One critic, calling Septum “Virginia Wolfs brain-damaged casualty” (Restricts 46), tries to utilize a Logician reading, but ultimately applies the theory to the character of his “mirror,” Claries Daylong.
Septum Warren Smith’s tragic death, however, can be attributed to his failure to obtain Lagan’s version Of the Real. Septum, whose own unconscious can be found in parts of the novel, has deluded himself into thinking that he can grasp the Real and know the contents of his unconscious.When he recognizes that he cannot master the Symbolic and obtain the Real, he commits suicide by flinging himself out of the window onto the railings, what could be symbolized as the Real. Symbols of the unconscious exist in major elements of the novel. Similar to Lagan’s statement in his seminar on Pope’s “The Purloined Letter” that the deter itself is a symbol of the unconscious, it can be discerned that in Mrs.. Daylong, the sky-writing airplane and the letters it attempts to form perform a similar function (Lagan, 39).
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
This particular scene, in which it seems that all of London is staring up into the sky at an airplane, letters appear in the sky for a moment, then dissipate before anyone can see what they actually say. The fact that the meaning of the letters is unattainable can represent how one cannot obtain the contents of the unconscious. The absence of the meaning, however, is of great importance to the characters of the novel, and ACH character makes out a different meaning in what the plane actually writes: But what letters? A C was it? An E, then an L?Only for a moment did they lie still; then they moved and melted and were rubbed out up in the sky, and the airplane shot further away and again, in a fresh space of sky, began writing a K, an E, a Y perhaps? “Galaxy,” said Mrs.. Coates[..
. ] “Kerrey,” murmured Mrs.. Blithely[.
.. ] The clouds to which the letters E, G, or L had attached themselves moved freely, as if destined to cross from West to East on a mission of the greatest importance which would never be revealed, and yet certainly so it was – a session of the greatest importance. Wolf 20-21 ) The fact that the meaning of the letters is absent correlates to what Lagan says about the signifier, that which tries to interpret the signified, or the contents Of the unconscious: “the signifier is a unit in its very uniqueness, being by nature symbol only of an absence” (“Seminar’ 39). Septum’s wife Lucrative tries to get him interested “in things outside himself,” and when he looks up to see the airplane’s message, he tells himself “they are signaling to me”(Wolf 21 The narrator continues: “Not indeed in actual words; that is, he loud not read the language yet; but it was plain enough, this beauty.
.. “(21).What the narrator states here is very close to what is said about the unconscious and how it is “structured like a language” (the Agency of the Letter” 1 291 Because the unconscious is structured, and not as nebulous as Freud previously had thought, it can be seen as a sort of foreign language that one cannot “read 21). Additionally, because “language and its structure exist prior to the moment at which each subject at a certain point in his mental development makes his entry into if’ (“The Agency of the Letter” 291), what is signified by language cannot be fully understood, but will forever be slipping away from those who try to master it.Using Creature’s idea of “signifier over the signified” to represent the signs used for language, Lagan insists that there will always be slippage, and that the meaning of the unconscious is always relational (1292). Yet, the absence of meaning in the sky-writing makes all the difference to the characters in the novel, especially Septum, who thinks that one day he will be able to understand and translate the language. Septum, in his descent into madness, becomes more and more obsessed tit words and stabilizing their meaning in the world.
Septum has a poet’s sensitivity to language and metaphor,” a critic has said, noting that Septum has “deconstructed Shakespeare,” and that Septum’s earlier love for the author was “instinctual and earthy’ (Dowling 93). However, to further understand Septum’s obsession for language and deconstruction of the classic texts he formerly loved, it is possible that the texts represent the mom du Peer, or the “law created by the productive withholding of the phallus and its power” (Knowles 186).Before the war, Septum not only fell in love with “Miss Isabel Pole, lecturing in the Waterloo Road upon Shakespeare,” but he spent most of his time writing poems, exchanging words with Miss Pole, and “devouring Shakespeare, Danni, The History of Civilization, and Bernard Shaw”(Wolf 85).
By readily accepting the mom du peer at first, Septum “has him shy, and stammering, made him anxious to improve himself'(84-85). He did not recognize the discrepancies until he experienced the war and realized that he had been taught not to feel. Desperate to save “an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespearean plays and MissIsabel pole in a green dress walking in a square” Septum went into the war and “developed manliness”(86). He was then promoted by, and became friends with, an officer named Evans. After the war and after witnessing Vans’s death, Septum realized “when the panic was on him – that he could not feel”(86).
Afterwards, when Septum would open up Shakespeare, namely Antonym and Cleopatra, he remarked with disgust how Shakespeare loathed humanity This was now revealed to Septum; the message hidden in the beauty of words. The secret signal which one generation passes, under disguise, to the next is loathing, hatred, despair.Dante the same. Aeschylus (translated) the same. (88) When Septum realizes that the there is something “hidden” in the “beauty of words,” ii. , that the signified meaning that may “slip” from underneath the signifier, he rejects the mom du peer and wishes to get back to the Imaginary, where he thinks he can grasp at the Real. Additionally, when Dry. Bradshaw insists that Septum and his wife “must” be separated for his treatment, Septum cries, “must,’ ‘must,’ why ‘must’? What power had Bradshaw over him? ‘What right has Bradshaw to say must to me? ‘ he demanded”(147).
He angrily rejects the power in language that Dry. Bradshaw has over him, representative also of the mom du Peer. Because Septum realizes that “he will not take the language of power any longer”(Dowling 94), he tries to understand the language of the birds and of nature, which to him, is “in Greek words how there is no crime[… ] how there is no 24-25). Thinking that he has grasped some sort of language with which to understand the unconscious in and “the meaning of the world” (66), Septum is in fact simply deceived by language and eventually realizes that he cannot ever grasp what is beyond the Symbolic.
The narrator that speaks for Septum “constantly refers to this question of language and the dilemma of someone who is in need of a meaning framework but who has rejected the one framework 94). An example of this rejection of framework is when the narrator explains that “Septum could take Dry. Holmes word for it – there was nothing whatever the matter with him” (91 ), however, Septum rejects it, and recognizes that something must be done in order to find some sort of another framework on which to to base his beliefs. When he recognizes that he cannot trust another language or groups of signs, he commits suicide.Because the unconscious is structured like a language, it is important to see the words that Septum utilizes to try to communicate (the signifier), and attempt to attach some sort of relative meaning to them (the signified).
The meanings of Septum’s utterances are not set in stone, but rather are relational. However, in several instances, trying to decode Septum’s speech is one way in which to illuminate a reading of his unconscious. The uses of two types of figurative language are connected to Fraud’s attempts to interpret language on dreams, and are instances of metaphor and metonymy.By applying the ideas of metaphor and metonymy, one can attempt to decode Septum’s speech into something that, although has the tendency to “slip,” can be partially understood in his unconscious. Septum constantly tries to write down his “revelations” onto scraps of paper, attempting to keep their meaning stable and true; however, he could not master this task. The first of his revelations attempts to say that “Men must not cut down trees. There is a perhaps the image of the tree signifies another human being, perhaps Evans, who was killed in the war.
It is possible that the cutting down of trees can symbolize war, and how men would not cut down such large, looming definitively tangible figures such as men, or trees. Because the phrase “There is a God” comes directly after his statement about men cutting down trees, it is possible that he is trying to say that God has the power to cut down trees, or men, and that men should not do so. The phrase “There is a God” could also simply be a way for Septum’s unconscious to deal with the fact that he wishes to kill himself. The concluding phrases, “Change the world. No one kills from hatred.Make it known,” are connected to the statement about cutting down trees, because Septum feels he must “change the world”(24) by telling it that men do not kill from hatred (or cut trees from hatred) but for something unreasonable. His “Make it known” statement relates to his attempt to interpret his unconscious and write down his revelations, thus keeping the meaning stable and universal. Because he is reaching for some sort of universality (the letter- writing airplane, the language of nature that speaks in Greek) and eventually cannot reach it, Septum rejects the Symbolic and makes the decision to kill himself.
Another phrase Of his unconscious that Septum tries to utter is when he eels that he must call forth “the mass of men to hear the truth, to learn the meaning” (67). This meaning, Septum says, is now to be given “whole to… ‘To whom? He asked aloud. To the Prime Minister’ the voices which rustled above his head replied” (67). It is possible that his reference to the Prime Minister can represent some sort of an authority figure, perhaps a figurehead of the mom du Peer, or representative of the Real.
No crime; love; he repeated, fumbling for his card and pencil,” and Septum slowly affirms what he thinks are truth statements uttered from his unconscious (67). The word time” in Septum’s world is important, and he repeats several instances of the word in his speech. He begins the obsession with time at first when Resize says to him “It is time” at Regent’s Park, waiting for his appointment. “The word time’ split its husk,” the narrator says, and as soon as Septum begins to think of this word, Septum thinks he sees his officer in the war that was killed, Evans, stepping out into the park and walking towards them. The millions lamented; for ages they had sorrowed. He would turn round, he would tell them in a few moments, only a few moments more, of this relief, of his joy, of this astonishing revelation?”(70), the narrator says, explaining Septum’s reaction. He is then interrupted by Resize asking him the time. Not taking his eyes off of the figure of Evans, Septum says “l will tell you the time'[.
.. ] very slowly, very drowsily, smiling mysteriously’ (70). This obsession with the word time, possibly brought forth because of his subjection to the Symbolic order, can be explained by his unconscious mourning for Evans.Evans died before he had time, and now Septum feels as if he has been given time that Evans should have had. Time is a structure, imposed upon Septum and the world, and for one young man, Evans, to have lost time, could cause Septum to mourn for him, as shown by the expressions of signifier from his unconscious.
These statements, particularly because he is speaking to his vision of Evans, probably signify a response to the guilt that he feels about Evans.Most importantly, after Septum states “l will tell you the time,” he “sat smiling at the dead man in the grey suit,” and “the quarter struck – the quarter to twelve”(70), which could signify, again, the imposition of the Symbolic order and structure to something that did not have words et. Septum’s death is arguably the most important event in Mrs.. Daylong, because it is believed to have given Claries Daylong, his double, a newfound hope and an appreciation for life. The constant agony of trying to master a universal truth, or to gain access to the Real, and failing, becomes too much for Septum.
He then actively rejects the Symbolic world by leaping to his death. Many critics have rightly noted that Septum is “a surrogate for Claries”(Gamble 55) meaning that his death is an intervention to make Calamari’s suicide unnecessary, so that she is able to “discover[ her own identity and become[ ] whole” (56). However, Septum’s tragic suicide cannot be seen in such a two-dimensional way. Although John Graham in “Time in the Novels of Virginia Wolf’ has stated that Septum’s revelations, “if he could communicate them to mankind, could save us, for he comes as a savior, a redeemer.
.. (31 ), it is clear that Septum could never become the “savior” because according to Lagan, he could never re-access the Imaginary, or grasp at the Real.
The fact that Septum thinks that he could save humanity is a delusion, which is the reason why he chose to kill himself. The moment that e realizes “Holmes and Bradshaw were on him,” coming to take him away from his home and into a rest facility, Septum asks for all of his papers, “the things he had written, things she had written for him” (Wolf 147): She tumbled them out on to the sofa. They looked at them together.Diagrams, designs, little men and women brandishing sticks for arms, with wings – were they? ? on their backs; circles traced round shillings and sixpences? the SUns and stars; zigzagging precipices with mountaineers ascending roped together, exactly like knives and forks; sea pieces with little faces laughing out of what eight perhaps be waves: the map of the world. Burn them! He cried. Now for his writings; how the dead sing behind rhododendron bushes; odes to Time; conversations with Shakespeare; Evans, Evans, Evans?his messages from the dead; do not cut down trees; tell the Prime Minister. Universal love: the meaning of the world.Burn them! He cried.
(147-148) Septum has reached the point of no return: he has finally realized that no matter how much he tries to write down the signified from his unconscious that try to come out, he cannot grasp what it is trying to say. His delusion that he could master the Real and get a glimpse of a reentry into the Imaginary is finally realized, and Septum wishes to get rid of all of the language and frameworks that he has tried to communicate in. Only a few moments later, Dry.
Holmes attempts to come up into the Smith’s home, brandishing the language that Septum has already rejected. Septum could hear her talking to Holmes on the staircase”(149), so he decides to not only refuse a language that is being forced upon him, but actively fling himself towards what can be seen as the barrier between the Symbolic and the Imaginary: “Mrs.. Filmed s area railings”(149).
Most importantly, right before he plunges down onto the railings, Septum yells at Dry. Holmes, “I’ll give it to you! “(149) out the window. The very words he uses relate to his active refusal to be a part of the Symbolic world any longer. Graham notes that: the window is used constantly as a symbol of the outlook of the self on the world around it.For the ordinary individual it is the aperture through which comes the only light he may receive; but it also a barrier[.
.. ] Septum does [make an effort to break the barrier]: he casts off his temporal selfless and leaps towards the centre[.
.. ] in order to penetrate to the centre, like Septum, one must either die, or go mad, or in some other way lose one’s humanity in order to exist independently of time. ” (Graham 31) Instead of existing “independently of time” (31 ), Septum actually wishes to exist outside of the framework of language, the mom du peer.
The window and the railings, however symbolizing a barrier Or gateway, represent instead that barrier from the Symbolic stage to the Imaginary. It is possible that, in death, Septum has reached the center, or the Real, but the fact remains that one cannot reach the Real while alive. The very act of flinging himself toward what is symbolized as the Real and passing through the barrier signifies that Septum has finally recognized his delusion, that he could have communicated what was in his unconscious, as false.Although Septum, before the war, readily accepted the mom du peer and the authority of language in the Symbolic stage, he eventually loses his grip of the language and recognizes the “slippage” between signified and signifier. Because he realizes that the “beauty of words,” or signifier, do not have a set message and may have a “secret hatred, despair”(Wolf 88), Septum decides to reject the engage that he was given. In trying to find a universal language that can fully signify what is in his unconscious, the reader is introduced to what is represented as the unconscious?the airplane making letters in the sky.However, one notices that even these letters cannot fully represent the unconscious, and once again Septum, and the reader, are forced to grasp at disappearing remnants of the unconscious.
Because after the war Septum rejects the authority of a language that was given to him (Miss Isabel Pole, Antonym and Cleopatra, Dante), Septum searches for a framework to interpret his unconscious fully. Because he eventually realizes that he can never find a framework in order to reach the Imaginary or get a glimpse at the Real, Septum actively rejects the Symbolic world altogether by plunging through the barrier between the two worlds.