Category Archives: Septimus Smith

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.


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.

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.

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.

Septimus Smith

         Septimus Warren Smith is a veteran of World War I. He is pale, has a hawk-like posture and wears a shabby overcoat. Before the war, he was a young, idealistic aspiring poet. Now, he suffers from shell shock and is basically a lost soul in his own mind. On the inside, he feels full of guilt because he despises himself for being made numb by the war and not being able to feel. He basically lives in an internal world of hearing, and seeing things that aren’t there and talking to his supposed dead friend Evans. His wife, an Italian woman named Lucrezia was ordered by his doctor to make him notice and see things outside himself but Septimus has removed himself from the physical world. He is very overcome by the beauty of the world, however he fears that the people in it have no capacity for honesty or kindness. Septimus is the one who basically speaks the insane truth. His detachment enabled him to judge other people in the world and based on his judgment, he sees the world to be threatening in a way. He thinks that the world offers little to no hope. On the outside, Septimus was somewhat different from Clarissa but both shared some characteristics alike. Both had beak noses, loved to read Shakespeare and really feared oppression. More importantly, he offers a contrast between the conscious struggle of the working class veteran and the blind opulence of the upper class. The troubles of the legitimacy of the English society he fought to preserve during the war were called into question. His thoughts often ran parallel between what is considered sanity and insanity, which gets thinner and thinner. At the end, Septimus chooses to escape his problems and difficulties by killing himself. His suicide was a dramatic and tragic gesture that ultimately helps Clarissa to accept her own choices, as well as the society in which she lives.