novel. She too has little interest in the personalities behind the people with whom she comes into contact. She is not viewed as malicious by the author or the other characters. Yet, Clarissa senses that Bruton dislikes her, a feeling that is substantiated in the mind of Lady Bruton during the luncheon she holds with Richard and Hugh. She excludes Clarissa from the meal, not because she is mean, but because Clarissa's presence would not have served Lady Bruton's desired purpose. The Lady sought advice, suggestions, and help. She wanted Richard's opinions and Hugh's letter-writing ability. Thus, in a parallel manner to the doctors, Lady Bruton uses her guests as tools to manipulate a conversion. She feels that wives, like Clarissa, distract men from their proper duties in government and public affairs. Like Holmes, her name is also symbolic because it refers to the brute force of title, acquisition, and status quo. In short, Lady Bruton represents England as empire, society as means, and men as dominators. Peter, sensitive to passion and emotion, senses the changes in London much more acutely than Lady Bruton ever will. Richard, though swayed by Lady Bruton's family history, sees beyond the objective world into the happiness of his marriage. Ironically, however, he is not motivated to buy flowers for his wife until he is faced with jealousy, caused by the return of Peter Walsh.