Published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is a novel written by Virginia Woolf, an English novelist who is considered as being one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. This novel covers multiple themes such as solitude, insanity, love and death, themes that reveal realities that she had lived herself. Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith are two of the main characters who portray these themes throughout the book. They both suffered mental illnesses whilst living in their past. However, the way it is expressed is completely different.
Clarissa and Septimus are quite similar when it comes to their mental state. The life they lead is bothered and disturbed by flashbacks of their past. To fulfill the life she is now leading, Mrs. Dalloway constantly reminisces the joyful days of her early life. She was much happier as a young woman than she is now, which is the reason why her life is full of regrets. For instance, she utterly regrets marrying Richard for comfort when she could have married Peter for an adventurous and happy life. Septimus also relives his past. He was a veteran of the World War I. After witnessing the violent and horrendous death of his friend, Evans, on the battlefield, he became mentally ill. He suffered from a post-traumatic disease; shell shock mental illness. This completely changed his life, making it hard for him to stay in a calm state of mind. The scene of his friend’s death haunted him in his present. Both of these characters are no longer themselves. In Clarissa’s case, it is like she is wearing a mask. On the outside, she seems like a happy woman, leading a successful life. Once that mask is removed, she reveals her real personality; a lonesome, unhappy and regretful housewife who seeks a way to escape her solitude. Septimus became insane. The instability of his emotions and his suicidal thoughts made him constantly anxious. Desperately trying to escape from his dejection, he decided to kill himself.
These two characters share commonalities, but they also have many differences. While both are insane, the signs of their insanity are not expressed the same way. Mrs. Dalloway struggles with her internal life and her external world. Known for hosting elegant and luxurious parties, no one speculates her troubled mind. Thus, she is quietly and secretly dying inside. On the other hand, we can see that Septimus is clearly unwell. Ever since his trauma, he started talking to himself, having an unstable mind, and his sensitivity was highly heighted. He had gone completely mad. Also, their relationship with their so-called loved ones is very different. In Clarissa’s case, even though she got married and gave birth to a beautiful daughter, she has not been living life to its fullest. Since Richard insisted on her isolating herself in the attic, she became insane. The relationship with her husband is cold and impersonal. There is no love. It is one of the many reasons she is unhappy in her current life. In comparison, Septimus and his wife Lucrezia had a completely different relationship. They genuinely loved each other. Even while he was ill, talking to himself in public, scaring everyone around him, claiming he could hear dead people speaking, having hallucinations, his wife was always by his side to take care of him.
To conclude, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith both suffered while internally travelling back and forth to their respective past and present. As Mrs. Dalloway thought about her effervescent early life, heartbreak overwhelmed her. Choosing Richard over Peter, security over love, imprisonment over adventure, her life was henceforth filled with regret. Septimus tortured himself by reiterating the death of Evans in his feeble mind. They were both insane in their own distinct way, Clarissa suffering internally, and Septimus going mad in public. Knowing Virginia Woolf’s past, we can clearly see that Mrs. Dalloway conveys and expresses her mental state.