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.