Category Archives: Mrs. Dalloway Character Analysis

Septimus Warren Smith

Septimus Smith is a complex character who is not easily understood. He went to war in order to defend his country, in an attempt to exert his masculine, protective traits, but he came up short. During the duration of the book, Septimus seems to be on an emotional rollercoaster. He moves around from being contentedly happy with his circumstances, then goes on to feel anxious and fearful. Septimus Smith was introduced into the novel on page 14. Woolf writes, ” Septimus Warren Smith, aged about thirty, pale-faced, beak- nosed, wearing brown shoes and a shabby overcoat, with hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension in them which makes strangers apprehensive too.” On page 15, Spetimus first says “I will kill myself” in a crowd that had gathered from the noise of the motorcar, and seemingly no one noticed, but that was the first hint that Septimus was on the aforementioned emotional rollercoaster. Smith’s wife says that she had a “right to his arm, though it was without feeling.” This elaborates upon Septimus’ lack of connection to those around him, and his emotionally distant persona. The was had changed Septimus, which is apparent on page 22. Woolf writes that Rezia, who was attemping to get Septimus’ attention, thought ot herself “And it was cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself, but Septimus had fought; he was brave; he was not Septimus now.” Through this excerpt the reader realizes that Septimus is a changed man from before the war. Rezia believes him to be brave, and a changed man from the war. Throughout the book, the reader realizes that Septimus insists on having no one have power over him. He is an independent being. Rezia realizes, early on in the book, that Septimus is happy without her. He does not rely on her for happiness, and thus is independent in that aspect. He is also independent in that he does not allow Bradshaw to use him for experimentation, he does not allow anyone to have power over him. Septimus is also unable to feel. This is elaborated upon by Rezia’s claim that his arm had no feeling. Septimus is scared by his lack of feeling, but that may be an overstatement, because he never faces it, and never gives it enough thought to truly attempt to feel again. The first time that Rezia ever understands her husband is when he commits suicide. She understands why he did it, and she had witnessed the turmoil that he lived in. Septimus also refuses to give up his soul. His last words, “I’ll give it to you,” show Holmes that Septimus is going to give his body to the doctor, but he leaps out to preserve his body, and to preserve his privacy.

Elizabeth Dalloway

When thinking about Elizabeth, I automatically think about the people who influence her.  As a seventeen year old on the verge of womanhood, Elizabeth spends a lot of time with Miss Kilman, her history teacher who has an unfounded hatred towards her mother Clarissa. On the other hand , Mrs. Dalloway is dumfounded by her daughter spending so much time with Miss Kilman.

Elizabeth seems torn between her mother and Miss Kilman, this struggle represents something much deeper to me. It seems as if Wolf intended for this to also represent Elizabeth’s own struggle to choose  between being a woman of the past like her mother or becoming a modern woman like Miss Killman hopes to see her become. I say this because Miss Kilman is the complete opposite of Mrs. Dalloway.  It seems as if Wolf has inserted Elizabeth’s storyline into the novel to illustrate the anticipated  freedom and work opportunities for women during this time. Given that Elizabeth starts to consider her different career options and her actions suggest that there is promising  future for women of the time to have the freedom to choose their own path. Kilman believes that the young ladies of Elizabeth’s generation will  attain the means to several different types of professions. While Elizabeth’s career aspirations exceeds that of her mother, she doesn’t seem very motivated and her attitude towards life is actually much like her mother’s when she was Elizabeth’s age.

Elizabeth Dalloway looks very different.  She is said to be an exotic beauty ( more specifically an oriental beauty) she looks different than her mother. Elizabeth being different in the sense of her looks coupled with the uncertainty that she possesses when it come to her future embodies what the future held for woman at the time. I feel like Wolf uses Elizabeth’s character to suggest that the future for women was  going to be positive  although it was still uncertain. Elizabeth illustrates how women will  have the choice of pursing a career,  however does this mean that they will end up like Miss Kilman alone and bitter; will they end up like Clarissa if they don’t pursue anything; or can they have both? Wolf leaves us pondering what the future will hold for Elizabeth as she makes an entrance at the end. The book details her youthful beautiful innocents slowly being corrupted by her becoming an adult. It becomes apparent that Elizabeth’s career aspirations stem from Miss Kilman and it appears that she will follow into her mother’s footsteps more and more.

We are left to only think about our struggle to be free spiritually and physically within the restraints of society. For the time period this seems like something a lot of young women struggled with. I think the ending further represents the transition of us leaving the life of a child that has yet to feel the weight of society and is still free of responsibility; entering into adulthood where we start to take on our own personal identites.We also see that while we might want to to break away from our parents and while we outwardly appear to very different, we can’t help but to follow their footsteps.

 

S.P.analysis

What I thought of Septimus Warren Smith was that he was a very gloomy individual. When I mean gloomy, I mean that he thought and said he was going to bring his own life to an end. He was a very lonesome and somewhat disturbed character throughout Virgina Woolf’s novel, Ms. Dalloway. But I did feel bad for him to a point. Smith was a thirty-aged man who had a pale face with hazel eyes, a beak nose and he wore brown shoes with a shabby overcoat. What was generally thought of going through his mind since the war was “the gradual drawing together[ness] of everything to one centre before his eyes, as if some horror had come almost to the surface and was about to burst into flames, [which] terrified him” (Woolf 15). Basically, he was stuggling from post-traumatic stress. I really felt bad for Septimus’s wife throughout the story as well. His wife of about 5 years Lucrezia, was a twenty-four old Italian woman who sometimes felt tarpped or embarrassed of Septimus’s behavior for where she always thought “people” were staring or watching. Even when Septimus says, “I will kill myself,” Lucrezia sometimes wished she could cry out or scream for help. She could no longer take how he made “everything terrible; sky and tree, children playing, dragging carts, blowing whistles, falling down; all were terrible” (Woolf 22). She felt that this was not a marriage for he would tell her to write about the war, Shakespeare, great discoveries and even about how Evans came in “singing” when she heard nothing.  He really never took notice or acknowledged anything anymore. Not even when Reiza wore her lace collar or her brand new hat she purchased. Septimus’s life was basically “happy” or stale as I would say without his wife’s presence around him. Reiza basically called him a selfish human being. But, in Septimus’s head, he thought he could hear, “the whole world clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes” (Woolf 90). It was amazing how Dr. Holmes was so intrigued by Septimus behavior that he wanted to help this poor soul. Unfortunatley, Septimus “was quite alone, condemned, [and] deserted as those who are about to die are alone” (90). When Septimus took his life, not even Dr. Holmes could figure out why he did it.

Peter Walsh analysis

Peter Walsh seems more like a free spirit, or maybe, never wants to grow up when it comes to his life.

In a way, he is a romantic. Reading through his romance, we can see that he loves with his instinct. When he feels right, he goes for it. For example, his marriage with the girl he met on the way back to India, or his love affair with the married woman. Somehow this free attitude still attracts Mrs. Dalloway. She sees the flaw of his characters, but she is still attached to this person. Peter fears aging, and he still love the idea of being young. I think when he is being judgmental towards Mrs. Dalloway’s sophistication, such as scolding her being a perfect hostess, is another way of showing that he is scared getting old(being responsible, be social in order to have that status in society). Yes, he seems happy with his philosophy of life unlike Mrs. Dalloway. Though the fact that he is not the one that Clarissa chose to marry just shows his main struggle of life: being independent and responsible.

In another way, Peter is impulsive and irresponsible. “He had never done a thing that they talked of; his whole life had been a failure. (6)” Failing Oxford, never seem to make a serious commitment, and the fact that he is very judgmental about the world all shows his immaturity. He barely follows through his passions or has a plan for his life, as Hugh Whitbread says his character is “permanent” (105). I think it is the youth from Peter Walsh that makes Mrs. Dalloway still thinks about him often. She misses the way they interact with each other and the youth/beauty of their love; she also misses the way that he is not afraid of staying young (even if it is immature). For Mrs. Dalloway, his way of living life freely assembles something young and vivid, something more like a hope that she wishes she never loses. Although we know how life wears her out when she becomes this mature and sophisticated Mrs. Dalloway.

Clarissa Dalloway Analysis

Clarissa Dalloway is the protagonist of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa is a 50 year old woman who invests such a large portion of her time and energy into being high society hostess, throwing parties, keeping in step with fashion, and the like, that she has come to be known as “Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa anymore; but as Mrs. Richard Dalloway” (Woolf 10).  Throughout the novel she struggles to find the balance between the life that she leads and the façade that she presents to society and the life that she wishes that she had.  Much of her interaction with others takes place at her shindigs and consists of convivial chatter, and as such few people, if any, know much about the true thoughts and aspirations of Clarissa Dalloway. In her younger days, Clarissa was romantically involved with Peter Walsh, another prominent character in the novel. Although she cared very much for Peter, she felt that they were very different and was not confident in her ability to keep up with him; She was afraid to rebel against social standards and follow her heart, and instead left Peter and married Richard Dalloway, a man who was both financially and socially well to do. Clarissa spends much of her time pondering about what her life could have been like if she had chosen to follow a life of freedom and adventure rather and a life of security. Clarissa is disappointed when her old friend, Sally, now Lady Rosseter, unexpectedly attends her party. When the two were younger Clarissa admired Sally quite a bit, both physically and in character. Sally possessed “a sort of abandonment, as if she could say anything, do anything” (Woolf, 32).  Flashbacks to earlier times with Sally also suggest that Clarissa may have had interest in exploring a romantic relationship with her, as suggested by Clarissa’s statement that “the whole world might have turned upside down” when she was kissed by Sally (Woolf, 32). Her disappointment at the appearance of such a former free spirit who now led a life very much like her own exemplifies Clarissa’s hidden desires to be free of her actual life and pursue a life of rebellion.

Character Analysis of Elizabeth Dalloway

Elizabeth Dalloway is not one of the biggest characters in the book, but she still has a large effect on the story. She is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Clarissa and Richard, and is one of the youngest characters in the novel. She has a dark, oriental beauty that is just beginning to blossom and draw the attention of those around her. She is different from her mother, not only in looks (dark hair, exotic, etc.), but in the way she thinks and acts as well. Whereas her mother has a strong propensity for inner thought and the self-retrospection, Elizabeth is a much more straight-forward thinker with less enthusiasm than her mother. She is said to be very calm and quiet, to the point of being dull. She seems to never really get excited about anything, and she has not really taken to the same things that young girls her age are into, such as parties.  She also seems to not really know what she wants in life. She thinks about the idea of women getting into professions (due to the influence of Ms. Kilman) , but thinks little of the prospects. She knows only vaguely what kinds of things she is interested in, and never really settles on anything that she would ever pursue seriously. She dismisses these thoughts, saying that she would be much happier if she could just live out in the farms with her father and her dog.

Elizabeth’s relationship with Ms. Kilman is her biggest role in the story. There is a sort of tension between the Dalloways and Ms. Kilman; There is a strong dislike between Clarissa and Ms. Kilman, and Elizabeth is the poker chip between them. Ms. Kilman has hatred for Clarissa that stems from her jealousy of Clarissa’s high-class upbringing. She uses her religion to manipulate those around her; Elizabeth is the pawn that Ms. Kilman hopes to use against Clarissa. Ms. Kilman also has an attraction to Elizabeth, but Elizabeth does not reciprocate the feelings. She likes Ms. Kilman for the interesting ideas and new life options that she presents,  but ultimately does not have the enthusiasm to act on any of those ideas. She is young and indecisive, and is heavily influenced by the major powers in her life: Her mother and Ms. Kilman. She has not yet reached a point where she is her own person.

Septimus Smith Analysis

Septimus Smith’s war experiences severed his ability to cope with daily life. After witnessing the horrors of the war and the death of his friend Evans, Septimus finds himself disconnected and unfeeling. His inability to come to terms with his relationship with Evans and the loss of his ability to feel eat away at him– he panics and impulsively marries an Italian girl Rezia and returns home to England – a last-ditch effort to break through to the world – but regrets not loving or ever loving her.

Septimus is unable to work. He dictates fragmented nonsensical poems to his wife, who is desperately lonely and terrified at her husband’s delusions. She turns to Dr. Holmes to diagnose and help her husband – but Holmes insists that there is nothing at all really wrong with Septimus – unable to accept shell shock as a real and debilitating condition. Septimus despises Holmes:

“‘Holmes is on us,’ he would say, and he would invent stories about Holmes; Holmes eating porridge; Holmes reading Shakespeare–making himself roar
with laughter or rage, for Dr. Holmes seemed to stand for something
horrible to him.  ‘Human nature,’ he called him.”

Like Mrs. Dallowy, Septimus doesn’t see the world as focused, daily occurrences – see things broadly, a wide, panoramic perspective. Unlike Mrs. Dalloway Septimus can’t bridge the divide between himself and the universe – he can only observe, disconnected, seeing meaning and the infinite in the mundane and trivial – “He lay very high, on the back of the world. The earth thrilled beneath him.” Septimus is broken by the war – he couldn’t reconcile its meaningless horror with life afterwards. Mundane events can’t exist – everything has to mean something. Septimus’s suicide is motivated by Holmes barging up the stairs past Rezia.  Septimus sees Rezia’s failure to stop Homes as the world caving in, as the ultimate failure to cope – suicide seemed the only escape.

Clarissa Dalloway Study-Colin

Clarissa Dalloway provides a unique example of the difficulty there is in finding happiness in the world.  In the beginning of the novel, we see Clarissa as an upper class woman who seems to be a bit shallow. Her marriage to Richard is not presented as one that is full of passion but none the less it provides the superficial comforts that people desire.  She is well taken care of and spends most of her time out shopping, taking walks, and planning parties.  She has servants who take care of the house work for her and she is privileged with the company of the upper crust of society.

As the novel goes on however, we see a more troubled Clarissa.  The superficial comfort is broken by the visit of Peter Walsh, who she was previously in love with.  The reasons given for the end of their relationship were all based on Clarissa not wanting to be forced into the depth of relationship that Peter desired.  More basically, Clarissa decided she would rather have a life of continuous superficial comfort than to deal with the real and deep emotions that caused her highs and lows with Peter. The visit shows that Clarissa is still torn by that decision 30 years later.

Later in the novel the contrast between the superficial happiness offered by Richard and the deep feelings that would have come with a relationship with Peter are presented in a different situation.  Clarissa thinks to herself during her party that she preferred the feelings of hate toward Miss Kilman to the dull pleasantry of seeing even someone as important as the prime minister.

This study speaks to the purpose of the humanities in exploring the depth of the human experiences.  I find the fight between the easiness of superficial happiness and the extreme feelings of deep relationships to be a primary struggle of every person’s life.  To truly be happy, we must inevitably accept the risk of deep sadness that Clarissa was afraid of when she chose to end her relationship with Peter.  As Clarissa finds, there is no true joy in superficial happiness, and at the end of the day she finds it better to feel passionate hate than to comfort without passion.

Elizabeth Dalloway

Dale Kim

Elizabeth Dalloway is portrayed as the beauty and youth of Woolf’s story. Elizabeth, being the daughter of Richard and Clarissa Dalloway, is one of the side characters of the story, yet being formed as the main representative of a daughter model. Elizabeth is also an enigmatic character. Even her physical presence is unique among Dalloways, whereas in general, they were fair-haired and blue-eyed, yet Elizabeth being dark, with Chinese eyes in a pale face with an Oriental mystery(). Following the unlikeness of her parents, Elizabeth, which her mother finds weird, does not care much for parties or clothes, but has more liking to her father and dogs.

Instead of Clarissa, the mother, Miss Kilman, Elizabeth’s tutor, ultimately shapes Elizabeth’s character. Kilman is a survivor of the war, from German ancestry, which to some sense justifies her bitterness, yet she is a heavily pious figure that heavily influences Elizabeth. Elizabeth spends a great deal of time with Miss Kilman, even though she knows her mother and Kilman immensely dislike each other’s company. Clarissa to a point becomes jealous of Kilman’s influence upon her daughter and claims to have Elizabeth stolen. Just to discourage Elizabeth from going to a party, Miss Kilman says ‘I never go to parties’ and goes on about how no one invites her because no one invites. Kilman was also a very educated woman and encourages Elizabeth a feministic mind that all professions such as law, medicine and politics are open to women.

Elizabeth somewhat projects an image of a conservative, upper high class girl, who would do nothing exciting but stay around her niche. Yet, surprisingly, Elizabeth visits the Strand and explores the world outside her wall. She has liking to the ill and considers being a doctor or a farmer, attracted ill people and animal. As a typical teenager, Elizabeth sets in foot of a pioneer, and tends to explore to answer her curiosity. Acknowledging that her mother would not like her to wandering like this, especially late at night, she halts her voyage and sets back home.

Interestingly, though Elizabeth is not a major character of the story, her side traits and appearance presents important models such as feminism, religion, beauty and youth.

Character Analysis – Septimus Smith

Septimus Smith is introduced as a “pale-faced, beak-nosed” man who is feeling abnormally on edge after hearing a car backfire on Oxford street. He is a World War I veteran who suffers from shell shock, and feels guilty nearly all the time (including when the car backfired). He is married to an Italian woman named Lucrezia, but she takes on more of a caretaker role than anything else. Septimus outwardly acts as one would expect a senile person to do– shouting randomly, snapping at his wife without reason, and being generally unstable (threatening to kill himself in public). He is very removed from the world around him; not being able to connect with anyone in the real world and instead living in his own mind, where he contemplates the world in a deeper sense than most of the other characters in the book. He is often overwhelmed with the beauty he sees in the world, which is first exhibited when he begins crying at the sight of an airplane writing a message into the sky.

It is also revealed that he talks to his dead friend Evans in his mind, which suggests even more that his brain has been thoroughly addled by the stress of war. He even believes Lucrezia– who makes the observation that killing oneself is cowardly, that Septimus had fought and was brave, but that her husband was no longer Septimus– is given the task of constantly pointing things out to Septimus in an attempt to connect him to the outside world, but to no avail. Despite spending the day in the park asking Septimus to look at things, he remains trapped in his own mind, viewing the world as this constant source of overwhelming beauty and viewing the people in it with apprehension and amost fear. He believes that he sees the truths of life, and is afraid that no one else has the ability to do so– making him retreat further into the tangles of his mind.