Virginia Woolf's Keen Sensitivity to War: Its Roots and Its Impact on Her Novels

Nancy Topping Bazin, Old Dominion University
Jane Hamovit Lauter


War Inspired Horror in Virginia Woolf. Her antipathy toward those who cause wars is evident in two essays, A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas. The impact of war on her fiction expands from a portrayal of individuals as victims of war to a vision of war that encompasses the possible annihilation of civilization. Between the Acts, Woolf's final novel, is obviously an artistic response to the threat posed by World War II. However, a close examination of her works reveals, to a surprising degree, her early and persistent preoccupation with the consequences of war, a preoccupation that merely culminates in her final novel. To read Virginia Woolf's fiction intelligently, the reader must recognize fully the extent to which war shaped her vision and the reasons why it had such an impact. Her sensitivity to war is deeply rooted in her own experiences with death, her direct contact with patriarchal attitudes in the home, and her view of culture, particularly art, as the only immortality possible for human beings.