Septimus by John Wickham
In Septimus by John Wickham we have the theme of sorrow, poverty, struggle, responsibility, happiness, selflessness and kindness. Narrated in the first person by a female narrator (Septimus’ sister) the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Wickham may be exploring the theme of sorrow. Septimus’ mother is crying because Septimus is happy that he can finally have a whole apple for himself. This was not the case when Septimus was a child. He had to grow up and move to Canada before he could have an apple to himself. This is important as it suggests that Septimus’ family are poor. That they cannot afford to give each of the seven children an apple. They have to share. It may also be significant that Septimus’ mother may be blaming herself in some way for the position she found herself in while Septimus and his sisters were growing up. She knows how difficult it is to raise a large family and to be poor at the same time.
Aunt Bless is an important character. She is the one who shows Septimus that he can have a whole apple to himself and if anything Aunt Bless in many ways acts as a second mother to Septimus. He is her favourite child and it would appear as though she will go to any lengths to make Septimus happy. How important the apple is to Septimus is noticeable by the fact he holds the apple close to his chest when he is returning home. Septimus is simply happy. He cannot believe his luck. A whole apple for himself. What is also interesting is Septimus’ mother’s reaction. She wants to scold Septimus for accepting the apple from Aunt Bless but she is speechless. She may also be embarrassed that a neighbour might know that Septimus and his family have to share the simple things in life.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The red apple could symbolize kindness and the fact that Septimus passes on Aunt Bless’ kindness towards him with his family is significant. Septimus could have eaten the apple on his way home but chose not to. At no stage of the story has Septimus really thought about himself. True he wants a whole apple for himself but this is not really a big request. It is a simple thing for most people. Though as mentioned it is difficult for Septimus’ mother because her family are so poor. If anything Septimus has a good heart. Something that is symbolically noticeable by way of the introduction of old Bostic’s cow. It is Septimus who brings the cow out to pasture. He is again acting selflessly and thinking of others.
The end of the story is interesting as Septimus’ act of kindness takes his mother and sisters by surprise. They did not expect him to share the apple but he has. This too is important as it suggests a close bond that Septimus feels towards his family. They may be poor but this does not stop Septimus from doing the right thing, no matter how desperate he is to have a whole apple to himself. In reality Wickham has written a story in whereby a family overcome struggle by being kind to one another. The family are all there for each other. Something that is clear by way of the fact that Septimus always sends his mother home a gift, most likely money, to help the family.