On Not Knowing Death: The Figure of the Soldier in the Novels of Virginia Woolf
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CitationMcCann, Jessica Lyn. 2017. On Not Knowing Death: The Figure of the Soldier in the Novels of Virginia Woolf. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractI find that of all the things that drive Virginia Woolf’s work, war is most important. To understand war in her writing, I study the three soldier characters appearing in her novels: Jacob Flanders, Jacob’s Room (1922); Septimus Smith, Mrs. Dalloway (1925); and Percival, The Waves (1931). I find that all are characterized by a vague, fragmented style of writing and classical metaphor; all three are also based on Woolf’s brother Thoby Stephen and friend Rupert Brooke. I examine the arc of the soldier character throughout Woolf’s writing career—from brother figure to trauma victim to the glorified dead—and explore how each figure drives the storyline, reflects Woolf’s own fears about death and youth, and allows her to make a larger statement on the loss and futility that characterized the First World War.
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