The social vision which drives Mrs. Dalloway is a complex sense of historical and social forces that shaped social behavior. Woolf saw the political world as inherently oppressive. She used masculine imagery to show this world, and she viewed it as profoundly brutal and irrational, destroying all positive emotions. In Mrs Dalloway, Dr. Holmes, Richard Dalloway, and Sir William Bradshow support the perpetuation of the patriarchal social order, even though Richard Dalloway finds this order detestable.
They are the key beneficiaries of that order, proud of their possessions, and determined to maintain the “continuity” of this “detestable social system,”’ (Woolf 104) To do that Septimus Smith went to the war to save England. In the war, his close friend Evans was killed, and Septimus traumatized, so that he rejects the traditional of this social order. This threatens Holmes and Bradshow, because it erodes the faith that sends men to die for God and country. They want to “cure” Septimus, to restore him to his own faith. (p. 87). Virginia Woolf largely rejected this old ideology, and showed this rejection through her characters.
Septimus, the living victim of the war, refuses to take the cure they have arranged for him because he wants to let others know what war was like. Eventually he commits suicide. Woolf presents his suicide as an act of rebellion against the social order. Throughout Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf clashes with the patriarchal order she faced. She regretted this order with it exploitation of women and the poor. Early in the novel, while Clarissa Dalloway is in the flower shop, she and Miss Pym hear the roar of motor car outside. This car carries the rulers of their order: the Prince of Wales, the Queen, and the Prime Minister.
There could be no doubt that greatness was seated within; greatness was passing, hidden, down Bond Street, removed only by a hand’s breadth from ordinary people who might now, for the first time and last, be within speaking distance of the majesty of England, of the enduring symbol of the state which will be known to curious antiquaries, sifting the ruins of time (Wolfe, 14, 16). The motorcar sways the communal consciousness of all who watch it. They all turn to look at it, thinking of “the dead; of the flag; of the Empire. ” (Woolf 18) Woolf struggled with this male-dominated society and its glorification of nobility and war.
In Mrs. Dalloway, seven years of peace have not been enough to relieve the trauma that the Great War inflicted on people. Time clearly has not been enough to spare Septimus, shell-shocked by his experience on the continent. Going off to war was historically and culturally what men did when they responded to the call of duty. To Millicent Bruton the pictures on the wall symbolize the fact that her family had been made up of the men at the admiralty, in the army, men who had done their duty. (Woolf. 99) . Septimus was like that, filled with the ideals of a “love of England. ” (Woolf. 47)
Manly, “he was one of the first to volunteer. ” (Woolf 77). Even when his friend Evans is killed, Septimus congratulates himself: “The War had taught him. It was sublime. He had gone through the whole show, friendship, European War, death, had won promotion, was still under thirty and was bound to survive. ” (Woolf. 78). He cannot sustain this pleasure. To son, fear and guilt overwhelm him, guilt over the very fact that he could suppress his emotions on Evans’ death. He wants to bring Evans back to life, to show him “’how there is no crime . . . how there is no death. ” (Woolf 23-4).