Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir

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Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir feminism and war
Loomis, Mary L
Publication Date:
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iv, 48 leaves : ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Political and social views ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Humanities, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
Mary L. Loomis.

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Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
25503090 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L58 1991m .L66 ( lcc )

Full Text
Mary L. Loomis
B.A|University of Northern Colorado, 1975
| A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
J \ )

This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
1 Mary L. Loomis
| has been approved for the
Humanities Program
Kevin C. O'Neill
, |

Loomis, Mary L. (M.H., Humanities)
Virginia Woo
Thesis direc
If and Simone de Beauvoir: Feminism and War
ted by Kevin C. ONeill
1 I
This sturdy will examine certain works of Virginia
Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, concentrating particularly
on feminist works dealing with war, and will encompass
the disciplines of literature, language, philosophy, and
The sjtudy will begin by examining the pacifist
with Beau
Woolf as expressed in her work, and continue
voiirs works, which began as pacifist and
historical e
and revealed a change in attitude with
vents in France and other parts of Europe.
The form andl content of this abstract are approved. I
s publication.
Kevin C. O'Neill


In her introduction to a collection of feminist
essays publi
shed in 1987, Catharine R. Stimpson cites
Woolfs A Room of Ones Own, published in 1929,
and Simone de Beauvoirs Le Deuxieme sexe, published in
1949, as
helping t
gender and s'
culture; |2)
two major texts that marked the beginning of
ticism. She credits the two authors with
o establish three principles of feminist
: I
power and
margins 0;f c
only real
examined !the|
placed on
) recognizing the influence of structures of
exual difference upon history, politics, and
acknowledging that men have controlled these
society and have made designations regarding
iorities, while relegating women to the
ulture; and 3) declaring that women must not
their position, but act to effect change
those principles, both Woolf and Beauvoir
roles played by men and women and the values
those roles by society. Their examinations
revealed a carefully structured patriarchy in which men
were made
th'e leaders and defenders of society, and women
were expected to support the values established by men
and fulfill
their "natural" role of bringing new life

into the/world. In their writings, both noted not only
the gender-specific system of assigning roles, but the
value sysjtem that esteems the sex that defends more than
the sex that nurtures.
This comparison between defender and provider of
life, the soldier role versus the mother role, appears
many times throughout the works of both Woolf and
Beauvoir. Sometimes the distinction was pointed out only
to illustrate the general status of women in society. In
their wri
examine the
they expl
feminist Iper
the growth 6
up to Wor
tings about war, however, gender role becomes a
issue. The purpose of this study will be to
literary approaches of these two authors as
ore issues of war and gender roles from their
spectives. Many of these writings center on
f fascism in the 1930s and the events leading
Id War II, as this was an era they both lived
though viewing the actions from different
then a yo'ung
o had memories of World War I. Beauvoir was
girl learning to cope with blackouts and
economic hardship, as her father struggled to support the
family on
the war as a
Beauvoir fam
corporals salary. Years later, she recalled
real turning point in the fortunes of the
ily, the beginning of the erosion of the
family happiness (Bair 46)

World War I found Woolf as a young woman at the
views on
her work:
of her writing career, already forming the
feminism and war that she would later express in
It was not just the devastation of the war
itself thht
influenced her views. On a more
ical level, she was influenced by her friendship
with Margaret Llewelyn-Davies of the Cooperative Working
Womens Guil
d, whose life was dedicated to feminism,
socialism, and pacifism (Language 72).
this study,
works. Wool
f eminist
(1938), d
autres (1
account o
the time
war. La
publications. Woolfs long essay, Three Guineas
works from each author have been chosen for
as well as several critical and biographical
fs A Room of Ones Own and Beauvoirs Le
sexe were selected because they were landmark
s with war in a general sense and from a
perspective. Beauvoirs novel, Le Sang des
945) is set in World War II, and its fictional
f resistance activists is woven around real
Woolfs novel, To the Lighthouse (1927), covers
period of World War I, but part of its
nee here lies in what it doesnt say about the
Force de lage (1960) is an autobiographical
work by Beauvoir that covers the time period in which
Three Guineas was written, and provides a look at
s r
eactions to some of the historical
discussed by Woolf. Also, some of

Beauvoir *
s wartime experiences and much of the evolving
thought process that she describes in La Force de l&ge
are refle
express d
that thejr
cte|d in Le Sang des autres.
e i
Le Deuxieme
states that
what she
womens c
s share a general concern regarding the
women, but, as we might expect, they often
rgent opinions on various aspects of this
The writings of Woolf and Beauvoir reveal
d some disagreements on issues, as well as a
n style. Comparing A Room of One's Own and
sexe. published twenty years apart, Stimpson
Woolf and Beauvoir "display contrasting
" and that academics are more likely to prefer
the imaginat
e o
or becaus
than de Beau
The "con
provide a
calls Beauvoir's "more systematic analysis of
ondition." She goes on to say, "If Woolf lets
ion fly after truth, de Beauvoir deploys the
ion of reason to assemble it. Despite this,
f this, Woolfs grasp of history, if narrower
voir's is often hardier" (2)1
trasting rhetorics" of Woolf and Beauvoir
complementary approach to feminist issues,
especially in the two works cited by Stimpson. In A Room
of Ones Lwn
., Virginia Woolf uses anecdotes and bits of
history, Jas well as her own imaginative theories, to
discuss womens struggle for equality. In Le Deuxieme
sexe, Simone de Beauvoir uses her "systematic analysis"
to explore the roots of womens condition. Her lengthy

study induces biological and historical data, as well as
sociological and philosophical observations, as she finds
that no individual discipline can explain why women have
been designated as the second sex, "11Autre"--the
Otherthroughout history.
until two
mone de Beauvoir did not publish anything
years after the death of Virginia Woolf, we can
only speculate as to how Woolf might have responded to
s work. In Le Deuxieme sexe, Beauvoir cited
Woolfs comments in A Room of Ones Own concerning women
writers (
180-81), and referenced three of her novels,
quoting passages from The Waves (2: 141-43) and Mrs.
to the no
1980s, sh
(2 :j 407-08). It is interesting that her
toj A Room of Ones Own is so brief in relation
velj passages because several years later, in the
e tbld biographer Deirdre Bair:
Woojlf is among the writers whose works
I admire and sometimes reread, but
onlly her feminist writings, because I
donlt agree with her novels. They
donlt have any center. There isnt
;any thesis. (Bair 655)
Beauvoirj cited from A Room of Ones Own as part of a
discussion about womens lack of opportunity to exploit
their creati
would have h
an equally t
--that a woman born in Shakespeares time would
ve talents. Woolf had speculated as to what
appened if someone like Shakespeare had had
alented sister. She concluded--and Beauvoir

not have been allowed to pursue a literary career, no
matter how g
her gift ,wou
In a spe
ifted a writer she might have been, and that
Id have been lost to the world.
ech she made before a group of Japanese women
in 1966, Beauvoir again referenced A Room of Ones Own.
this time al
for privacy
writer, a
so discussing Woolfs theme topic, the need
and solitude in order to function as a
s well as the lack of opportunity for women to
develop crea.
sister of
Woolf in
and that man
problems jand
later in her
thought that
speaks of
of the fi
the battl
e. "
man's wor
tivity, as experienced by the hypothetical
s repetition of Woolfs earlier reflections
at some of the feminist issues that concerned
1929 were still of concern to Beauvoir in 1966,
y of their thoughts around identifying
posing solutions were in harmony. However,
speech, Beauvoir moves into a line of
obviously was not inspired by Woolf. She
women being "on the side-lines of this world,"
th|e position of the woman writer to--of all
r correspondent who "shares some of the risks
ing forces and "is best placed to describe
She goes on to say: "As this world is a
the important decisions, the important
ties, the important actions fall to men"
ity" 27). As we shall discover in our
of Woolfs pacifist writings, this

battlefieldJmetaphor is not in keeping with Woolf's
vision of sejxual equality or pacifism. Indeed, by
describing tjhe actions of the fighting forces as
Beauvoir is supporting a part of the
shed value system that Woolf rejected,
if prominent feminists such as Woolf and
goals wou
had agreed on all the issues before them, their
have been no
is part o
f t
a v
be of concer
have been achieved long ago, and there would
need for a Betty Friedan or a Gloria
carry on their struggle. But individualism
he struggle, too, and so feminism has
ariety of positions. The subjects that will
n here are the feminist writings of Woolf and
tha^t center around issues related to war.
In her 1
roots of
family, poin
systems. i Di
f ather-daugh
938 anti-war statement, Three Guineas, Woolf
r as an issue of male violence. Combining
theory with political theory, she traces the
fascism to the structure of the patriarchal
ting out the dictatorial nature of both
scussing family relationships, particularly
ter relationships, she alludes to "the fear
which forbids freedom in the private house." Turning
then to Hitler and Mussolini, the two great fascist

e l
worlds af
servili tips
of the other*
unstated j
Woolf's corr;
he declares that "the public and private
nseparably connected; that the tyrannies and
of the one are the tyrannies and servilities
" (142).
er Lyndall Gordon called this work "a
investigation of the dodgy emotions, the
umptions and evasive terminology that prop
law" (256). But according to some critics,
elation between fascism and patriarchy was
not generally accepted. Jane Marcus calls Woolfs
this point "a thesis still too bold for any
radical of feminists to take seriously"
argument ;on
but the most
(79) .
One of the most severe critics of Three Guineas and
of Woolfs approach to her subject matter was her own
nephew, Quenjtin Bell. He called this work "the product
of a very: odji mind" (204), and then stated further:
i-Whajt really seemed wrong with the
i,book--and I am speaking here of my own
realctions at the time--was the attempt
jto involve a discussion of womens
[rights with the far more agonizing and
|limm!ediate question of what we were to
cio !in order to meet the ever-growing
menace of Fascism and war. The
connection between the two questions
|seemed tenuous and the positive
^suggestions wholly inadequate. (205)
BellI's problem with this work seems to be two-fold.
First of iall
, he saw a tenuous connection between womens
rights arid fascism, and of course for Woolf that was the

heart of ;the
posed byi;Hit
was no time
must simply
problem fbr
with it wjas
In addit
fascism and
feminist ;,ipos
the blame
This stat
problem. Secondly, he felt that the threat
ler and Mussolini was so immediate that there
to probe the theoretical roots of fascism; it
be dealt with. Woolf saw fascism as a
all times, and part of her method of dealing
to determine its roots,
ion to her specific comments regarding
its origins, Woolf takes a definitively
ition on the general subject of war, placing
for our warring tendencies upon the heads of
For though many instincts are held
more or less in common by both sexes,
to fight has always been the mans
habit, not the womans.... Scarcely a
human being in the course of history
has fallen to a womans rifle.
(Guineas 6)
ement is not as valid as it was when Woolf made
it. It did
were all mal
that Amef
century for
of course conform to her historical
as the World War I combatants she observed
e. Obviously she didn't forsee the struggle
icaln women would wage in the latter half of the
admission into military academies and for
have been
still att
ribute to men the responsibility for initiating,
combat status in the armed forces. No doubt she would
astonished to see female soldiers leaving small
go to the Persian Gulf. However, Woolf might

planning, arid directing wars, as those aspects do not
seem to have changed.
The premise of Three Guineas is that a man who has
acknowledged the undesirability of war has written to a
l |
womanWoolf--to ask her opinion as to how war can be
Part of her suggested "solution" to the
s to give women more opportunities to gain
p positions in society. Woolf concentrates on
her own social class, as she cites examples of
ve been forced to sacrifice their own
problem i
women of
women who
arid their rightful shares of the family wealth
so that thei
r brothers could be educated for their
professions.I Woolfs repetitious phrase "the daughters
of educated pen" to describe this group of women becomes
a bit tiresome by the end of the book, but it does serve
to make her
being den
point that women of her class were purposely
iedi education, thereby denying them
s to distinguish themselves in most
people vo
their fee
makes a point of trying to understand why
lunteer for military service, and to reconcile
lings about patriotism with her own conception
iotism means. She studies the biographical
of what patr
works of soldiers and gleans from the writings three
reasons for
a profession
their dedication to military life: 1) War is
; 2) War is a source of happiness and

and 3) War provides an outlet for manly
qualities, without which men would deteriorate (8). She
contrasts these soldiers enthusiasm for battle with the
words of a pacifist poet killed in World War I and
acknowledges that men do not all share the same
feelings. Her examination of patriotism reveals the same
diversity of opinion, as she notes that even the bishops
of the Church of England disagree as to how England can
maintain her sovereignty in a way that will not conflict
11 i
with the teachings of Christ. One bishop sides with the
military and the Lord Chief Justice in advocating a
strong defensive posture, while the other agrees with the
poet that Jesus commanded his followers to avoid taking
up arms. StLill, she tells her correspondent: "... it is
i ;
obvious j.. that however many dissentients there are, the
great majority of your sex are today in favour of war"
(8). |
Part of;Woolfs problem with nationalistic pride, or
"patriotism,1" is that she feels that women have not
not have
derived the same benefits from their English
as men have, so the word "patriotism" does
the same meaning for both sexes. She also
points out that fighting is not an option for women
because the!military services in her time do not accept
women. Their further exclusion from the Stock Exchange,
the diplcmaiic service, the clergy, and other professions

women of the power channels that men use to
influence governmental policy. Therefore, Woolf
31 !
concludes that she and her female contemporaries are
powerless to either support or prevent war. If women are
ij I
to penetrate this system, a whole new order will be
Therp is a sorting process going on throughout Three
Guineas.|as iWoolf examines existing traditions and values
in light of;their usefulness in the new order that she
would like to see established. At the same time that she
demands bldmission for women into male-dominated
ons, she also criticizes those institutions,
contending that their male traditions contribute to the
i, i
;li ij
war mentality. She attacks what she calls the "pompous
dress" of certain professionals, their wigs, robes,
hoods, and especially uniforms. Not only do men assume
!; j |
for themselves the most influential positions in society,
but they,flaunt their positions by wearing costumes that
announce!what they do. While men thus identify
themselvps and each other by their chosen professions,
women are known as Mrs. Somebody or Mr. Somebody's
She would have universities destroyed if they cannot
be drastically changed to emphasize studies in human
relations and the arts. She would like them to be
institutions where knowledge is pursued for its own sake,

not just training schools for the professions. Still,
she concedes that women need the job training functions
of the university, being convinced that as long as women
upon men for financial support, they would in
turn be obligated to support in spirit the patriarchal
system that
provided their sustenance:
if those daughters are not going to
be educated they are not going to earn
their livings; if they are not going to
earn their livings, they are going once
more to be restricted to the education
of the private house; and if they are
going to be restricted to the education
of the private house they are going,
once more, to exert all their
influence, both consciously and
unconsciously in favour of war. (37)
In support of this contention, Woolf pointed out that the
woman witSh no education and no means of supporting
herself must either remain in her fathers home or find a
| j
husband to provide for her. In order to make herself
I s
marriageable, she had to accept the prevailing
male-established value system, which would include
supporting war.
She was [particularly disturbed by the fact that women
often collallorate in the war effort. She recalled World
War I as:
that amazing outburst in August
1914 when the daughters of educated
men ... rushed into hospitals, some
stiill attended by their maids, drove
lorjries, worked in fields and munition
factories, and used all their immense
stores of charms, of sympathy, to
persuade young men that to fight was

,heroic, and that the wounded in battle
[deserved all her care and all her
praise. (39)
Woolf refers to this willingness to help with the war
effort as unconscious influence that women exerted to
promote war. In contemplating the motivation behind
their collaboration, she observes that World War I
provided|women an escape from the domestic environment to
which they had been restricted. Employment opportunities
| i
were enhanced by a need for military nurses and women to
| |
fill jobs left vacant by men called into the service.
Womens role in the patriarchal family expanded into a
place in
the national patriarchy. By declaring their
patriotic intentions to support the troops, they were
I i
able to ease themselves into the larger world without
compromising their respectability in a society that still
idealized motherhood and held a narrow view of where
women beionged:
So profound was her unconscious
loathing for the education of the
private house ... that she would
undertake any task however menial,
exercise any fascination however fatal
]that enabled her to escape. Thus
[consciously she desired "our splendid
[Empire"; unconsciously she desired our
jsplendid war. (39)
I ;
In the situation that Woolf describes, women who wish to
attract husbands must consciously accept war along with
other aspects of the patriarchal system, but women who
! i!
arent anxious to marry might favor war, even

unconsciously, because wars also provide opportunities
for single women to escape the confinement of the home.
Beauvoir, too, noted that women tend to be supportive
of men wnen
they go to war:
Se posant comme souverain il rencontre
lla complicite de la femme
lelle-m§me.... Elle sassocie aux
(homines dans les fetes qui c61ebrent
leg succes et les victoires des
(males. (Deuxierne sexe 1: 114)
To Beauvoir, this collaboration ("complicite") is not a
reluctant acquiescence to male values, but an indication
of the acceptance of those values. She contends that the
woman "tijouve au coeur de son etre la confirmation des
pretentions'masculines" (1: 114). When a woman leaves
her traditional domestic situation, which Beauvoir
describes as "immanent" to denote its passivity, she is
i |
able to join with man in his more active or
1 j
"transcendent" role in life.
Thus, according to Beauvoir, the womans acceptance
of male-established values leads her to abandon her
I j
strictly jdonjiestic role and collaborate with man in his
war-making. But according to Woolf, the womans desire
to abandon her domestic role leads her to collaborate in
I j
war, necessitating the acceptance of male-established
values. jBotlh saw a disadvantage for women in being
confined |to the home, but their views of what liberation
would accomplish were somewhat different. Beauvoir

wanted women to emulate men's behavior in order to gain
power. Woolf wanted women to gain power in order to
change men's behavior.
Woolf envisioned a social movement evolving from the
l|. |
commitment of "the daughters of educated men" to resist
militarism.! This "Outsider's Society" would not hold
formal meetings or pay dues, but the members would,
nevertheless, be dedicated to certain agreed-upon
members :
event ofi,
Woolf outlines three essential duties of
to not take up arms; 2) to refuse in the
war to make munitions or nurse the wounded; and
who feel
3) to maintain an attitude of indifference towards men
a heed to fight (Guineas 106-07).
The interesting thing about these three duties is
that the!
leaders and
action is directed toward the soldiers, the
people who fight wars, and not toward the government
legislative bodies who declare wars. Her
principles certainly conflict with the rhetoric that
f j
normally,.prevails during wartime, when citizens are
always acmonished to 1) answer their countrys call, 2)
get behind the war effort, and 3) support the troops.
Perhaps Vfoolf has made an important discovery here, that
if a war|were held and no one came, it would have to be
called off.
Continuing her argument, Woolf looks at the way the
value system influences the economic system. Noting the

falling birth rate in the "educated class," Woolf
that one of the tasks of the "Outsiders
might be to campaign for the State to provide a
wage for!mothers. She cites the incentives offered to
an example of the kind of compensation that
might encourage motherhood:
Just as the increase in the pay of
soldiers has resulted ... in
additional recruits to the force of
arms-bearers, so the same inducement
woilild serve to recruit the
child-bearing force, which we can
hardly deny to be as necessary and as
honourable, but which, because of its
poverty, and its hardships, is now
failing to attract recruits. (Ill)
She calls the position of wife/mother "an unpaid
an unpensioned profession, and therefore a
precarious and dishonoured profession" (111). In A Room
i j
of Ones1Own, Woolf had noted the difficulties that
"Shakespeares sister" and her descendants faced in
trying to establish themselves as writers, and the
importance of financial security to their ability to
pursue careers. Here she points out that even the role
that women are expected to perform is neither respected
nor compensated, while the soldier is not only respected,
a pay incentive to ensure his services.
Although this situation may seem like a simple case
of misplaced priorities, Beauvoir found the veneration of
the hunter-warrior to be a key to the whole issue of i
but offered

sexual inequality. In fact, she cites womens lack of
' ]
participation in war as one of their great disadvantages:
La Spire malediction qui pese sur la
|femme cest quelle est exclue de ces
expeditions guerrieres; ce nest pas
enJdonnant la vie, cest en risquant
sa 'vie que lhomme seleve au-dessus
'de 1animal; cest pourquoi dans
'lhlumanit6 la superiority est accordee
non au sexe qui engendre mais k celui
qui tue. (Deuxieme sexe 1: 113)
This passage represents Beauvoirs basic "transcendence"
versus immsjnence" argument, that if women had not always
been enslaved by their reproductive function, they would
have had more opportunity to engage in the more
sophisticated tasks of defending and providing for their
people, tlhereby gaining respect for their acts of courage
and more lequal status with men. Jean Leighton, in her
study of iBeauvoirs feminist works, observes that this
passage from Le Deuxieme sexe "would certainly provoke
cries of protest from a Womens Liberationist today"
i , 4
(33). She goes on to say that she doesn't think Beauvoir
I i
intended (any irony in her statement because it conforms
to her existentialist beliefs:
1 I
|Her continual existentialist reduction
of life itself to mere animal
ilexistence unless redeemed by heroic
jactiion (risk) makes even war
jglorious. One of the major
indictments of masculine domination
|has been the timeless male
jglorification of war and the passage
above would serve as an unconscious
example of what feminists mean by
Iperverted male values. (33)
i i
i I
I 1
! 18

It seems likely that Virginia Woolf would have agreed
with Leightons comments about "perverted male values,"
as Woolf'was very critical of society's veneration of
warriorsJ As one of Woolfs biographers states, "Courage
in warriors:was, to her, a deceptive term of value, like
glory and
honour, because it could licence stupid
Gordon 163). Any solution that Woolf might
offer for the prevention of war would have to address
this concept
no longer be
of military heroism. If war was to be
attitudes must change, and the soldier could
societys hero. She believed that if the
patriarchy were overthrown and women allowed more
participation in the affairs of the world, a new value
system would emerge.
Therefore, the three guineas that Woolf offers are to
go to provide education for women, help women to enter
! i
the professions, and gain justice, equality and liberty
i |
for people of both sexes. The three suggestions made by
her correspondents are deemed inadequate. They suggest
only that she write a letter to the newspaper, join an
organization, and give financial support to the
organizaiion (Guineas 11). In her response to those
| i
people who sought her help to put an end to war, she
reiterates her argument for a radical change in
strategy: "... we can best help you to prevent war by
not repeating your words and following your methods but

by finding new words and creating new methods (143).
Woolf believed that her formula would be more effective
i |
in eliminating tyranny and dictatorship, and eventually
help to conquer the fascism that was threatening the
world at
the time this work was written.
As Three Guineas was submitted for publication, World
War II was lleginning. The fascism that Woolf saw as an
I '
outgrowth of the patriarchal system was menacing Europe
as Hitler and Mussolini marched their troops through one
country ELft^r another. Defending his criticism of Woolf
for formingiher "tenuous connection" between feminism and
pacifism] Quentin Bell observed that "the true criticism
of Three
Guineas came from events; for the events of 1938
did not turn upon the Rights of Women but upon the Rights
of Nations"
(205). He seemed to imply with this
statement that her argument was not only poorly
constructed; but badly timed. But Woolf was not just
looking at the evil committed by two dictators
frighteningias they were--but at the system that
i i
encouraged the rise of a Hitler or Mussolini, a system
that had
produced their despotic predecessors and would
likely produce more despots in the future. And in her
analysis of
the fascist system, she maintained that the
found his inspiration in the tyrannical
Victorian father. Thus, her suggestions for eliminating
war implied
family restructuring and changes in

individual attitudes, with the conviction that if the
rights of women were granted, the rights of nations would
The ideas concerning war and family that Woolf
expressed so forcefully in Three Guineas were not new
ideas, b^t old ones that had found more quiet expression
in some of her earlier works. Her 1927 novel, To the
I I -------
I i
Lighthouse,,dealt with them in a story told against a
background much like Woolfs own early environment.
Thus, the novel provides not only Woolfs views, but a
glimpse of the setting that influenced her in those
views. It is also a tribute to British understatement.
To the Lighthouse covers a ten-year period that includes
"I !
World War Ii but the novels story focuses on Victorian
1! 1
and postwar|family life, almost--but not quiteignoring
the war itself. Concerning Woolfs unusual treatment of
World War I in To the Lighthouse. Gordon states:
,1..; to understand, first, the affront
I tojhistorical narrative, it is
|essential to see in her resistance to
|war an outrage so complete that,
taking a line more extreme than
anti-war poets, she refused to treat
war at all. (164)
'i '
From Woolfs perspective, the war had already had enough
direct coverage. Gordon writes of an incident in January

1916, when Woolf, reading the war news in The London
Times, "wondered how this preposterous masculine fiction
keeps going a day longer" (161).
In To the Lighthouse. Woolf gave the Great War the
attention slie felt it deserved. Its occurrence was noted
I |
in the npvels chain of historical events, and its cost
to in a brief account of combat deaths.
There were no references to "victory" or "heroism," or
even "patriotism." Woolfs choice of language and
structural technique imply that World War I was not a
was alluded
event to be dwelled upon, but a grim bit of
history to be hastily acknowledged. Her arguments
against war
and wartime heroics are here, along with her
portrayal of the patriarchal family, but she presents
these arguments subtly, as she details the activities of
the ten Ramsays and their guests at the Ramsays seaside
summer homeJ
The firsjt chapter covers one day at the summer home,
and provides an introduction to the characters in the
novel, with particular emphasis on Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay
and their relationship. Woolf did not confer any first
names upon her protagonists. They are known only as Mr.
and Mrs. iRamsay, perhaps to emphasize their status as the
foundation of the family. Woolfs biographers
have been quick to point out the similarities between the
Ramsays and
Woolfs own parents. Indeed, it is easy to

see Leslie Stephen the writer-scholar as the prototype
for Mr. Ramsay the college professor, and Julia Stephen
was known for looking after the sick in much the same way
as Mrs. Ramsay. Lyndall Gordon recalls a photograph
the nine- or ten-year-old Virginia Stephen and
declaring that, "There, grave-faced in dark
taken of
her parents,
Mrs. Ramsay,
Victorian clothes sit the living subjects who, as Mr. and
were to be recomposed and preserved in the
fiction" (28).
The Ramsays also reflect some of the general
observations that Woolf made regarding Victorian family
life, especially its patriarchal aspects. There is no
ii | |
doubt that the Ramsay family is a patriarchy. The roles
of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are clearly defined as breadwinner
and homemaker, and the personality traits that Woolf
assigns them help to reinforce their role designations.
Mr. Ramsay is blustering, short-tempered, and demanding,
a tyrannical father who is more resented than loved by
his children. The only weakness he demonstrates is his
obsessive concern with professional accomplishment. Mrs.
Ramsay is his complement. She is a gentle, patient woman
who constantly gives of herself as mother, hostess, and
caretaker of the village sick people, while also
providing emotional support and encouragement to her
It is clear that although duty and obedience
may be factors in her attitude, Mrs. Ramsay does have a

high regard:for Mr. Ramsay's work, and feels humble when
comparing her own accomplishments: "There was nobody she
reverenced more. She was not good enough to tie his shoe
she felt" (Lighthouse 51).
For theireader, it is somewhat difficult to share
j j
Mrs. Ramsays reverence, as Mr. Ramsays "splendid mind"
seems a little addled at times. When we first encounter
Mr. Ramsay, 'he is wandering around the grounds of their
summer hdrnej loudly reciting Alfred, Lord Tennysons poem
about the Crimean War, "The Charge of the Light
| I
Brigade." Of course this ranting recitation causes
embarrassmert to Mrs. Ramsay and their children, as well
as making their guests uncomfortable. His behavior also
I j
contrasts sharply with that of Mrs. Ramsay, who is seen
: j
calmly knitting and reading while Mr. Ramsay continues to
wander and recite.
| [
The militaristic theme of the poem, when contrasted
Ramsays domestic activities, at first seems to
demonstrate 'a clear case of male violence versus female
tranquility. However, it is also worth noting that "The
i |
Charge of the Light Brigade" is not about military
victory or brilliant military strategy. The poem
! I
recounts ja British defeat that was caused by a
misunderstood order. In fact, the line "Someone had
blunderd" seems to be one of Mr. Ramsays favorite
with Mrs.

After hearing him repeat this line several times,
Mrs. Ramsay;senses that something is not going well with
Mr. Ramsays work, and when he stops his recitation for a
brief conversation with her, the reader senses this,
too. Although the conversation centers around the
i i
weather conditions and the possibility of a trip across
the sea to the lighthouse, there is a feeling that Mr.
Ramsay has come to his wife for some kind of reassurance,
a reaffirmation of his importance. Woolf observed later
in A Room of Ones Own that "Women have served all these
centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and
delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice
his natural;size" (35). Mrs. Ramsay, like a good
| J
Victorian wife, concentrates her power to provide this
reassuring large reflection of her husband--so that he
; i
can continue to assume his dominant role and his charade
of importance.
As Mr. gainsays private thoughts are revealed, "The
Charge of tlie Light Brigade" emerges as an allegory of
sorts. His
career seems like the expedition of the Light
who rode out "boldly and well" and was gunned
down. He has tried hard, but has failed to make his
mark. In his mind he has invented an alphabetical
formula to serve as his own allegorical measurement of

He tells,
may even
that obvious distinction between
the two classes of men; on the one
hand the steady goers of superhuman
strength who, plodding and
persevering, repeat the whole alphabet
in|order, twenty-six letters in all,
from start to finish; on the other the
gifted, the inspired who,
miraculously, lump all the letters
together in one flash--the way of
genius. (55)
himself that he has gotten all the way to Q, and
make it to R, but probably will not be among the
few to go all the way to Z.
As Mi'. Ramsay ponders his shortcomings, we begin to
realize that he is compensating for his own insecurity by
his raging outbursts of authority. Mrs. Ramsay tolerates
i' I
his behavior and tries to effect a balance in the
household bjr maintaining her composure, but Mr. Ramsays
tyranny evoljes fear and resentment in his children.
It is in James, the youngest of the eight Ramsay
that we observe the most resentment directed
toward Mr. Ramsay. We learn that six-year-old James
hates his father for his outbursts, that "most of all he
hated the twang and twitter of his fathers emotion
which, vibrating round them, disturbed the perfect
simplicity and good sense of his relations with his
58 J .
mother" (
pursuing her study of Woolfs theories
regarding fascism and the patriarchal family, focuses on
the relationship of James to each of his parents. She

recalls a scene with Mrs. Ramsay reading the story "The
Fisherman and His Wife" to James. The story concerns a
nice fisllernan and his shrewish, demanding wife. Marcus
suggests that by choosing to read this story, Mrs. Ramsay
"helps her boy through his Oedipal struggle by teaching
him to identify with the hated father and to see his
nurturing mother as rejecting and cold, and, through the
story, tlat!women are greedy and powermad" (154). While
1 j
James is listening to the story, he is cutting out
pictures, from a catalog. Marcus notes that two of the
objects that Mrs. Ramsay directs him to cut out are a
sword and a
refrigerator. She interprets the sword as a
phallic object and the refrigerator as a nurturing object
j j
that is also cold. Marcus implies that this episode
demonstrates that Mrs. Ramsay is training James to be the
patriarch that society expects him to be, thus
perpetuating the Victorian family model into the next
While it does seem that Mrs. Ramsay has accepted the
Victorian mother role for herself, there is some doubt
that she
earnestly trying to form James into a typical
Victorian male. Regardless of her choice of reading
father as a
pictures to cut out, James does not see his
role model to imitate, but as a mean,
demanding tyrant. He still feels the same way ten years
later when Hr. Ramsay finally organizes an expedition to

the lighthojise that James wanted so badly to visit at the
age of six. The fact that James and Cam, the two
youngest:children, displayed the most resentment toward
their father may indicate that Woolf envisioned a change
from the Victorian family model to a less patriarchal
; j
one. By1 presenting James as a sensitive, gentle child
who hated the rantings of his father, she may have been
! !
saying tnatiif one starts at the beginning to instill
1 I
gentle qualities in the male child, he may not grow up to
be tyrannical or militaristic.
In factj looking at the Ramsays four sons, we can
notice a progression toward the gentle nature of
six-year-old James. We find that Roger, the next older,
has a carefree nature, and spends his time "scampering
about over the country" (90). Jasper, their second son,
exhibits both gentle and violent qualities, spending his
day shooting at birds and his evening helping his mother
select her jewelry for dinner and escorting her to the
dining room; Andrew, the oldest, seems to be the one
cast in the
old mold, as he prepares to follow his father
into academic life; then we learn in the passage covering
the war years that he became a soldier.
i |
The Time Passes" segment of this novel is a
curiously constructed passage. While the first and last
chapters present detailed accounts of single days at the
summer homej "Time Passes" is a fast-forward of the ten

! |
! I
years between, treating this period metaphorically as the
i i
night following the day described in Chapter One.
I 1
In reading this passage, one notices first the
pervasiveness of the darkness, then the wind that is
working its^destruction on the house, the "stray airs"
which Woolf^compares to "advance guards of great armies"
! i
(194). While these ambiant conditions are described in
l 1
detail, events flash by as parentheticals. The family
experiences^three deaths during this decade: Mrs. Ramsay
and the two:oldest children, Andrew and Prue. There is
little said'about any of these deaths. Mrs. Ramsays is
sudden, and^is noted only as a loss to her husband. Prue
dies as a result of childbirth, "a tragedy, people said,
everything,!they said, had promised so well" (199).
Andrew dies|in combat, and his death, too, is
11A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty
!young men were blown up in France,
iamong them Andrew Ramsay, whose death,
.mercifully, was instantaneous. (201)
Woolfs brief statement about Andrews death was one of
'j |
her few (jirect references to the war, although we are
aware that t^he war is part of this time period. By
lumping hisideath with an indefinite number of fellow
soldiers,1 she appears to trivialize it, but her point
' l 1
comes through. There is no mention of wars glory here,
'I i
only itS|Carnage.

There have been many opinions as to what Woolf was
| I
trying to say in "Time Passes," and why she chose this
strange literary construction. Marcus recalls that one
critic felt
that the passage is Woolfs recreation of the
experience of madness, then offers her own view that it
is a lament
empty house
for Woolfs dead mother, symbolized by the
and chaotic events (Language 6). Gordon
interprets the passage as a counter-history that Woolf
has deviled to deal with World War I by treating it as "a
vacant period through which time rushes while home-makers
and artists--the creators of civilizationsleep" (161).
Perhaps "Time Passes" was meant to be one or all of those
things, as well as an experiment in innovative writing,
for Woolfs|views come through in her incidental accounts
of family events. We know that Mrs. Ramsays death was a
major loss to the family, and certainly resembles Woolfs
| j
own loss! whether it was meant to or not. Some of
1 j
Woolfs feminism comes through in Prues childbearing
| j
death, as we find Prue caught in the trap of fulfilling
her "natural" role. And of course Andrews unglorified
combat death implies a great deal about the war without
dwelling on 1 the subject.
' j
All these actions combine with an assortment of
symbols lo create a melancholy mood in "Time Passes."
The hushed voices that are heard before the lights of the
house are extinguished are those of Andrew and Prue, the

childrenjwho are destined to die. In the wind, the
autumn trees become "tattered flags" to remind us of the
sadness and! depravity of war. And the lighthouse is
there, alwatchful eye, as well as a goal to be reached.
James finally goes to the lighthouse, at the age
of sixteen, it is too late. It is a childhood aspiration
that no longer matters, except to his father, who needs
to purge|his soul of fatherly guilt. The last chapter
finds the Ramsay family and friends attempting to revive
an old spirit and cope with new grief. To the Lighthouse
is about; family relationships and war. It demonstrates
Woolfs views on the patriarchy and its values by
providing an example of a Victorian family dominated by a
tyrannical ifather and stabilized by a gentle mother. The
penalties for this life style are delineated by the
I l
painful loss of family members and the resentment that
the younger^ children still feel toward their father as
the story ends. It is a gentle prelude to the more
forceful^ position that Woolf assumed on these issues
eleven years later in Three Guineas.
1 IV
Writers! have continued to explore the subject of war
and its effect on relationships, although they have not
necessarilyl correlated war with the condition of women, I
. I

or fascism with patriarchy, in the same way that Woolf
^ I
did. In 1945, Simone de Beauvoir published Le Sang des
autres. a novel about resistance activities in France
during World War II. Beauvoirs position toward war is
more hawkish than Woolfs; yet she treats the more brutal
| |
events of her novel with sensitivity.
! i
Beauvoir centers her story around two main
characters, drawing upon real events and actual
conditions that existed during the Nazi occupation of
France. |Both protagonists come from bourgeois families,
but Jean|Blomart, the hero, rejects the opportunity to
; i
follow his father into his business in order to join with
revolutionary communist workers in opposition to the
capitalistic system. This affiliation with the communist
party isithe beginning of Jeans development as a
I !
political activist.
i I
Beauvoir presents Jean and the other young communists
as idealists with very altruistic motives for joining the
party. Oneiof these men, Jeans friend Jacques, is
killed when a political demonstration becomes violent.
This eveht sets the theme for the novel, as Jean
.. j j
struggles with guilt as well as grief over the death,
fearing Jhat he might have influenced his friends
decision ,to jbecome politically involved. This concern
with shedding "the blood of others" becomes an obsession
as Jeans leadership qualities emerge: "Cette vie que je

tisse avec ;ma propre substance, elle offre aux autres
homines mille faces inconnues, elle traverse
impetueusement leur destin" (Sang 151).
Paul, a fellow activist, he meets our other
protagonist^, Helene Bertrand. Helenes character is
immediately revealed as self-centered, demanding, and
manipulative, in contrast to Jeans unselfish devotion to
the concerns of workers. She launches into an attack on
! j
the mens work by expressing her disdain for workers
"Mais chacun na qua soccuper de soi, cest
bien plus simple. Moi, je me defends; le voisin na qua
en faire
autant" (67). As we become better acquainted
with Helene, we find that she does not completely adhere
to her livej-and-let-live creed, as she, unlike Jean,
enjoys using people. Despite their obvious philosophical
differences', Helene is attracted to Jean. By being
| I
deceitful and manipulative, she manages to establish a
relationship with him.
The love affair between Jean and Helene is probably
I i
the most1 unbelievable part of this novel. Beauvoir has
as their
a real study in contrasts with this couple. But
viewpoints polarize over the political situation
in France, ye begin to see them as representative of
larger factions arguing over the appropriate response to
the encroachment of the Nazis.

his persona
Helene is predictably apolitical; she chooses to
ignore the situation. Jean is concerned enough to
taking part in a counter movement, but is
reluctant to encourage others to do so, still fearing
that he might be asking them to pay with their blood for
convictions, reminding himself that "... les
autres hommes netaient pas une monnaie k mon usage"
(157) .
Afte|r Hitlers invasion of Austria in 1938, Jean and
his fellow syndicate members begin to seriously discuss
the possibility of a counter movement. Their leaders
express ^differing opinions:
La France ne peut pas soffrir le
luxe dune guerre, dit Gauthier.
--yous le regretterez, dit
Blumenfeld. Croyez-vous quHitler
sarrete a Autriche? vous verrez. La
tour de la France viendra. (156)
As the Nazi
.i l
threat increases, the syndicalistes continue
their debate over how the threat should be met, some
siding with
one leader in feeling that they risk
if they dont take action, some taking the
others position that going to war would risk too many
Impatient for a consensus among the political
Jean decides to enter the army. His army
career 1 is first thwarted by Helene, who meddles in his
assignments, then comes to an end when he is wounded. i

I >1
H61ene s|intervention causes him so much frustration in
i 1
his desire to be a part of the antifascist movement, that
he severs their relationship.
in i Paris again, Jean is dissatisfied with the
uneasy peace between the French and the occupying
Germans, jand decides to organize a resistance movement.
His companions express many fears about the risks
l i
involved|in such a movement, especially the fear that
innocent|lives might be lost through German reprisals.
But Jean!has considered that possibility, too:
i i
:CeJsont ces represailles que
ijescompte.... Pour que la politique
|de collaboration soit impossible, pour
jque la France ne sendorme pas dans la
,paix, il faut que le sang francais
coule. (248)
By saying this, Jean has reversed his position on
i J
sacrificing!the blood of others for a cause, particularly
l 1
! ,
in anticipating that the Germans will round up innocent
victims and! force them to pay the price for underground
i I
incidents that they had no part in. The movements
activities Lo of course bring reprisals, fueling the
debate oyer!how the French should react to the Nazi
For a time, Helene applies herself to coexistence
' i
with the Germans. She even tries to work the new system
by attempting to use a new German acquaintance to get a
friend freeci from a German prison camp. But as she

own future,
becomes more and more aware of the Germans' encroachment
on French life, she becomes concerned not only for her
but the future of France.
Helene comes to accept Jeans view of the occupation,
and makes tlie decision to join him and his companions in
the resistance movement. He is at first reluctant to
have her[join them, but finally agrees, and, through
I ;
working together to fulfill the objectives of the
I |
movement] their personal relationship begins to mend.
When H61ene
is wounded during one of her expeditions and
it becomes apparent that she will die, Jean is again
forced to reflect upon the price that is being paid to
achieve the movements goal. But a few minutes after
! j
Helenes death, Jean sends a group member on yet another
expedition,(and it becomes apparent that he has resolved
his doubts, and the work of the resistance movement will
continue] j
i I
Biographer Deirdre Bair states that in writing Le
Sang deslautres, Beauvoir attempted to integrate
story of
Sartres existentialist philosophy with the
the two lovers caught up in the resistance
Her intention was to express the
paradox of freedom experienced by an
individual and the ways in which
others, perceived by the individual as
objects, were affected by his actions
and decisions. (305)

Literary critic Jean Leighton notes "heavy
existentialist overtones" particularly in H61enes
death. LeiJjhton says that by dying "heroically" Helene
"transcendence," having joined with males in
taking risks (125). But Leighton indicts Beauvoir on
I |
behalf of feminists for the character traits displayed by
Helene in the early part of the novel:
J..:Helene represents all too clearly
I the feminine failings and evasions
that The Second Sex flails so
relentlessly. Her character and
temperament, typically feminine,
compel her to behave selfishly even in
anJextreme situation when others rise
to unexpected heroism. For Helene too
is an "amoureuse." Her deification of
love and her belief in the priority of
private happiness make her react in a
typically feminine way when the
placidity of her own life is
challenged by the moral ambiguities of
war and Resistance. (125-26)
The change in Helenes personality from frivolous to
heroic i£ so abrupt, and takes place so late in the
story, tliat
it is difficult for readers to rethink their
past judgement of her in time to mourn her death. One
I !
I |
minute she is shutting out the war and polishing her
fingernails and the next minute she is helping a Jewish
I i
1 1
friend to escape concentration camp. From there she goes
directly into the resistance activity that leads to her
,j i
death. And, although one might like to believe that her
transformation was inspired by the cause of liberating
her country] there is still the nagging suspicion that

she did it all to gain back Jeans love. Critic
Elizabeth Fallaize calls Le Sang des autres "the novel of
a male character to whom the female character is
literally sacrificed" (63).
j |
As Fallaize points out, participation in the
resistance movement is presented as a choice between the
! 1
evils of!war and giving in to tyranny, and not a choice
!' I
between right and wrong (52). Jeans development from
i |
labor organizer to resistance organizer follows a steady
and predictable course. Because he reacts to historical
events, and not just to the Germans violation of his
personaljlife, it is easier to believe in Jeans heroism
than in .Helenes, even though Helene dies in the
In her autobiography, La Force de lage, Beauvoir
\\ |
offers her own commentary on the story and characters she
for Le Sang des autres. She describes the
of her hero, Jean Blomart, explaining how he
moved frbm his early political activism through a period
of doubts and uncertainty to emerge as a resistance
( i
leader: !
[1 *acculaient a une decision : par-dela
jtous les raisonnements et tous les
jcalculs, il dbcouvrait en lui des
[refus et des impbratifs absolus....
Apres des annees de pacifisme, il
jacceptait la violence; il organisait
|des attentats, en depit des
represailles. Cette determination ne
a fin la defaite, l'occupation

lui apportait pas la paix du coeur;
mais il ne la cherchait plus : il se
!resignait it vivre dans langoisse.
Commenting on the novel in general, Beauvoir states
that she
did not originally conceive Le Sang des autres
as a novel about resistance, that the idea of resistance
activities and reprisals occurred to her after she had
begun writing it (629). She and Sartre did make an
attempt to organize a resistance movement in 1941, but
the people who were involved were so inept and there was
so much in-fighting among the group that nothing came of
it (Bair 250-53). Beauvoir indicates that her novel
reflectsjnew attitudes inspired in her by the war: "je
decouvris la solidarity, mes responsabilites, et la
possibility de consentir a la mort pour que la vie gardat
un sens" (Force 630).
Of course these attitudes find their manifestation in
Helene Bertrand, her female protagonist. Beauvoir
describes how Helenes attitude was changed by the war,
i i
and her evojLvement as a resistance fighter:
. . |. la defaite, 1 occupation, elle
,jpretendait les contempler avec la
|sereine impartiality de lHistoire.
Lamitie, le degovlt, la colere
1 *importaient sur cette fausse
sagesse. Dans la generosite de la
camaraderie et de 1*action, elle
, finissait par conquerir cette
reconnaissance ... qui sauve les
;hommes de 1'immanence et de la
contingence. Elle en mourait; mais au

point ou elle etait parvenue, meme la
mort ne pouvait rien contre elle.
| (6^5)
Helenes ideath was not just a logical and dramatic
resolution to the story, but, as Beauvoir herself points
out, it saved her from the "immanence" that, according to
Beauvoir,j characterizes the normal lives of women. For,
while Jean could carry his "transcendence" with him out
of the resistance movement back into the syndicate, or
politics,' of business, or whatever, Helene had reached
her peak ofjtranscendence in the movement, and had
nothing to ^ook forward to after the war. Therefore, her
death was necessary and inevitable.
Hel&rie liecomes a more interesting study as Beauvoir
reveals how ;much of herself she put into the formation of
this character, beginning with her bourgeois roots: "je
: I
me crus obligee de ressusciter lenfance dHelene; je
! i
minspirai de la mienne" (624). Comparing her
protagonists, she writes:
jHelene a plus de sang, j'y ai mis
davantage de moi-meme; les chapitres
ecrits de son point de vue me
deplaisent moins que les autres.
I |
She cites as the novel's best passages the ones in which
Helene is undergoing her transformation, where she
i I
abandons, j"les vains symboles, les mirages, les
faux-semblants auxquels elle etait agrippee, et finit par
'I I
se detacher du bonheur meme" (628).

La Force de lage provides a good companion piece to
Le Sang des
autres. not only because of the personal
it contains about the novel, but also because
of the historical period that this autobiography covers,
the decade leading up to World War II and the years of
the Nazi
occupation. The events in the novel are there
in real-life form, and so are the roots of Helene
! j
Bertrandi in the attitudes expressed by Beauvoir toward
those evints.
her heroine Helene, Beauvoir was slow to
the seriousness of the fascist threat. She
notes that in the fall of 1929 she considered the
expansion o
the Nazi party in Germany "un epiphenomene
sans gravite" (18). Later, in 1934, while fascism was
spreading into France, she maintained her complacency:
"Dans toilte l'Europe, le fascisme se fortifiait, la
guerre murissait : je demeurais installee dans la paix
eternelle" |l80).
She also talks about the feelings of resentment that
both she
and Sartre had when he was required to spend
eighteenjmonths in the French army:
Il|ne se resignait pas a la betise
miiitaire, ni k perdre dix-huit mois;
il'rageait ferme; moi aussi, toute
contrainte me revoltait et, comme nous
etions antimilitaristes, nous ne
| 9
voulions faire aucun effort pour
supporter celle-ci de bon coeur. (34)

Their attitude conformed to the attitudes of many of
their countrymen. Although the French, particularly
i j
those on I the political left, watched Hitlers rise to
power and the general growth of fascism in Europe with
some anxietjr, most were not eager to take any defensive
action against the Nazis until after France had been
! i
invaded, i Beauvoirs description of the left wing
! i
| l
controversy'is very much like that of the syndicate
i ;
leaders in he Sang des autres:
... des radicaux aux communistes, tous
les hommes de gauche criaient a la
Ifois : <> et :
i<> (170)
j !
Biographers and critics have noted other similarities
between BeaUvoir and her heroine. Beauvoir, like Helene,
denied the
. I
inevitable war longer than her male
Konrad Bieber observed:
j..i both Sartre and Beauvoir had lived
Iwith growing awareness of the danger
iof'war, though Sartre proved to be
jpessimistic about the chance of
jkeeping the peace, while his companion
Ichbse to minimize the threatening
^reality and to enjoy life as best she
jcojld. (63)
By the late 1930s, however, the "threatening reality"
became impossible to ignore. Fallaize speaks of the time
| |
when "Beauvoirs stubborn refusal to countenance the idea
of war gradually gave way by the spring of 1939 to a
sense of
shame at her own egotistical individualism in
the face'of
the fate of Hitlers victims..." (25).

Beauvoir herself admitted that her initial reaction
to the reality of war was a selfish concern for her own
inconvenience. Arriving back in Paris from a trip to
Marseille in late 1938, she found headlines in Paris
! |
newspapers proclaiming "Heures grave," and learned that
i |
military|reservists were being recalled. She considered
these events a personal misfortune:
Cette fois la guerre semblait
\ inevitable. Je refusai furieusement
dy croire; une catastrophe aussi
imbecile ne pouvait pas fondre sur
moi. (Force 387)
When the
war seemed to have been averted by the Munich
Pact, signed in 1938 by Germany, France, England and
1! i
Italy, she recalls becoming infused with new hope: "la
guerre avait recule et je repris confiance dans lavenir"
i j
(388). She,continued to maintain that "nimporte quoi,
,! i
meme la plus cruelle injustice, valait mieux quune
guerre" (387 )
i j
Hitlers invasion of Poland the next year not only
destroyed her hopes for peace, but gave her a real reason
to feel personally affected by the war, as Sartre was one
of the individuals who was mobilized, and, in fact, spent
some time as a war prisoner before he was finally
| i
As we have noted, the change in attitude that Simone
de Beauvoir expressed through her novels protagonists
took place over a long period of time. She began the

prewar period of fascist expansion denouncing the "betise
militaire" while Virgina Woolf was portraying the same
sense of
brutality with tattered flags and understated
battle casualties in To the Lighthouse. Both women
continued to maintain their positions against the war
throughout the decade of the 1930s, with Woolf making her
strongest antiwar statement in 1938 with Three Guineas.
j ! --------------
while Beauvoir rejoiced over the Munich Pact.
I !
While they shared memories of World War I devastation
which no
doubt inspired both with some of their avowed
pacifism; for the most part Woolf and Beauvoir arrived at
their convictions from different directions.
pacifism was a studied and calculated belief
system that I was deeply rooted in her feminist theory.
Many of her
critics--even her own nephew--could not
understand how Woolf could advocate the empowerment of
women as
a step towards eliminating war. Yet she was
firm in Her contention that war is a product of a value
| |
system established by males and that only a change in the
power structure can effect the reordering of values that
will promot| peace.
The pacifism that Beauvoir asserted during the 1930s
was not a philosophical position. It was, as she herself
admitted! based on her apolitical view of world events
and her determined denial of the Nazi threat. The years
of Nazi occupation brought loneliness, food shortages,

and pooriliving conditions to Beauvoir, as well as the
oppression of her people. As the situation continued,
the pacifism she had professed prior to the war gave way
to a militant support for any efforts towards
attitude at
In later years she looked back on her
the onset of the war with feelings of
remorse, j In 1985, she told biographer Deirdre Bair: "If
i I
truth beitold, Im not proud of what I was thenthirty
1 i
years old and still centered on myself. Im sorry to say
that it took the war to make me learn that I live in the
i |
world, not apart from it" (212).
' |
The bombs had already begun to fall on England when
Woolf committed suicide. How much the wars
imminence may have contributed to her final despair, we
' j
will never know. Nor do we know whether, if she had
lived, slie would have abandoned her pacifist ideals, as
did, with the escalation of the war and the
knowledge of Nazi atrocities. As the wife of a Jew,
Woolf wo.toldj have had particular reason to hope for
Hitlers defeat.
But even if Woolf had made a special concession to
Englands besieged situation in World War II, it is
doubtful|that she would have permanently altered her
prewar philosophical position that war is an evil to be
prevented and that the warrior is paid more homage than
he is due. ^This issue of the glorification of the

soldier is, of course, a point of departure for Woolf and
I i
Beauvoir; Woolf applied her feminist theory to question
why the soldier who kills is accorded more respect in
society ijhan the woman who gives life. Beauvoir
explained tljis phenomenon with her theory of the
transcendent male versus the immanent female. According
' I |
to her philosophy, the warrior has attained his position
of leadership because his role of defending the clan
"transcends" that of the woman in merely perpetuating the
I j
Beauvoirs position on women in society is not a
pacifist position, and it could be argued that in the
final analysis it is not a feminist position. Returning
to the two landmark texts cited by Catharine R. Stimpson,
Woolfs A Room of Ones Own and Beauvoirs Le Deuxieme
I ]
sexe, it'would almost seem more logical if their
positions in history were reversed. For, while Beauvoir
explained--in 1,071 pages--how women became "the Other,
she had no real solution for overcoming this situation.
The vision she exposes in her last chapter, of all of
usmale and female--transcending our humble existence to
affirm our larotherhood ("fraternite") is a
disappointment, to say the least. Woolf at least made an
effort by suggesting that women strive for privacy and
financial security.

Stimpson criticizes Beauvoir for "blowing up mens
experience iintil it becomes all experience" (2).
Comparing tlie two works, she states: "Massive though it
is, The Second Sex erases women from history. In
I i
contrasty AI Room of Ones Own helps to create an
1 i
archaeology|of women, a dig for the literary artifacts
that women liave deposited..." (2).
I i
The literary artifacts have been joined by other
types of|artifacts as women have assumed roles in many of
! ,
the previously male professions, including the military.
i !
Many of the'goals for which feminists have labored have
1 i
been achieved, but the end to war that Woolf saw
i I
accompanying these achievements continues to elude us.
' i
! i
Perhaps theitime has come to reconsider the message that
may havejseemed ill-timed in 1938, when Woolf told her
male correspondent that "we can best help you to prevent
! I
war by not repeating your words and following your
I '!
methods butjby finding new words and creating new
methods"!(Guineas 143).
I i

Bair, Deirdre. Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography.
York: Summit, 1990.
Beauvoir, Simone de. Le Deuxieme sexe. 2 vols.
Paris: Gallimard, 1976.
La 1 Force de lfige. Paris: Gallimard, 1960.
Le 1 Sang des autres. Paris: Gallimard, 1945
j i
"Women and Creativity." French Feminist Thought: A
Reader. Ed. Toril Moi. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell
Ltd. ,j 1987. 17-31.
Bell, Quelntiln
Virginia Woolf: A Biography
New York:
Bieber, Eonrjad. Simone de Beauvoir. Boston: Twayne,
1979.| i
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Fallaize,i Eljizabeth. The Novels of Simone de Beauvoir.
New Yjork: Routledge, 1988.
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Gilbert, /Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the
Atticl: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century
Liter'ary' Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.
Gordon, Lynd-all. Virginia Woolf: A Writers Life.
London: Norton, 1984.
NJ: As
Je'an. Simone de Beauvoir on Women.
sociated UP, 1975.
Marcus, Jane!. Virginia Woolf and the Languages of
Patriarchy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.
Stimpson.j Catharine R. Introduction. Feminist Issues in
Literaryi Scholarship. Ed. Shari Benstock.
Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.
! !
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of Ones Own. 1929. New York:
HarcoUrt, 1957.
I :
Three Guineas. 1938. New York: Harcourt, 1966.
. To the Lighthouse
1955.1 i ! i l 1 j