A Rose by Any Other Name...


Excepting the commonality of the name, I could have been named Rose…rose, that gorgeous flower.

As I was going a little crazy trying to make sense of the flower images in Mrs. Dalloway, I decided to look up what other people thought about it. I was shocked but I was not at all satisfied by my research. From the deciphered meaning that “Woolf uses flowers to signal that an erotic experience between women is immanent” (p.60)in Communication and Women's Friendships: Parallels and Intersections in Literature and Life by Ward & Mink to the meaning from Quamar Naheed’s D. H. Lawrence: Treatment of Nature in Early Novels that “flowers and green fields in the novel again and again symbolise peace and contentment" (p.13), I didn’t feel like these interpretations spoke for Woolf’s obsession with flowers. Therefore, I abandoned my search on flowers and focused on roses. I specifically looked at Septimus because I like him.

After Rezia is disturbed by Septimus trying to throw them under an on-coming omnibus or train, both Rezia and Septimus ponder their miseries. Septimus wonders why his life has been spared and “his weakness” (p.68) pardoned. He and Rezia are on an outing to Regent’s Park and he listens while slowly becoming lost in his thoughts.

"Now he withdraws up into the snows, and roses hang about him—the thick red roses which grow on my bedroom wall, he reminded himself.” .” ~ p. 68
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. USA: Harvest Book and Hogarth 1981

The image of the blanketing, enveloping cold clashes and enhances the red rose image. The snow is white, frigidly enveloping, while the roses are described as a red comfort. The roses protectively cushion Septimus from the snow with their red amassing presence. Yet, the roses with soft petals and searing red warmth appear to be protective but also to be harming. Sure their beauty is reassuring but roses do have thorns. They can hurt the unwary who tries to grasp their beauty.

I think this might reflect the reality of life. Life can be beautiful and damning. Some people reflect more on the bad side of life and others on the good side of life. For Septimus, the balance of the good and the bad became skewed. We see him tortured by life and looking forward to death but we also see the dead making his life agonizing to live. He could have focused on the comforting aspects of flowers while displacing danger from the thorns to the snow. He could also be trying to ignore feeling by blocking out the prick of the thorns. His apathy to the thorns and coldness of the snow might be his way of realizing life’s dangers but protecting himself with a weak, snow and rose barrier.

It brings new thought to stop and smell the roses; Septimus envelopes himself in them.