Karen DeMeester believes that the literature of the modernist period is completely affected by World War I. She claims that the war produced in the 1920’s a post-traumatic stress and psychological condition not only upon the veterans of the war, but also of the public. The trauma of combat was so intense and the devastation that was witnessed forever marred the inhabitants of that time period. In effect, the literature of the age was inspired from the trauma and horror of the war. In her essay, “Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obstacles to Postwar Recovery in Mrs. Dalloway”, DeMeester examines how Virginia Woolf portrayed the characterization of the veteran, Septimus Smith, and his trauma that led to his ultimate suicide. DeMeester believes that Woolf understood how veterans of this time were not necessarily given the adequate help they needed for their psychological trauma. After witnessing such horrors that can only happen in war, it is difficult to return to the civilized world. Septimus is disoriented and depressed, and DeMeester claims that these are tell-tale signs of a post-traumatic stress victim. When the person returns to society their reality becomes skewed. They are unable to process time as they previously did, and their consciousness becomes fragmented and jumbled. Woolf is able, DeMeester says, to mimic this confusion of thoughts and time through her stream of consciousness writing. She also claims that Woolf’s style is different from literature of the past and DeMeester says that Woolf mirrors the trauma survivors by showing her loss of faith in the previously held ideologies of the ages and of literature. Furthermore, she says that Woolf is able to portray through Septimus the trauma victim’s constant obsession and reliving of one particular traumatic event that begins to eventually envelope their life. The victim becomes so engrossed within the memory that they are unable to make progress and move on. DeMeester says that these observations and representations from Woolf of Septimus are decades ahead of science. It will not be until years later that science will describe post-traumatic stress as a medical condition, and Woolf’s depictions of Septimus will fit perfectly with the symptoms. Woolf’s representation of Septimus is also unique because she does not depict the usual symptoms that are generally referred to as “shell shock”. Instead, she delays Septimus post-traumatic stress until years after the war. At the time, it was previously believed that shell shock usually only lasted for about six months after the victim’s service had ended. However, Woolf was ahead of her time, because she had accurately produced in Septimus an example of the delayed war neurosis that struck at the victim’s identity. Simply put, the victim suffered an identity crisis that was produced from the stress and horror of the war. DeMeester says that the horrors of war strips the victim’s previously held views of civilization and humanity. They are confused by the evil and primitive nature that was witnessed. It is hard for them to acclimate back to the world when they realized the potential society has for depravity. It is further stressful for the victim to realize that the depravity is not gone, it is just held back by society’s civilized laws. Septimus is represented as having little emotions towards loved ones and DeMeester says that this indifference is a repercussion of battle. She claims that indifference is the only survivor tool they can use to cope with the grotesque images and assaults to the senses that they are forced to witness. DeMeester believes that Woolf shows how Septimus’s failure to bring meaning to the suffering is a part of his downfall. She says that trauma victims that can’t find meaning to the world or life are unable to escape their disorder.
DeMeester, Karen. "Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obstacles to Postwar Recovery in Mrs. Dalloway." Virginia Woolf and Trauma: Embodied Texts. By Suzette A. Henke and David Eberly. New York: Pace UP, 2007. 77-93. Print.
WELCOME TO MY BLOG!
Hello all! My name is Drew Blanchette. I'm 21 years old and a class member of the Virginia Woolf Seminar. First and foremost, I must warn potential viewers that I have no knowledge of Virginia Woolf's work. I am hoping that as the class progresses and I have a chance to read her apparently fabulous works (or so I have been told) I will develop some knowledge and appreciation. As my blogs increase perhaps the reader will pick up on my progression! Hopefully whoever looks over my site will enjoy my posts and not be too bored by my analyzing attempts. Thanks ahead of time for viewing my site!