“Mrs. Dalloway” The Great War’s Significance

“He could not feel. As he opened the door of the room where the Italian girls sat making hats, he could see them; could hear them; […] but something failed him; he could not feel” (Woolf 85).

Septimus’ past is illustrated as normal prior to the war and even during it, but afterward, as early as his stay in Milan after the signing of the armistice, he begins to feel different. The war is presented as having a desensitizing effect on Septimus, a man who enjoyed literature (Shakespeare in particular), and cared enough about England to go to France to defend it. This desensitization brings about a constant doubting of the reality of any given situation for Septimus- he felt he had a safe refuge among the Italian women making hats, yet in his next thought, he believes he cannot stay. The narrative’s illumination of his past is evidence of a then-newly-arisen sense of doubt and second-guessing of and in the world around him, including of the people in it.