Beauty is Everywhere

In Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway, I found Septimus Warren Smith to be one of the most intriguing characters, and was drawn to the passage where he addresses beauty in the world (2194 – second paragraph). I found this passage to be both lovely and yet very sad, especially after reading the novel in its whole and knowing Septimus’ fate. As Septimus sits in Regent Park, he takes in his surroundings, and is filled with “exquisite joy” (2194) as he observes a “leaf quivering in [a] rush of air” (2194), or swallows flying through the sky. All that is beautiful and true is “made out of ordinary things” (2194), these simple pleasures of the sights and sounds of Regent Park that – albeit ordinary – become something extraordinary for Septimus. This notion of a collection of ordinary things becoming something extraordinary is prevalent throughout Mrs. Dalloway, as the whole novel takes place during one apparently average day with that is far from ordinary.

While reading this passage I almost felt like I was reading poetry, Woolf makes use of alliteration when Septimus looks up to the sky to see the “swallows, swooping, [and] swerving” (2194), and on numerous occasions personifies the non-human objects that Septimus observes. Leaves “quiver” (2194) and the sun shines “in mockery” and “in pure good temper” (2194). The swallows, which “fling themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them” (2194) foreshadow Septimus’ suicide. While deciding how to kill himself, Septimus does not choose “the bread knife”, “the gas fire”, or the “razors” (2238), but instead chooses to end his life by jumping out of a window. He “flung himself vigorously” (2239) similarly to how the birds fling themselves through the sky, but unlike the birds, Septimus does not fly up again.

Septimus does not want to die, why then did the man who believed that “beauty was everywhere” (2194) kill himself? Is his suicide in fact an attempt to preserve what is true and beautiful? The tone of the passage is rather optimistic, but there is an underlying sadness, because although Septimus can see the beauty around him, he cannot fully be apart of it.

Interesting that despite the importance of his character, Septimus' name appears considerably less times than Clarissa's, Peter's, and even Sally's. Also I just really wanted to use Voyant.
Interesting that despite the importance of his character, Septimus’ name appears considerably less times than Clarissa’s, Peter’s, and even Sally’s. Also I just really wanted to use Voyant.

 

Woolf, Virginia. “Mrs. Dalloway”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. F. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2012. 2155-2264. Print.

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5 Responses to Beauty is Everywhere

  1. daynaaasen7 says:

    Reilly! The part about your post that really grabbed me the most (and also intrigued me when you brought it up in class) is that “the whole novel takes place during one apparently average day with that is far from ordinary”. I really like that concept. When you talked about Septimus taking in all of the beauty of life that is really just “made out of ordinary things”, it made me wonder what really is “ordinary”? We read this story filled with intricate webs of consciousness, flowing in and out of focus, and every single person is perceiving the world around them differently. How can we just label something as ordinary? We all see the world through our own eyes. We can only really experience what it’s like to live in our own stream of consciousness, and to us, that is ordinary. But as soon as we read a story like Woolf’s, we go from an ordinary day in our ordinary minds to seeing the same “ordinary” world through the eyes of someone like Septimus. I think that is such an interesting concept to try and wrap my mind around!

  2. stephaniestahl says:

    Speaking of “beauty”, this is a beautiful post! I love how you have written it, and the ideas are very insightful. I couldn’t agree more with the idea of ordinary becoming extraordinary, and I could see this throughout the entire text. There are so many instances where simple events are described in such an eloquent manner, I can’t help but read those parts as poetry. It is unlike any text I have read before; it is filled with detail, but it is not tiring, as many texts are. However, I will have to think more about why Septimus commits suicide, because I’m really not sure…

  3. jddieu says:

    Hey Reilly,

    I enjoyed this portion of Mrs Dalloway that you have chosen to analyze, and also the
    notion of beauty that resonates throughout the work whether in form or content.
    In particular, I found it interesting and insightful the metaphorical correlation you’ve observed between Septimus and the swallows. To answer your query about the Septimus’ motive for suicide, I feel it has to do with a certain passage you’ve also mentioned in class, the idea that “beauty is behind a pane of glass”. Septimus acknowledge the fact that beauty is everywhere, however, is inability to reach out and touch it added to his grief. I believe that symbolically, Septimus’ pushing away the pane of window and leaping out was his last and most desperate attempt at experiencing this beauty that had always eluded him. In that sense, even his death is a thing of beauty.

    20.03.13
    John Dieu

  4. dagny says:

    This was an excellent blog post! I found Septimus to be the most effective character of this novel, and you’ve taken a fascinating perspective on beauty and why Septimus ended his own life. I think that Septimus’ experiences with the war have no doubt influenced his views of beauty. So it’s a very interesting concept that Septimus was perhaps killed by beauty or by the loss of it. I wonder if he had such an eye for beauty before Evans died?
    Your idea that Septimus “cannot fully be a part of” beauty and the world is intriguing.

  5. mkennedy says:

    Septimus was my favourite character. His struggles represented an extreme form of what most people go through from time to time. The most interesting part of your post for me was the statement that “although Septimus can see the beauty around him, he cannot fully be apart of it.” This is an incredibly astute observation that I had not even thought of. He seems so enraptured by the beauty around him, that it is hard to see how he can be unhappy. But it is the beauty around him that isolates him, because he does not see himself as a part of it. He is separate from what he sees as valuable the “ordinary things.” I think the comparison between Septimus and the swallows is compelling, because he kills himself in the most simple and ‘natural’ way. Without the man made aids such as the bread knife, gas fire or razors.

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