Literary Representations of Shell Shock as a Result of World War I in the Works of Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway
Expectations of “mental casualties” in modern warfare date at least to 1910, as this paper notes. Initially viewed as a sign of male weakness, the reality of psychological traumas (now PTSD) became a subject of numerous fictional reflections on the war. Woolf confronted the debilitating effects of war in To the Lighthouse (1927) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Her portrayal of the traumatized Septimus Smith in the latter novel reflected her acquaintance with the poet Siegfried Sassoon as well as the work of two doctors who treated war-scarred veterans. The effects of the war on Hemingway’s characters is implicated throughout The Sun Also Rises, which presents opportunities to explore issues of masculinity and trauma. And the futility of men at war and the wounding of Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms remain its familiar and eternal themes. Concludes by noting that the two writers, both scarred by war in their own ways, ended their lives by suicide.
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