Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
Watching the interplay of light and shadow, Septimus is not afraid. His smiling disturbs Rezia, who wonders, feeling that it has nothing to do with their marriage.
The narrator describes Septimus’ reactions to different events, and how he shows strong emotions suddenly. In a world filled with hidden taunts, all things mean something else, and noble ideas mean nothing.
He comes back, slowly, to the present moment. Rezia is making a hat for Mrs. Peters. He speaks lucidly, and Rezia is grateful. He makes a joke and she is overjoyed. They work on the hat together. Rezia is called away momentarily. For a long moment, Septimus is happy. When it passes, he feels abandoned again. His thoughts are thrown into turmoil, and Evans visits the room.
Rezia returns, but Septimus is lost again. She does not notice; she is busy enjoying the moment that has just past. She feels that life has returned to normal.
Septimus feels that Bradshaw had no right to give orders. He steps into their lives and decrees what “must” be. Rezia brings Septimus his writings. She will keep them safe. Husband and wife share a moment of true connection.
There are voices below, and Dr. Holmes is coming up. Rezia stands in the doorway to block the doctor. She is protecting Septimus as would a mother hen. Meanwhile, Septimus hops around in his anxiety. Loathe to submit to Holmes and the human nature he represents, Septimus considers different methods
of suicide. He sees the breadknife and the gas, but these will not do. Ironically, Septimus does not, at that moment, wish to commit suicide. But it seems to be the only escape. To avoid Dr. Holmes, he kills himself by jumping onto the iron palings around the building.
Dr. Holmes sees it, as does Rezia a moment after. Everyone is upset, and they move clumsily in their distress. Big Ben tolls six o’clock. People think to distract themselves, or they retreat into their memories. Mrs. Filmer appreciates the doctor’s ability to take charge of the situation. He says Rezia must sleep.
This and the previous section draw the day to its conclusion. What we have seen of Septimus has not given us much hope for his health and happiness. He is tragic in the same way that characters in Ancient Greek plays are tragic: he cannot overcome his hardships. Yet, ironically, Septimus is clearly improving before he dies. He re-enters the world on his own, and he feels in control of himself. Also, he does not wish to kill himself, but he feels trapped by the wills of the doctors, which represent the human nature he detests. We may feel that if he had had more time, he might have found his way to peace. Ambiguity is a major strength of the novel. Woolf does not give the reader easy answers, about Septimus or any of the other characters. Was Clarissa right to reject Peter and marry Richard? Is Septimus entirely crazy, or is it merely that his conception of reality differs from that of others? These are problematic matters of interpretation and discussion.
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