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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Metaphor in Mrs. Dalloway, By Virginia Woolf

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When WWI was over, many people questioned the brutality that carried on over the four years that the war was happening. The Europeans trust in authority and in their country began to collapse, and Modernism was a way they could respond to the damage of those beliefs. It was obvious that the old world was gone and a new one had started to arise. In this new world, while other aspects of Europe were advancing, improvement in the psychiatric treatment of mental conditions, for example shell-shock, fell short. Most of British society remained unaware and uninterested in the problems that these illnesses forced on the veterans. This insensitive attitude toward the soldiers inspired Virginia Woolf to write Mrs. Dalloway. In this novel she shows us society’s attitude towards mental illness by featuring a post war veteran named Septimus Smith. The author uses Septimus’s struggles with post traumatic stress disorder as a symbol to illustrate the problems of a modern society that doesn’t understand how deeply the damage of World War One has affected people.
An example of the difference between Septimus and the modern world as a whole is when the airplane flies above the people in the city as it spells out the word toffee. Most of the people watching were amazed by this new technology. “‘Glaxo,’ said Mrs. Coates in a strained, awestricken voice…’Kreemo,’ murmured Mrs. Bletchley, like a sleepwalker…as they looked the whole world because perfectly still…(and the car went in the gates and nobody looked at it)” (20-21). The people were so enthralled with the plane; they didn’t even care about the royal car coming in to the palace. Septimus on the other hand is completely lost in his own thoughts and interprets the plane differently. “So, t...


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...g to grasp the legitimacy and severity of the disease. From this unfortunate reality emerged a Modernist novel in which Virginia Woolf sets out to juxtapose the ‘sane’ and the ‘insane’ in an attempt to express her disgust of society’s lack of sympathy and blindness towards those who suffer with mental illness.









Work Cited

Berman, Jeffrey. Surviving Literary Suicide. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1999. Print.

Korte, Barbara, and Ralf Schneider. War and the Cultural Construction of Identities in Britain. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Print.

Levenback, Karen L. Virginia Woolf and the Great War. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1999. Print.

Ronchetti, Ann. The Artist, Society, and Sexuality in Virginia Woolf's Novels. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. Print.



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