“Fear no more the heat ’o the sun / Nor the furious winter’s rages” is a quote from Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. The words are repeated or alluded to many times throughout Mrs. Dalloway, by both Clarissa and Septimus. What do the words mean, and why do Clarissa and Septimus repeat them?
Clarissa Dalloway first reads the words from
The lines from
Woolf created Septimus Warren Smith as a double for Clarissa. In what ways are Clarissa and Septimus different? In what ways are they the same?
Woolf originally planned to have Clarissa
die at the end of
Clarissa and Septimus differ, but they also share many physical and emotional qualities. Each has a beak-nose, enjoys being at home in the domestic sphere, and quotes Shakespeare. Both have doting spouses. The first time we encounter Septimus, he is observing the car that backfires, just as Clarissa is. Their similarities also go beyond these surface details. Both have an instinctive horror of those who crave power, such as Sir William and Miss Kilman. Both Clarissa and Septimus believe that people are connected to trees in a spiritual way, and nature matters a great deal to both of them. At the end of the novel, in a very direct link, Clarissa “felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself.” She realizes that Septimus's death is, like her party, an attempt to communicate. This moment is an epiphany, or moment of being, when Clarissa realizes that Septimus is in some way a part of herself.
Conversion is seen as a constant threat in the novel. Which characters wish to convert others, and what are they trying to convert others to? Are some characters more susceptible to conversion than others?
The two characters who try most actively to convert others in the novel are the psychiatrist, Sir William Bradshaw, and Elizabeth’s history teacher, Doris Kilman. Sir William ostensibly attempts to convert people to his conception of health and science, while Miss Kilman introduces people to her views on religion and God. Both characters, however, seek dominion over others and use the concept of conversion only to gain power. Miss Kilman admits to herself that it is Clarissa’s soul she wishes to “subdue” and “make feel her mastery.” Miss Kilman seeks power in the name of Christianity, just as Sir William exiles people to mental institutions in the name of science.
The very sight of Sir William makes Clarissa uncomfortable, and she is highly sensitive to his desire to convert people to his worldview. Her awareness and vulnerability to Sir William’s and Miss Kilman’s greed for power comes from her ability to think deeply and empathize with others’ emotions and motivations. Septimus also has this acute awareness about the world around him, and he is even more susceptible to conversion than Clarissa, due to his low social status. English society is another force that tries to convert people, but it also, to some extent, protects the upper class from the control of someone like Sir William. While Lady Bradshaw succumbs to social—and marital—pressure, Lady Bruton, in contrast, is safe from Sir William’s clutches due to her close association with the empire. She may have lost her sense of “proportion” with her Canada obsession, but other members of her class will indulge and protect her. Characters who are more individual, like Clarissa and Septimus, are more at risk than those who view themselves purely as part of English society.