In several cases, the only way for veterans to feel at peace is through the means of suicide. Returning from war can leave behind invisible wounds for these soldiers. During the early 20th century, there was no cure for shell shock, which is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since there wasn’t a proper way of treating these psychologically wounded soldiers, they suffered in trying to merely complete everyday tasks. Interaction with the outside world or any aspect of it could serve as a trigger them. These triggers may have returned them to a gruesome event they faced in the war, or even to a horrific memory they have embedded in their minds. Anything that led them to remember the tragic events the experienced on the battlefield was a lasting illness that caused any soldiers to suffer. Whether it was the immense amount of casualties they witnessed, or perhaps even losing a close friend in battle, PTSD has consumed the well-being of so many post-war veterans.
In Mrs. Dalloway, Septimus is the only character in the book which is dealing with shell shock after fighting in WW1. There’s a lot of adjustments both externally and internally that most veterans need to cope with. There are many indescribable things these veterans see on a daily basis on the battlefield. In many cases, if a veteran doesn’t receive the appropriate help they need, such as some form of psychological therapy, they come to believe that peace is achieved only by the taking of one’s life. According to Rajeev Ramchand, “Range of behaviors that fall under the umbrella of self-directed violence … thoughts of harming or killing oneself” (RAMCHAND 8).
Throughout the novel, Septimus had recurrent thoughts of suicide because he began to lose focus and ability to perform his everyday routines. Any harsh sounds started to serve as triggers, and worst of all he felt as though he could not escape it all. No matter who he tried to explain his mental afflictions to, nobody could truly understand the depths of his emotions. These feelings began to hold an overbearing weight which prompted him to believe that suicide was the only option.
Through comprehending the significance of suicide, we understand why Septimus rules this to be his final decision. It was the overbearing expectations that society placed on his soldiers that he couldn’t cope with. Clearly, he was not the same person, and the expectations were that he comes home from fighting in 1war and be able to be the same person that he was when he left. This was not the case for Septimus. The more he tried to conceal his internal thoughts of suicide, the more willing he became to acting on it. He believed this was the only way out.
RAMCHAND, RAJEEV, et al. “The Epidemiology of Suicide in the Military.” The War Within: Preventing Suicide in the U.S. Military, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA, 2011, pp. 7–40. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg953osd.10.