Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629
Dr. Holmes: as revealed in the narrator’s tale of Septimus’ illness, he is recommended by Mrs. Filmer, the Smith’s cook
Sir William Bradshaw: the eminent and almost godlike doctor called in to aid Septimus
The narrative of Septimus’ illness continues. Once he “surrendered” to the influence of others, Dr. Holmes begins to visit. He advises Septimus to take up hobbies. Yet while others think the doctor a wonderful man, he becomes a dreaded enemy from Septimus’ point of view, a man whose jovial attitude hides fiendish machinations and a cunning nature.
When Rezia seems to agree with Holmes’ advice, Septimus feels betrayed and abandoned. The voices within him clamor for suicide, for he feels weak, and Septimus strains to hear what he imagines Evans is trying to say. Septimus’ fits frighten those around him. Holmes comes back, but he can do nothing for Septimus. This leads to the present, when, as Big Ben tolls the noon hour, Sir William Bradshaw’s car approaches.
After some background on Bradshaw, we see his first interview with Septimus, who is neither cooperative nor completely lucid. Septimus claims to have committed a great crime, which Rezia denies. Bradshaw holds a private conference with Rezia, and tells her that Septimus needs to be in an asylum (though he doesn’t use that word), where he can rest properly. Bradshaw promises to confirm these plans between five and six o’clock.
Before leaving, the doctor visits Septimus again, who has been brooding on how human nature has “fallen on him,” as if it were a hungry beast. Bradshaw, noting Septimus’ serious condition, is detached but not unkind. When he leaves, both husband and wife feel abandoned. Rezia feels forsaken because of her hopes that Bradshaw would cure Septimus.
The narrator explores Bradshaw’s personal creed: proportion. Through his love of proportion, he has not only maintained his sanity, but led “an exemplary life.” Despite the pitfalls of the world and the human mind, he has never stumbled. Lady Bradshaw, on the other hand, lost her sense of proportion once, fifteen years before. She lost interest in the world, and neglected herself. She departed from society, and had to be brought back. Sir William was the man for this job, as he has been for countless similar tasks of reclaiming lost souls.
This reading section serves to underline the distinctions perceived between sanity and madness. Perhaps because of her own mental torments, Woolf portrays Septimus very sympathetically. While some readers may view him as simply a lunatic, he is a man in a great deal of pain.
One way to understand both the duality of sanity and madness as well as Septimus’ circumstances is to try to see from his perspective. One might assume that since Septimus is insane there is nothing to learn from him, but this is not the case.
The war affected Septimus’ concept of reality. He now perceives certain truths, and feels his duty is to share them with the world. He has no wish to return to the life he had before. Once someone has left the world of “normal” human interaction, his paranoia and psychosis may convince him that others will try to regain the control they once had. Bradshaw’s job is to help regulate, and from Septimus’ point of view enforce, commonly held standards of normal life. This makes him Septimus’ enemy.
The narrator seems to comment on this aspect of Bradshaw, noting Proportion’s less pleasant sister is Conversion, who loves to convert, to stamp her features on the faces of the weak and helpless, like Septimus. In this way, Woolf implies that Septimus, unhappy and hallucinatory though he may be, is indeed in danger from Holmes, Bradshaw, and their ilk.
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