Mrs. Dalloway | Study Guide

Virginia Woolf

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Mrs. Dalloway | Section 7 (Septimus and Rezia Talk in the Park) | Summary

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Summary

Peter is disturbed by his memories but thinks the day is still beautiful and "one got over things." He sees little Elise Mitchell run into Rezia's legs and laughs. Meanwhile Rezia is missing Milan, where her sisters still live. She feels she and Septimus are too self-pitying; everyone lost friends in the war, and many have been separated from their families. She worries about Septimus's casual mentions of suicide. Septimus then notices Rezia has taken off her wedding ring. She claims she's lost so much weight it no longer fits, and she has the ring in her purse. Septimus thinks she has already decided to end the marriage and feels relieved.

Septimus sees a dog in the park and fears the dog is turning into a man. He believes the heat of June helps him "see into the future." Observing the park, Septimus pays attention to the flowers and leaves, feeling the earth moving beneath him. He can see the music a man is playing on his penny whistle outside the public house. Despite the beauty he notices everywhere, Septimus feels something awful is about to happen. Rezia interrupts him and asks the time. Septimus sees Evans emerging from behind a tree and warning him that the war dead are rising. Septimus cries out to the man he thinks is Evans, telling him not to come. Rezia, in vain, tries to make Septimus sit down. Big Ben strikes 11:45 a.m.

Analysis

This section shows the richness of Septimus's inner life and also portrays how unhinged he has become. Septimus's ability to see music, and to project emotions onto nature, is a symptom of synesthesia—the ability to combine senses, like hearing colors or seeing sounds. With the lush, poetic writing style in this section it's possible for the reader to forget momentarily that Septimus is damaged. He sees beauty just as easily as he sees destruction. He sees death coming from behind the symbolic life force of the tree. Woolf shows that beauty and chaos, order and disorder, can exist side by side.

Septimus's deep fear of abandonment has some basis in fact. Evans did abandon him; so did other important people in his life, as the reader will learn later. His philosophical arguments for suicide, and his placement of himself among the great thinkers along with "Greeks, Romans, Shakespeare, [and] Darwin," show the logic of his delusional thinking; in a way he believes he's a prophet. He can see truths no one else can see.

Rezia's gentle treatment of the child in the park reflects her own desire for a child. She's more of an outsider than Septimus. Rezia compares herself to a helpless bird and sees the trees, which Septimus admires, as "enormous" and nature as "indifferent." Her stress is acute, but Septimus barely notices. By contrast she's consumed with worry about him. Rezia's position emphasizes both the difficult role of caregivers to veterans, and the subordinate role of wives to husbands. When she thinks constantly about her suffering, she's beginning the process of "conversion" into Septimus's mindset.

The "ode to Time" that Septimus sings shows his perception of time as malleable and, for him, focused on ever-present moments in the war. The "giant mourner" he pictures is a power larger than humans, an almost godlike deity. (This continues the divine mourning theme of Peter's dream.) Septimus believes it takes a "colossal" power to mourn the war dead. Human mourning is inadequate for what he has lost.

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