British Women Novelists and World War I

What do portrayals of World War I veterans in novels by British women in the post-war decade reveal about how the War changed gender constructions and roles?


Until recently, male authors and critics dominated Great War literature, since war has traditionally been seen as an exclusively male sphere.[1] But since the 1990s, Claire M. Tylee,[2] Dorothy Goldman,[3] and Angela K. Smith[4] have promoted women’s writing as a valid perspective of World War I Britain. Another movement in literary criticism has indirectly promoted post-war women’s writing: John Cawelti[5] and Dennis Porter[6] have proposed that serious literary analysis should be written of inter-war detective fiction—a genre developed and popularized largely by the “respectable English women”[7] who “volunteered for service” in France or on the Home Front during the Great War.[8]

Although literary scholars have rediscovered post-war women’s writing, to my knowledge no critic has analyzed both “high” literature and detective novels side-by-side, even though both genres explore the War’s effects on gender constructions. To be “manly” in pre-war Victorian and Edwardian parlance was “not to complain”;[9] in contrast, to be “feminine…before the war” meant to be “allowed to scream or cry.”[10] Elaine Showalter, building on Paul Fussell’s work, argues that “emotional repression was an essential aspect of the British masculine ideal,”[11] and the Great War sparked “a trial of the Victorian masculine idea.” [12] Journalist Rebecca West observed this “trial,” describing the new masculinity and femininity emerging from the War in her novel The Return of the Soldier, the first English novel about shell shock. [13] As the decade continued and the War’s affect on gender constructions intensified, Agatha Christie, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy Sayers critiqued, tested, and expanded West’s post-war vision of gender.  To determine what British women’s novels in the post-war decade reveal about how the Great War changed gender constructions, I will compare and contrast the depictions of World War I veterans and their interactions with women in Rebecca West’s Return of the Soldier (1918), Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925), and Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928).


Rebecca West: “The Return of the Soldier” (1918)


In Return of the Soldier (1918), Rebecca West depicted the way she anticipated the Great War would change gender roles, showing the shell-shocked and amnesiac officer Chris Baldry retreat from emotional repression into infantile passion and neediness. Before the War, Chris ascribed to the Victorian masculine ideal: Jenny, the narrator and Chris’s cousin, remembers that Chris had a “surpassing amiability which was so habitual” that one “regarded any lapse into bad temper as a calamity as startling as the breaking of a leg.” [14] But the amnesiac Chris “weep[s],” showing a “side to his nature” that he has hidden from Jenny and his wife Kitty.[15] Desperate to feel, Chris longs for his first love Margaret, a mother-figure with whom he is safe to feel. Chris’s overabundant emotion infantilizes him: Margaret describes him as “dependent,” affirming Dr. Anderson’s suggestion that Chris “turned, then, to sex with a peculiar need.”[16] Jenny interprets Chris’s desire for Margaret as a child’s need for a mother figure: he lies beside her “in the confiding relaxation of a sleeping child” with Margaret’s “vigilant face….watching.”[17] Chris can express emotion only with Margaret, who represents the Victorian “Mother-Woman”—the “angel in the house” who exemplifies “piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity,” living only to serve her husband and sons.[18] West expands on the Victorian “angel in the house”[19] imagery: Jenny calls Margaret a “mystic”[20] who has “angels…on her side,”[21] is like a “patron saint,”[22] and experiences “martyrdom.”[23] Margaret’s status as the Mother-Woman is solidified by the fact that Chris, as long as he remains emotive and infantile with her, cannot return to war: “This wonderful, kind woman held his body as safely as she held his soul.”[24] Margaret’s status as the ideal woman, for Jenny, is validated by Chris’s safety.

However, Margaret fails to keep Chris safe. As Debra Rae Cohen observes, West’s image of Margaret watching over Chris sleeping resembles a Pietá—the image the Red Cross used in propaganda poster entitled “THE GREATEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD.” Ironically, Christ is dead in the Pietá, which contradicts the poster’s image of a nurse caring for a wounded soldier and foreshadows the end of West’s novel.[25] Margaret, like many women during the War, is forced to use her position as Mother-Woman to further the war effort. As the only person Chris trusts, Margaret must show Chris his dead son’s belongings to “cure” him.[26] Confronted by his pre-war life’s great trauma—his infant son’s death—Chris flees from emotion and back into the repression of accepted masculinity, becoming “every inch a soldier” and fit for the trenches.[27] As the “Women of Britain say—‘Go!’” in one propaganda poster,[28] Margaret the Mother-Woman sends Chris back to France. Submitting to gender norms, Jenny recognizes that Chris “would not be quite a man”[29] if he were to stay with Margaret, and that Margaret, Kitty, and herself “would not be quite” women if they did not send him back to war.

Yet a true mother, according to West, would keep her child safe—not send him to war. Although some turn-of-the-century women argued that the Mother-Woman ideal empowered women, West shows otherwise—the government’s easy exploitation of the Mother-Woman reveals the Victorian feminine ideal as inherently oppressive. An elderly West wrote that “childbirth is [not] creative at all” and that a mother is merely “an instrument”[30] of human productivity or the war machine. As Cohen writes, even the “sacrificial mother” becomes “complicit” in war’s evils because she must surrender her son, and “[a]ny power” thought “implicit in the maternal” is revealed as illusory.[31]

If motherhood holds no power, perhaps friendship does. As Chris’s childhood friend, Jenny may have better aided Chris in his illness than the “motherly” Margaret,[32] since Jenny does not want to be his mother. Jenny clearly loves Chris—Jenny is “physically…jealous” of Margaret[33]—but she controls her emotions, wanting to be the friend he needs. Jenny’s graphic nightmares of Chris in the trenches indicate her desire to suffer alongside him as his friend.[34] In contrast to the “motherly” and saintly Margaret, Jenny sees herself as a “trusted nurse,”[35] as a working-woman who toils on the front lines alongside the men.[36] Importantly, before Chris is reunited with Margaret, Jenny enables Chris to show emotion: when Jenny asks him to “be a pal” and tell her “what seems real,” he acquiesces, his eyes becoming “wet and bright.”[37] For West, who wrote articles about women munitions workers,[38] Jenny’s desire to be Chris’s friend represents a new, post-war femininity. Certainly both Chris and Jenny had their descendents in post-war literature: Chris was the prototype post-war male for both “highbrow” modernists such as Virginia Woolf[39] and “middlebrow” writers such as Dorothy Sayers,[40] and female characters who lived Jenny’s desire to be a “competent, comradely girl” who “can crack open the brittle carapace with which the war-wounded man protects his raw emotions, and coax them into the light of day” filled literature in the post-war decade. [41]


Agatha Christie: “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” (1920)


While Jenny imagines herself as Chris’s nurse and companion, Agatha Christie—unlike Rebecca West, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy Sayers—actually worked at a hospital’s dispensary on the Home Front, which inspired her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).[42] Christie has been “unfairly accused” her of “ignoring” the War;[43] yet as a detective novelist and inheritor of Edwardian “New Realism,” Christie focuses on how the War affected the “the social fate of women”[44] by manipulating the still-forming conventions of detective novels. Dennis Porter theorizes that detective novelists exert a “patriotizing” influence on their readers “by creating agents of law enforcement who conform to a recognizable cultural idea.”[45] If Doyle and Christie depict their detectives as both just and “gentle,” Porter asserts, their readers are more likely to trust the British government. In this way, the detective encapsulates “Englishness” and is “a reaffirmation of national self-worth.”[46] As British identity was masculinized during the Great War,[47] a World War I detective affirms both national and gender ideals. By analyzing how Christie’s detective interacts with women at the end of the Great War, one can discover her view of the War’s effect on gender constructions. Importantly, Christie, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Christie uses a “split protagonist”: a “detective-hero” and a detective-narrator.[48]  Employing two male protagonists—the Belgian refugee Hercule Poirot and the English army officer Hastings[49]—enables Christie to present competing ideas of masculinity and femininity. 

            Hastings, a “wounded hero,”[50] has unconsciously discarded emotional repression in favor of expressing honest emotion: “[T]o conceal your feelings is impossible!” Poirot tells him, accusing Hastings of mixing “sentiment” with “reason.” [51] Because of his emotional openness, women “trust” him as “honest”[52] and “kind.”[53] Nevertheless, Hastings belongs to the Victorian order: as Porter points out, Hastings speaks in “cumbersome but well-constructed sentences” that “connote social conformity, circumspection, and sobriety.”[54] In contrast to the physical, sentimental, respectable, unintelligent Hastings, Poirot is “little,”[55] rational, eccentric, entirely intellectual. His Belgian idioms (such as “mon ami”[56]) and fastidiously neat clothing render him a more feminine person than Hastings—and as a purely intellectual detective, Poirot is a more feminine detective than his boxing and spying forerunner, Sherlock Holmes.[57]

Interestingly, Hastings describes Poirot’s feminine foibles in masculine terms: “[A] speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound,”[58] and “there is a method in his madness.”[59] For Hastings, Poirot’s self-control and rationality, in spite of his superfluous eccentricity, establishes his manhood.

            But can a woman be self-controlled and rational? To Hastings’ confusion, yes—Mrs. Inglethorpe has an “energetic, autocratic personality”[60] and holds “the whip hand”[61] over her sons; Mary Cavendish has “a wild untamed spirit”[62]; Miss Howard is “an excellent specimen of well-balanced English beef and brawn”[63]; and Cynthia works as a nurse at the Red Cross Hospital.[64] Hastings’ interactions with these women reveal his gender constructions as woefully inconsistent: although the “proud”[65] Mary “works regularly ‘on the land,’” rising “at five every morning to milk,”[66] Hastings cannot suspect her because she is beautiful. In contrast, Hastings can suspect Miss Howard of both violence and insanity because has “no beauty.”[67] For Hastings, it appears that women can be self-controlled and rational only if they are also beautiful.

            Christie reveals the flaws in Hastings’ traditional views of gender, yet to some extent she reinforces accepted gender norms. Mrs. Inglethorpe’s murder and Miss Howard’s guilt function as warnings to other strong women who refuse to submit to men. According to Carolyn Wheat, both the murderer and the victim in a “cozy” detective novel are “undesirables” who disrupt the peaceful order of what W. H. Auden called “the great good place.”[68] In Christie’s novel, female victim is “autocratic”[69] and the murderer’s female accomplice is intelligent and educated, probably “the master mind in that affair”[70]—their removal from Styles emphasizes the danger strong women pose to tranquil, traditional English society. Their example cautions women such as Mary who, like Mrs. Inglethorpe, long to use their strength not to serve their husbands, but to liberate themselves: “I want to be—free!”[71]

According to Hastings and Poirot, strong women like Mary should submit to their husbands: when she tells Hastings of her marital discontent, he urges her not to “do anything rash,”[72] and Poirot schemes for her to submit to her husband. Nevertheless, when Mary’s reconciliation with her husband takes the masculine form of her arguing for him in court, Hastings praises her: “[M]y admiration and sympathy went out unfeignedly to Mary Cavendish,” Hastings admits. “She ranged herself passionately on her husband’s side, scorning the mere idea of his guilt, and fought for him tooth and nail.”[73] Mary enacts Jenny’s longing to fight alongside men, disrupting the novels’ apparent condemnation of strong women. For Christie, women can be self-controlled and rational, but that does not mean they should rule over men—it means they should work together as equals.


Virginia Woolf: “Mrs. Dalloway” (1925)


Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) further explores emotion, reason, and power dynamics among men and women in post-war society. Though once accused of disregarding the War like Christie, Woolf has since been defended by Mark Hussey,[74] Nancy Topping Bazin and Jane Hamovit Lauter,[75] and Karen L. Levanback[76] as a war-novelist. In Mrs. Dalloway¸ Woolf’s Great War veteran Septimus Smith, an aspiring poet, “developed manliness”[77] during the War, gaining the self-control and rationality that Hastings sees as essential to manhood. Septimus learns these traits from his “undemonstrative” officer,[78] Evans, whom Levenback sees as Septimus’ surrogate father figure.[79] When Evans dies, Septimus “congratulated himself upon feeling very little and very reasonably.”[80] But after the Armistice, Septimus realizes that while “he could reason,” “he could not feel”[81]; when even reading Dante and Shakespeare does not help him feel, Septimus proposes to Rezia in a “panic,”[82] hoping that marriage will enable him to feel again. Hearing Rezia’s “scissors…rapping on the table,”[83] Septimus feels “assured of safety.”[84] Throughout the novel, scissors symbolize feminine power—for instance, the scene in which Clarissa Dalloway uses her scissors and Peter Walsh holds his pocket-knife represents gender warfare. [85] Therefore, Septimus marries Rezia because he wants to be “protected”[86] by her feminine powers—he sees the teenaged Rezia as a mother-figure, much like the idealized Miss Isabel Pole whom he worshipped before the War.[87] At first, Septimus finds in Rezia a “refuge”[88] and Rezia respects his “silent”[89] English masculinity, finding it endearing. But when Rezia fails to be the ideal mother-figure Septimus had expected—Rezia says she wants children![90]—Septimus rebels against her by communicating with Evans instead of her. “Deserted” by his surrogate mother,[91] Septimus ironically turns to his dead surrogate father, the man who made him a man and taught him not to feel, to learn to feel again. Dr. Holmes and Sir William Bradshaw, determined to make Septimus regain his manhood, both think that reminding him of his wife will prompt him to the self-control and rationality essential to masculinity: “Didn’t one owe perhaps a duty to one’s wife?” Dr. Holmes says.[92] “Nobody lives for himself alone,” Sir William echoes.[93] Ironically, pointing Septimus to Rezia will not help him regain his rationality, since he turned to her regain his emotions.

            As Septimus’ turn from Rezia the mother figure to Evans the father figure was heralded by him hearing and speaking to Evans, so his return to Rezia is signaled by him talking to her about her sewing. He watches Rezia sewing and concludes that she is “perfectly natural, sewing”[94]; unlike the doctors and Evans, the symbols of masculinity, “there was nothing terrible” in Rezia using her “scissors.”[95]  His comment that the hat is “too small”[96] for Rezia’s client signifies that he has returned to Rezia for refuge. Now that Evans does not “answer”[97] Septimus’ call, Rezia is Septimus’s only chance to feel. Rezia, delighted with the newly open communication between her and her husband, “burst into the room chattering,”[98] feeling “she could say anything to him now.”[99] Interestingly, this second time Septimus turns to Rezia, she appears to be more his companion than his mother: Septimus helps her sew by “putting odd colours together” and “kneeling” by her side.[100] Working with Rezia to make Mrs. Peters’ hat transforms Septimus: he has never “done anything which made him feel so proud”[101]—relating to his wife as a companion enables Septimus to feel again. 

            But Rezia becomes a mother-figure again when she leaves Septimus for a moment to prevent Dr. Holmes from coming up stairs: “He could see her, like a little hen, with her wings spread barring his passage. But Holmes persevered…putting her aside (Holmes was a powerfully built man).”[102] Rezia failed attempt to be a mother “hen” to Septimus reveals that the Mother-Woman has no power against Victorian masculinity. When the symbol of “manliness”[103] barges into the room, Septimus kills himself. While Holmes’s self-controlled and rational masculinity interprets Septimus’ death as cowardice, “Rezia…understood”[104] that Septimus, having rediscovered his ability to feel while sewing with her, cannot live in a world in which Dr. Holmes and Sir William force him to have “manliness.”[105] Ironically, as Septimus responded to Evans’ death without emotion, Rezia reacts to Septimus’ suicide without feeling: “‘He is dead,’ she said, smiling at the poor old woman.”[106]

            As Woolf depicts in Mrs. Dalloway, countless men like Septimus returned from the trenches desperately wanting permission to feel their pain and grief. For Woolf, these men turn to mother-figures for comfort, not realizing that the Mother-Woman cannot cope with this crisis—only a new sort of woman, the “confident, comradely girl,”[107] will can come alongside war-scarred men and help them to recover. Working alongside each other for a few moments, Rezia and Septimus discover that men should be allowed to be both rational and emotional, and that men and women can be comrades.


Dorothy L. Sayers: “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” (1928)


“Probably the cheerful cynicism of the detective tale,” wrote Dorothy Sayers, “suits better with the spirit of the times than the sentimentality which ends in wedding-bells.”[108] Her novel The Unpleasantness at Bellona Club (1928) reveals how cynical Britons had become about gender relations after ten years of peace. Each major male character is a veteran: the sleuth and his two main suspects all fought in the Great War, and the victim and murderer in previous British wars. Therefore, by comparing and contrasting the male characters’ ideas of masculinity and relationships with women, one can determine the long-term effects of the Great War on gender constructions. While Christie selects two social innovators—strong, independent women—as her murderer and victim, Sayers makes her murderer and victim two older war veterans with traditional views on gender. In this way, Sayers punishes pre-war views of gender as Christie does post-war ones.

            General Fentiman and Dr. Penberthy both ascribe to Victorian masculinity: General Fentiman, like his favorite grandson Robert, is “proverbial…for never turning a hair,”[109] and Penberthy shoots himself at the novel’s end to avoid being arrested for murder. Both also mistreat women: General Fentiman treated his late wife like a slave, ordering her to execute her “maternal functions” with “military regularity” until she died;[110] Penberthy engages himself to Ann Dorland to get her money, later insulting her “brutal[ly].”[111] In contrast, World War I veterans George Fentiman and Lord Peter Wimsey have both suffered shell shock and scorn the Victorian masculine ideal of emotional repression: George scathingly says, “Robert would cheerfully go through another five years of war and think it all a very good rag.”[112] Wimsey also objects to Mr. Murbles labeling George “weakly,” instead calling him “nervous.” Moreover, as the detective-hero, Lord Peter represents a post-war masculine ideal, combining Hastings and Poirot’s best qualities: he is a quirky, intelligent, aristocratic officer who has overcome shell shock.

While George rejects Victorian masculinity, he is no less “brutal” to his wife Sheila than General Fentiman was to his wife and Penberthy to Ann Dorland. George’s rudeness stems from Sheila’s semi-motherly position of responsibility over him: as Mr. Murbles notes, George’s relapses are exacerbated by the fact that he is “dependent on Sheila” and cannot keep a job on his own.[113] Elaine Showalter observes that shell-shocked men often reacted violently against women as outward expressions of their “quarrels with the feminine element of their own psyches.”[114] Accordingly, George repeatedly accuses Sheila of being too independent, nagging him too much, being a know-it-all, wanting only money, and being conceited.[115] George’s shell shock has liberated Sheila from the domestic circle rendered him “dependent” on her; yet unlike Septimus and Rezia or Chris and Margaret, George does not see Sheila as a mother-figure. George refers to Sheila as “poor girl”[116] and “poor kid”[117]— patronizing endearments one would not use for one’s mother. While Chris does not resent Margaret’s power, George insults Sheila to gain a semblance of power over her.

In contrast, Wimsey is determined not to depend on anyone and to treat women “like ordinary human beings.”[118] Unlike Chris, Septimus, and George, he refuses to accept support from any woman: “I don’t want my hand held,” he quips.[119] He allows himself to rely only on Bunter, his war sergeant and manservant who nursed him through his shell-shock. Bunter “looks after” Wimsey “like a mother,” and Wimsey admits he is completely dependent on him.[120] Bunter’s motherly role in Lord Peter life indicates that his view of gender is not essentialist—a courageous soldier like Bunter can also be tender and caring like a mother. Lord Peter also believes women can be resourceful and independent. When George suffers a relapse, Wimsey visits Sheila and initially patronizes her, calling her “my child” and telling her to “go and sit down.”[121] But Wimsey stops himself and apologizes: “One has an ancestral idea that women must be treated like imbeciles in a crisis.”[122] Lord Peter, having fought in the trenches, recognizes that women have been “[p]ushed into corners” as men were pushed into trenches; “[s]trong” women will go “dotty” if locked up in kitchens as “[s]trong men” went “dotty” in the trenches.[123] According to Sandra Gilbert, “[t]he constriction of the trenches…was analogous to the tight domestic, vocational, and sexual spaces allowed to nineteenth-century women.”[124] As Wimsey and Sheila’s conversation reveals, the Great War had a reciprocal effect on men and women: women could empathize with shell-shocked soldiers because of how “hysterical” women were treated in Victorian and Edwardian England, and men could empathize with oppressed women because of the “powerlessness”[125] they experienced in the trenches.




As Wimsey, Sheila, Septimus, Rezia, Poirot, Jenny, and Chris demonstrate, the Great War changed gender constructions by transforming the way British people thought and felt about emotions. While Wimsey rejects Victorian masculinity along with Chris, Hastings (to some extent), Septimus, and George, he cannot personally embrace post-war masculinity—he cannot relinquish his need to contain his own emotions and is “terrified of having any to show.”[126] Wimsey and Sheila pass around a kettle,[127] a symbol of powerful forces that have been temporarily contained, of powerful emotions trapped inside them. In this way, post-war men and women both strive to control their emotions: Wimsey and Sheila’s determination to act rationally and without emotion has its roots in Jenny suppressing her love for Chris, and Rezia feeling nothing when Septimus dies. Paul Fussell would argue that these characters’ emotional repression stems from the fact that “the Great War was more ironic than any other.”[128] The War “reversed the Idea of Progress,”[129] destroyed “Glory” and “Honor,”[130] killed “‘high’ diction,”[131] and razed “a whole generation”[132] of “innocents”[133]—such a War, for these women novelists, renders the world unfit for grand emotions. Post-war, the most important trait of Victorian masculinity—self-control—applies to both genders.

The War, however, did have positive effects on gender constructions. Nicoletta Gullace asserts that the War’s challenge to Victorian masculinity led to women’s suffrage[134]—a movement one can see in West, Christie, Woolf, and Sayers’s novels. Beginning with Chris’s “dependent”[135] relationship with Margaret, these writers reveal the inadequacies of unequal gender roles. When soldiers forced to exemplify self-control and rationality in the trenches succumbed to shell shock, they could no longer rule over women, enabling women like Margaret, Rezia, and Sheila to gain power over their men. But when Margaret and Rezia try to act as Mother-Women, they fail in their greatest aim—keeping the men safe, whether from the War or from “human nature.”[136] Similarly, Mrs. Inglethorpe and Sheila’s power over their husbands is disastrous—Mrs. Inglethorpe is murdered by her husband, and Sheila’s shell-shocked husband suffers a psychotic relapse. If male authority over women has been destroyed with Victorian masculinity, and women’s domination over men is revealed to be futile, the only viable option that remains is the gender equality desired by Jenny, Mary, Sheila, and Lord Peter.

As West, Christie, Woolf, and Sayers’s novels show, the Great War initially liberated


[1] Her War Story: Twentieth-Century Women Write about War, edited by Sayre P. Sheldon (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999), x.


[2] Claire M. Tylee, The Great War and Women’s Consciousness: Images of Militarism and Feminism in Women’s Writings, 1914-64 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990).


[3] Dorothy Goldman, Women and World War I: The Written Response (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993).


[4] Angela K. Smith, The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism, and the First World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).


[5] John Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976).


[6] Dennis Porter, The Pursuit of Crime: Art and Ideology in Detective Fiction (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981).


[7] Jessica Mann, Deadlier than the Male: An Investigation into Feminine Crime Writing (London: Faber and Faber, 1971), 13.


[8] Her War Story, 3.

[9] Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 22.


[10] Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (London: Virago, 1987), 173.


[11] Ibid., 169.


[12] Ibid., 171.


[13] Ibid., 190.

[14] Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (New York: Square Circle Press, 2011), 8.


[15] Ibid., 26.


[16] Ibid., 99.


[17] Ibid., 83.


[18] Michéle Mendelssohn, “The ‘True Woman’ and the Ideology of Femininity” (presented at the lecture series “Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Women’s Writing” at Oxford University, 18 January 2011).


[19] Ibid.


[20] West, 94.


[21] Ibid., 67.


[22] Ibid., 93.


[23] Ibid., 93.


[24] Ibid., 86.

[25] Debra Rae Cohen, Remapping the Home Front: Locating Citizenship in British Women’s Great War Fiction (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2002), 80.


[26] West, 99.


[27] Ibid., 111.


[28] Cohen, 6.


[29] West, 108.


[30] Victoria Glendinning, Rebecca West: A Life (London: Phoenix, 1998), 55.


[31] Cohen, 151.


[32] West, 43.


[33] Ibid., 70.


[34] Ibid., 7-8. “By nights I saw Chris running across the brown rottenness of No-Man’s-Land…”


[35] Ibid., 39.


[36] Jenny’s narration is, granted, unreliable. But this scene may be the most objective point of her narrative’s perspective, since it falls after Jenny has abandoned her loyalty to Kitty and before she has proclaimed her fealty to Margaret.


[37] West, 40.


[38] Her War Story, 2.

[39] Peter Leese, Shell Shock: Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 161-2.


[40] Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s: Class, Domesticity, and Bohemianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 200.


[41] Ibid., 211.


[42] Mann, 128.


[43] Maria Di Battista, “The Lowly Art of Murder: Modernism and the Case of the Free Woman,” High and Low Modern Literature and Culture, 1889-1939, edited by Maria DiBattista and Lucy McDiarmid, 176-193 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 185.


[44] Ibid., 185.


[45] Porter, 216.

[46] Porter, 216.


[47] In 1914, G. K. Chesterton wrote a history of Britain, believing that the War would reaffirm British national identity. He asked, “What was it that has made the British peoples thus defer not only their artificial parade of party politics, but their real social and moral complaints and demands? What is it that has united all of us against the Prussian, as against a mad dog?” (Quoted in C. J. Litzenberger and Eileen Groth Lyon, The Human Tradition in Modern Britain [Lanham, Maryland, and Plymouth, United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006], 188.). As the most important tenets of Victorian masculinity were self-control and rationality, Chesterton points to the British people’s ability to suppress their “complaints” and fight together against a “mad” foe as signifiers of national identity—the British are British because they have self-control and reason, like real men. 


[48] Ross Macdonald, “The Writer as Detective Hero,” in Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robin W. Winks, 179-187  (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980), 180.


[49] Hastings does not suffer shell shock. Thirty-eight per cent of veterans were classified as psychologically “normal” after the war by Norman Fenton’s 1926 study Shellshock and its Aftermath, while only 20.4 percent were “disabled.” Christie’s narrator Hastings is in by far the largest group of veterans, while Chris in Return and Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway are in the second-smallest (Leese, 134-6).


[50] Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles: A Detective Story (London: HarperCollins, 2007), 9.


[51] Ibid., 194.


[52] Ibid., 18.

[53] Ibid., 168.


[54] Porter, 135.


[55] Christie., 25.


[56] Ibid., 25, 44, 51, 66, 92, etc.


[57] Porter, 139.


[58] Christie, 26.


[59] Christie, 180.


[60] Ibid., 6.


[61] Ibid., 7.


[62] Ibid., 183.


[63] Ibid., 141.

[64] Ibid., 9.


[65] Ibid., 98.


[66] Ibid., 8.


[67] Ibid., 83.


[68] Carolyn Wheat, How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery and the Roller Coaster of Suspense (McKinnleyville, CA: Perseverance Press, 2003), 77


[69] Christie, 6.


[70] Ibid., 234.


[71] Ibid., 183.

[72] Ibid., 183.


[73] Ibid., 193.


[74] Mark Hussey, “Living in a War Zone: An Introduction to Virginia Woolf as a War Novelist,” in Virginia Woolf and War, edited by Mark Hussey, 1-13 (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 3.


[75] Nancy Topping Bazin and Jane Hamovit Lauter, “Virginia Woolf’s Keen Sensitivity to War: Its Roots and its Impact on her Novels,” in Virginia Woolf and War, edited by Mark Hussey, 14-39 (Syracuse, New York: Syracus University Press, 1999), 17.


[76] Karen L. Levenback, Virginia Woolf and the Great War (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 4.


[77] Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Mariner Books, 2005), 84.


[78] Ibid., 84.


[79] Levenback, 69.


[80] Woolf, 84.


[81] Ibid., 86.


[82] Ibid., 85.


[83] Ibid., 85.


[84] Ibid., 85.


[85] Elaine Showalter,“Introduction” in Mrs. Dalloway, i-xlv (London: Penguin Books, 1992), xxxiv.


[86] Woolf, 85.


[87] Levenback, 69.


[88] Woolf, 85.


[89] Ibid., 86.


[90] Ibid., 87.


[91] Ibid., 90.


[92] Ibid., 90.


[93] Ibid., 96.


[94] Ibid., 139.


[95] Ibid., 139.


[96] Ibid., 139.

[97] Ibid., 142.


[98] Ibid., 142.


[99] Ibid., 144.


[100] Ibid., 140.


[101] Ibid., 141.


[102] Ibid., 145.


[103] Ibid., 84.


[104] Ibid., 146.

[105] Ibid., 84.


[106] Ibid., 148.


[107] Humble, 211.


[108] Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Omnibus of Crime,” in Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robin W. Winks, 53-83 (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980), 82.

[109] Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2003), 99-100.


[110] Ibid.,  14.


[111] Sayers, 240.


[112] Sayers, 99.

[113] Sayers, 150.


[114] Showalter, 173.


[115] Sayers, 64-72.


[116] Sayers, 2.


[117] Sayers, 74.


[118] Ibid., 233.


[119] Sayers, 106.


[120] Sayers, 66.

[121] Ibid., 202.


[122] Ibid., 202.


[123] Sayers, 202.


[124] Showalter, 174.


[125] Showalter, 174.

[126] Sayers, 276.


[127] Ibid., 202.


[128] Fussell, 18.


[129] Ibid., 8.


[130] Ibid., 21.


[131] Ibid., 22.


[132] Ibid., 337.


[133] Ibid., 19.


[134] Nicoletta Gullace, The Blood of Our Sons: Men, Women, and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship during the Great War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 5.


[135]West, 99.


[136] Woolf, 91.


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