While reading Mrs. Dalloway, the one thing that found myself doing was trying to connect to Virginia Woolf herself. I found in fascinating that a writer who was able to describe simple things and mundane aspects of everyday life in such beautiful detail took her own life. Woolf suffered from bipolar disorder, and I think this novel is a testament to her suffering. Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of elevated mood alternating with a depressed state; I look at Clarissa Dalloway as the elevated mood, and Septimus as the depressed state. I think both are one in the same and both are written to represent the author herself.
Clarissa, as the “elevated mood” has an appreciation for life, and it is described in the second paragraph of page 2157, “For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so…” The sentence is written like poetry and it conveys a sense a beauty for her surroundings. Septimus is the contrast character to Clarissa. He’s not so much her exact opposite but a progression of her mood; from beautifying everything to a depressed state. He is what Clarissa’s character could become, but never does in the course of the novel.
At one point in the novel, Septimus’ “condition”, or rather lack-of condition is addressed; “Dr. Holmes might say there was nothing the matter. Far rather would she that he were dead!” (Top of page 2168). This sentence is a direct notion to mental illness. The idea that there is nothing actually wrong, and one is better off acting a certain way than being dead. What’s really interesting is that Clarissa and Septimus never actually encounter each other in the novel and that also speaks to Woolf’s internal struggle with her illness. The two sides of herself are always separate and there was never a middle ground where she could come to a sense of balance and normalcy. At the end of her party when she learns of the suicide, Clarissa reflects on Septimus’ death; “She felt somehow very like him-the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away… He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.” (bottom of 2259). I think this makes it clear that both characters are one in the same and the characters are in fact a manifestation of Woolf’s struggle with mental illness.
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.