Summary and Analysis The Suicide


Of all the novel, Virginia Woolf found it hardest to write Septimus' mad scenes. She herself had suffered long periods of insanity and it was painful to recall the visions and the sounds she hallucinated. These scenes, however, besides containing the ruins of a lyric, poetic mind, are some of the most concrete in the novel. There is a terrifying sense of what it is like to be insane, to have one's mind lucid one moment, displaced the next. Solids become liquids, lights become shadows, colors glow and fade. The change from moments of sanity to moments of insanity follow a rhythmic ebb and flow, a rhythm already noted which is much like a continuing heartbeat behind the actions of the novel. The sound and the sense of the sea is continually with Septimus — and especially in this section.

Septimus' feeling of being very far away is akin to Clarissa's feeling early this morning as she strolled through London. His "Fear no more" is her comfort. From what he has dictated to Rezia, he seems to have come to terms with death, a subject which has also been on Clarissa's mind. His "there is no death" is very similar to Clarissa's belief that bits of her self will continue after she is gone, becoming parts of trees, air, people, water. Indeed, the touch of the neurotic in Clarissa, and in the other characters, is paralleled and condensed into madness in Septimus. As Miss Kilman has just done, he cries out against human cruelty. Yet Septimus is not cruel. People who dominate are cruel — whether it is within the drama of war or of single personal relations. In Septimus' case it is both. The war destroyed him; now the doctors have come to feed on him. "Holmes is on us," he says. Miss Kilman is after Clarissa's soul, but Clarissa has prized her soul for a very long time; she married to protect it and has built social and psychological barriers around it. Septimus was broken by the violence of war and can no longer defend himself — nor can the lonely, foreign Rezia defend him. Doctor Holmes has come to invade Septimus' most private depths; like Miss Kilman, Holmes and Bradshaw are obsessed with what Clarissa and Septimus fear most: possession. The opponents of Clarissa and Septimus are all from classes lower than the best, but they have been granted admittance through perseverence, education, and employment. They do not demand equality in the new class; they demand domination. Septimus characterizes Holmes as having red nostrils and as "snuffing into every secret place."

This is very much like the descriptions of the monster, Miss Kilman, who threatens Clarissa Dalloway. Both Miss Kilman and Dr. Holmes believe that they have a right to their victims.

Septimus' last words, "I'll give it you," are ironic. Since Holmes intends to carry Septimus off, Septimus gives himself — that is, his physical body — to the doctor. But his soul he refuses to give up. He leaps out to preserve, through death, the privacy of himself. Holmes calls Septimus a coward, but his name-calling smacks of a villain's "Foiled!" Holmes cannot understand why Septimus has jumped, but for the first time Rezia understands her husband.

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