Virginia Woolf creates two evident foils between Septimus Warren Smith and Clarissa Dalloway as well as with Richard Dalloway and Peter Walsh. Foils present in a novel is effective in showing the similarities among characters as well as bring out the differences between two characters. Most of the time these contrasting characteristics are clearly defined and are present throughout the plot of the novel. The foil between Septimus and Clarissa will be discussed first, then the foil between Richard and Peter will be analyzed.
Clarissa Dalloway Vs. Septimus Warren Smith
Mrs. Dalloway, the main character of the novel and wife of Richard Dalloway, contrasts in personality traits with Septimus, the shell shocked veteran. The most obvious comparison that can be made between the two characters’ personalities are when they are at the park. As Mrs. Dalloway is walking through St. James’ Park she notices the wind, the freeness, and recalls memories of her and her former lover, Peter Walsh. However, when Septimus is walking in Reagant’s Park on a sunny day, he experiences several flashbacks which he would rather escape from. Ironically, the bright and warm day at the park does not cover up these dark feelings. Instead “He would shut his eyes, he would see no more.” (Dalloway 19)
Also another prime example of Virginia Dalloway illustrating this Foil between Septimus Warren Smith and Clarissa Dalloway are shown when the characters have different opposite reactions to the mysterious car driving down Bond Street. When Mrs. Dalloway spots the car walking back from Mullberry’s she immediately is in awe wondering who could be in it. She is excited, thinking that it may be the Queen inside. On the other hand, when Septimus sees the car, he is easily frightened as he thinks it is going to explode and burst into flames.
Overall Clarissa Dalloway is represented as a character who is full of vigor and life despite some of the setbacks she feels she has had in her life. Thinking back on her memories and contemplating on her past events does not bring her down in the way it does for Septimus. When Clarissa experiences her flashbacks she thinks deeply upon them and allows her thoughts to wander off just as the feeling the reader gets as she is walking to buy flowers. Contrary to Clarissa’s attitude toward life, Septimus lives his life existentially. He prefers not to feel, not to interact with others, and continues to suffer in his own world he seems to be living in.
A commonality between the two characters, Clarissa and Septimus, are that they view the fear of dying in similar ways. At the end of the novel, Clarissa and everyone at her party is told the news that Septimus has killed himself…Only to make Clarissa realize that maybe that was best and then quotes a phrase from Shakespeare, “If it were now to die, ’twere now to be most happy.” Her thought as well as what Septimus did (commit suicide) shows that maybe both of them are where they want to be in life; they are ultimately where they belong.Septimus is walking in Regent’s Park when he encounters some flashbacks that he would rather avoid. “He would shut his eyes; he would see no more” (Dalloway 19.) The sunny day at the park does not cover Septimus’ threatened feelings from the war.Septimus is walking in Regent’s Park when he encounters some flashbacks that he would rather avoid. “He would shut his eyes; he would see no more” (Dalloway 19.) The sunny day at the park does not cover Septimus’ threatened feelings from the war.Septimus is walking in Regent’s Park when he encounters some flashbacks that he would rather avoid. “He would shut his eyes; he would see no more” (Dalloway 19.) The sunny day at the park does not cover Septimus’ threatened feelings from the war.
Richard Dalloway Vs. Peter Walsh
Richard Dalloway, a high class married man, differs from Peter Walsh, an indecisive unmarried man. Richard is represented as the stereotypical white male in England with a wife, children, and a home with a stable job. He also has the dominant role in the marriage with Clarissa where it is evident that he makes the final decisions in the relationship. For example even though Clarissa had no intention of inviting Ellie Henderson to her party, “she would do it of course, as he wished it.” (Dalloway 117)
Peter however, has not held a consistent job and does not have a permanent home with a family the way Richard does. He is represented through social commentary as the unsuccessful man where he does not earn Clarissa’s acceptance in his proposal and is constantly looking for women to be with. The foil presented in the novel, Mrs. Dalloway, shows the stereotypical prosperous married man, Richard Dalloway, in contrast to the unsuccessful indecisive man, Peter Walsh.