Study Guide

Mrs Dalloway Warfare

By Virginia Woolf

Warfare

Section 1

The War was over, except for some one like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven – over. (1.6)

There’s a definite calm over the city now that the war is over, but the impact is still being felt. Mothers are definitely still feeling the loss of their sons, and will for a long time. This (super long) sentence nicely demonstrates the contrast between the calm in the city and the emotional turmoil of its citizens.

Section 3
Peter Walsh

Boys in uniform, carrying guns, marched with their eyes ahead of them, marched, their arms stiff, and on their faces an expression like the letters of a legend written round the base of a statue praising duty, gratitude, fidelity, love of England. (3.5)

Peter admires the soldiers walking down the street. These young men bring up feelings of pride in the British Empire even in cynical Peter.

Section 4
Evans

He sang. Evans answered from behind the tree. The dead were in Thessaly, Evans sang, among the orchids. There they waited till the War was over, and now the dead, now Evans himself – . (4.48)

Septimus has constant visions that his dead friend is communicating with him. Septimus may not have died in the war, but he still comes away with a deep psychological impact.

Mr Brewer

Mr Brewer […] advised football, invited him to supper and was seeing his way to consider recommending a rise of salary, when something happened which threw out many of Mr Brewer's calculations, took away his ablest young fellows, and eventually, so prying and insidious were the fingers of the European War, smashed a plaster cast of Ceres, ploughed a hole in the geranium beds, and utterly ruined the cook's nerves at Mr Brewer's establishment at Muswell Hill. (4.88)

Mr Brewer is a perfect example of the British male, incredibly patriarchal and traditional. Still, he’s upset when World War I begins, because he loses some of his best workers.

Septimus Warren Smith

"The War?" the patient asked. The European War – that little shindy of schoolboys with gunpowder? Had he served with distinction? He really forgot. In the War itself he had failed. (4.113)

When Septimus thinks back to the war, he no longer considers it a grand and patriotic event. In spite of his bravery, he believes the war was a foolish child’s game.

Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. He went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare's plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square. There in the trenches the change which Mr Brewer desired when he advised football was produced instantly; he developed manliness […]. (4.89)

Septimus joins the war believing that it will make him a man and that it will prove his commitment to all things British. His idea of England is very limited, but he wants to be the hero and preserve what matters to people like Isabel Pole.

When Evans was killed, just before the Armistice, in Italy, Septimus, far from showing any emotion or recognising that here was the end of a friendship, congratulated himself upon feeling very little and very reasonably. The War had taught him. (4.89)

Having survived horrible trench warfare, Evans dies at the very end of it. Unable to cope with the emotion, Septimus goes completely numb and is proud for doing so.

Really it was a miracle thinking of the war, and thousands of poor chaps, with all their lives before them, shovelled together, already half forgotten; it was a miracle. (4.196)

The war wasted thousands of lives. The feeling in London is forever changed by the devastation and loss.

Section 6
Lady Millicent Bruton

"Just as we were starting, my husband was called up on the telephone, a very sad case. A young man (that is what Sir William is telling Mr Dalloway) had killed himself. He had been in the army." (6.83)

Lady Bradshaw mentions Septimus’ death at Clarissa’s party, an act that outrages Clarissa. He should almost be considered a war fatality, since his suicide is a direct result of combat trauma.

Mrs Dalloway (Clarissa)

What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? A young man had killed himself. And they talked of it at her party – the Bradshaws, talked of death. He had killed himself – but how? (6.85)

Clarissa immediately feels some strange connection to Septimus. Though repulsed by the mention of his death, she’s still intrigued.