Mrs. Dalloway is a novel which surrounds the events of the preparation of Clarissa Dalloway - wife of a politician, Richard Dalloway – for a party she is hosting at her house that evening. As we follow her on her first errand of purchasing flowers, we come to realize that Clarissa Dalloway does not feel as though she is an independent entity, but simply viewed as Mrs. Richard Dalloway. It is understandable that when one is in a marriage in which the other partner is more socially significant or has some importance within one’s community, that one would feel overpowered by the other’s significance. It is obvious that over the years of being the spouse to such an influential figure in society, that she would feel personally insignificant. After a while, it would seem as though her husband’s identity and prominence overpowers her own and we see in the novel that she feels as if she has lost her identity. We hear of this many times, especially in middle aged individuals that they wish to find themselves. While many are unsure what it means to find one’s self or how one would lose one’s self, I can see how Mrs. Dalloway, after being the supporting actress in her own life could lose her sense of self.
Another thing which interests me in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, is the character of Septimus Smith, whom is suffering from what was known then as “shell-shock” from seeing the horrors of World War I. Today, we know this disorder as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. We first meet Septimus during Clarissa Dalloway’s trip to downtown London to buy flowers. A car in the busy streets of the city of London backfires, and startles Septimus, causing him to have a flashback or episode from his post traumatic stress disorder or “shell shock”. He believes he is responsible for the commotion and begins to act strangely. His wife, Lucrezia or Rezia, guides him to the park where he can settle down. She is seriously concerned about her husband’s condition; feeling that it is a strain on their marriage. She is also concerned due to his recent threats to commit suicide. From what we know now about post traumatic stress disorder, it seems that Septimus is suffering from such a disorder. It is interesting to me that Virginia Woolf describes the thoughts and fears Septimus suffers through so accurately. I can’t help but wonder if in fact, she wrote Septimus’s character with her own experiences as a model. After reading “A Sketch of the Past”, it is easy to see how Woolf herself could have possibly suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. If she in fact suffered from this illness, it could be possible that she simply shifted the cause of the post traumatic stress disorder to fit Septimus’s character, but in fact, the depression and the flashbacks as well as other symptoms were something that she experienced herself. How else could she have written such an accurate portrayal of someone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder?