Melted flesh and tangled threads: war trauma and modes of healing in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony

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Date: Annual 2015
From: Woolf Studies Annual(Vol. 21)
Publisher: Pace University Dba: Pace University Press
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 13,011 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony (1977) depict the trauma suffered by male veterans of war: Septimus Warren Smith, an English veteran of the First World War, and Tayo, a Laguna Pueblo man who fought in the Pacific Islands during World War Two. Both men are psychologically shattered by their war experience. Each has witnessed the death of a man he loved; each experiences flashbacks and hallucinations; each contends with guilt and self-accusations; and each meets with doctors incapable of administering proper treatment. Both characters also have disorienting urban experiences and sense a fraught connection with the natural world. Complicating matters is their inability, or refusal, to fulfill Western culture's proscribed gender roles. In Paula Gunn Allen's estimation, Ceremony is "a tale of two forces: the feminine life force of the universe and the mechanistic death force of the witchery" (119). The same might be said of Mrs. Dalloway, wherein the witchery--the Western worldview--insists that violence and warfare are natural and necessary and the female protagonist of which counters such ideology by embracing the multiplicity of human experience. Placing the novels alongside each other highlights the life-sustaining nature of feminine, matriarchal tenets and the patriarchal constructs that strive to undermine them.

While there exists an important and growing body of work on Woolf and multiethnic American women writers, there is to date very little scholarship on Woolf and Native American literature--yet such a discourse is proving to yield important new insights into the intersections of race, class, gender, feminism, and nation in women's writing. (1) Such is the case in analyses of Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Paule Marshall, and Toni Morrison, among others, despite notable differences among them. (2) Reading Woolf's memoir, "A Sketch of the Past," together with Walker's In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, for instance, Chella Courington states, "It is hard to imagine two writers more removed in their material circumstances than Walker and Woolf. Nevertheless, shared concerns may transcend racial, national, and generational differences" (245). I wish to suggest the potential of similar relational work regarding Woolf and Native American women writers.

While I find no evidence of Woolf directly influencing Silko, Woolfian poetics and Native American belief systems share similarities. As Allen explains in The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, American Indian cultures emphasize "complementarity rather than opposition" (19) and "egalitarian, gynecentric systems" as opposed to "hierarchical, patriarchal systems" (41). American Indians "view space as spherical and time as cyclical, whereas the non-Indian tends to view space as linear and time as sequential" (59). Tribes-people "acknowledge the essential harmony of all things and see all things as being of equal value in the scheme of things, denying the opposition, dualism, and isolation (separateness) that characterize non-Indian thought" (56). Therefore "tribal people allow all animals, vegetables, and minerals (the entire biota, in short) the same or even greater privileges than humans" (57). These concepts reflect many of Woolf's tenets concerning life and literature as the nonlinearity, polyphonic narration, critique of patriarchy, rejection of false binaries, and emphasis on the natural world in her works attest. (3) Exploring war trauma in Mrs. Dalloway and Ceremony reveals many such commonalities while also "focus[ing] our attention on important differences between cultural perspectives on war" (Hussey 9). (4)

More specifically, the feminine characteristics and matriarchal nature of many Native American tribes, including the Laguna Pueblo, prove more conducive than patriarchal tenets to recovery from war trauma. Allen enumerates the prominent features of Native American gynocracies, such as "free and easy sexuality and wide latitude in personal style. This latitude means that a diversity of people, including gay males and lesbians, are not denied and are in fact likely to be accorded honor. Also likely to be prominent in such systems," Allen continues, "are nurturing, pacifist, and passive males (as defined by western minds) and self-defining, assertive, decisive women," characteristics to which young boys and girls, respectively, aspire (2). Dunn and Comfort similarly explain that for Native American women, "protecting and nurturing our families is a demonstration of female respect and honor, often greater in honor to that of men's roles within tribal society" (xv). In addition, matriarchal social structures emphasize community as opposed to patriarchy's emphasis on individuality. Of particular note in woman-centered cultures "is the absence of punitiveness as a means of social control" (Allen 3). Rather, when someone has transgressed his or her tribe's cultural or ceremonial codes, the people hold themselves responsible for righting the imbalance and reintegrating the person into tribal life--in contrast to patriarchal modes of separating, isolating, and incarcerating those who break the law or engage in behaviors deemed contrary or dangerous to the social order. Before European contact, Native American matriarchies "were for the most part superbly healthy, simultaneously cooperative and autonomous, peace-centered, and ritual-oriented" (Allen 31).

When readers encounter the matriarchal nature of Laguna culture in Ceremony, they not only attain a greater understanding of Silko's themes and Native American traditions more broadly, but they can also view Western texts and literary criticism through a more discerning interpretive lens. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, for example, propose that English men's experiences of trench warfare resembled the lack of control and power endured by women in the nineteenth century. Conversely, women during the First World War experienced newfound freedoms in paid employment outside the home. Gilbert and Gubar believe both scenarios led to men's emasculation, which manifests itself in early twentieth-century Western literature. Yet equating entrapment and disempowerment with women, and linking women's independence with men's emasculation, proves inappropriate in a Native American context and fails to explain Native men's wartime and post-war trauma. (5) Gilbert and Gubar further state that during and after World War Two, gender divisions became even more pronounced. (6) Again, beginning from a place of gender division privileging males over females cannot account for Native American men's or women's experiences. Given the wartime sacrifices of Native men and their families, it becomes important to establish a cross-cultural dialogue allowing for defter readings of both Native and Western texts addressing personal and cultural recovery from trauma.

Such recovery proves elusive to Septimus Warren Smith in Mrs. Dalloway. On a June morning in 1923, Septimus sits in Regent's Park with his Italian wife, Rezia. We learn that he had eagerly enlisted in the army and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder caused in part by witnessing the death of his commanding officer. Back in England, he is unable to summon what his doctors consider normal feelings, such as sexual desire towards his wife, yet his eyes well with tears when he sees "inexhaustible charity and laughing goodness one shape after another of unimaginable beauty" in the "smoke words" of the skywriting airplane he thinks is signaling him (MD 21). He feels with excruciating sensitivity that "leaves were alive; trees were alive. And the leaves [were] connected by millions of fibres with his own body" (MD 22). In addition, "The sparrows fluttering, rising, and falling in jagged fountains were part of the pattern" he perceives in all that surrounds him (MD 22), and he believes the sparrows sing to him in Greek that "there is no crime" (MD 24). Thus "two arguments, for the veteran and for the natural environment, are not exclusive in Mrs. Dalloway," writes Rachel Zlatkin. "Rather the two are inextricably bound in the character of Septimus Smith" (85)--as we will later see the veteran and the natural environment tightly bound in the character of Tayo in Ceremony. Septimus believes he carries "the greatest message in the world" (MD 81) and also that he has committed a grievous crime. (7)

Idealistic as he headed into the war to "save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare's plays" (MD 84), Septimus now sees the Bard as having sensed the depravity of humankind. "The war had changed Septimus's understanding of human nature," writes Karen DeMeester (657). "How Shakespeare loathed humanity--the putting on of clothes, the getting of children," Septimus thinks, "the sordidity of the mouth and the belly!" (MD 86). He sees "loathing, hatred, despair" in people, the "secret signal which one generation passes, under disguise, to the next" (MD 86), observing "Amelia What'shername, handing round cups of tea" at work, "a leering, sneering, obscene little harpy," and "the Toms and Berties in their starched shirt fronts oozing thick drops of vice" (MD 87-88). Worst of all are his threats of suicide and double-suicide as he implores his wife to join him. As Clarissa Dalloway runs errands in preparation for her party that night, Septimus and Rezia make their way to renowned psychiatrist Sir William Bradshaw when treatment from their regular practitioner, Dr. Holmes, proves fruitless.

Ceremony similarly begins several years after war has ended, in this case World War Two, with Tayo lying in bed sleepless, crying and vomiting. Having been on the Bataan Death March, in a prisoner of war camp, and in the mental ward of a Veteran's Administration hospital, Tayo has returned to his reservation in New Mexico only to grow increasingly ill. He hears a jumble of strange sounds along with the Laguna, English, and Japanese languages in his head, and as with Septimus, Tayo's tormented thoughts are closely related to bodily experience.

Septimus ponders the "scientific explanation" for his sensations, concluding, "It was the heat wave presumably, operating upon a brain made sensitive by eons of evolution. Scientifically speaking, the flesh was melted off the world. His body was macerated until only the nerve fibres were left. It was spread like a veil upon a rock" (MD 66). Similarly, Tayo "could feel it inside his skull--the tension of little threads being pulled and how it was with tangled things, things tied together, and as he tried to pull them apart and rewind them into their places, they snagged and tangled even more" (C 6). As Jude Todd explains, "combat trauma [is] inscribed on [the] mind, emotions, and the body" (155).

Adding to Tayo's psychological and bodily anguish, conditions at home are grim. His cousin Rocky, with whom he had enlisted, has been killed in the war, his beloved Uncle Josiah is also dead, and drought plagues the land. While Septimus feels an affinity with the trees and birds around him, Tayo believes he has a ruinous connection with the natural world. In the Philippines, he had cursed the rain and prayed "for dry air, dry as a hundred years squeezed out of yellow sand, air to dry out the oozing wounds of Rocky's leg, to let the torn flesh and broken bones breathe, to clear the sweat that filled Rocky's eyes" (C 10)--and so he blames himself for the drought. Tayo's uncle and grandmother are quiet, concerned presences in the house, but his aunt has little patience or sympathy for Tayo, her sister Laura's half-breed child who she believes should be dead instead of her son, Rocky.

It becomes clear early on, then, that while Tayo's war experience plays a role in his trauma, previous aspects of his life also contribute to his suffering. His father is a white man he has never met, and his mother was a troubled young woman estranged from her family. As a young child living with her in makeshift shanties in Gallup, New Mexico, Tayo witnessed her and other women prostitute themselves for food and alcohol. He saw daily violence and degradation and scavenged the filthy floors of taverns for something to eat. Laura leaves Tayo with her sister's family when he is four years old, and she dies shortly thereafter. Throughout his life, Tayo struggles to recall her and fill the void of her absence. "At Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, 'Who is your mother?' is an important question," Allen explains. "At Laguna, one of several of the ancient Keres gynocratic societies of the region, your mother's identity is the key to your own identity" (209). With no mother to guide him, Tayo feels ashamed of his biracial background, enduring taunts about it from other Indians and even from within his family.

Moreover, his years at an Indian boarding school impress upon him white society's vilification of the Laguna worldview. Tayo had trusted in his culture's stories, Silko writes, "until the teachers at Indian school taught him not to believe in that kind of 'nonsense'" (C 18), as his mother before him had been "[s]hamed by what they taught her in school about the deplorable ways of the Indian people" (C 63). Such colonizing tactics exist all around him and have been deeply imbibed by Auntie and Rocky. Auntie flaunts her Christianity, scoffs at tribal ways, and encourages Rocky's ambitions to leave the reservation. Like his mother, Rocky rejects Laguna beliefs, seen when he and Tayo hunt and kill a deer one day. As Rocky prepares to cut open the carcass, Tayo takes off his jacket and places it on the deer's head. Rocky asks Tayo why he does such a thing, and Tayo thinks, "they both knew why. The people said you should do that before you gutted the deer. Out of respect. But Rocky was funny about those things. He was an A-student and all-state in football and track. He had to win; he said he was always going to win" (47). For Rocky, winning means assimilating--converting to the white worldview. "So he listened to his teachers, and he listened to the coach. They were proud of him. They told him, 'Nothing can stop you now except one thing: don't let the people at home hold you back.' ... Tayo saw how Rocky deliberately avoided the old-time ways" (47). Yet Tayo worships his cousin, which leaves him confused and bereft about his heritage and his place in the world. He is profoundly motherless, for Allen explains the Keres's expansive concept of mother:

   Of course, your mother is not only that woman whose womb formed and
   released you--the term refers in every individual case to an entire
   generation of women whose psychic, and consequently physical,
   'shape' made the psychic existence of the following generation
   possible. But naming your own mother (or her equivalent) enables
   people to place you precisely within the universal web of your
   life, in each of its dimensions: cultural, spiritual, personal, and
   historical....Failure to know your mother, that is, your position
   and its attendant traditions, history, and place in the scheme of
   things, is failure to remember your significance, your reality,
   your right relationship to earth and society. It is the same as
   being lost--isolated, abandoned, self-estranged, and alienated from
   your own life. (209-10)

While Ceremony demonstrates the effects upon Tayo of his lost mother and subsequent alienation, readers can only speculate about the roots of Septimus's trauma, which manifests about four years after the war, corresponding with the third of the "three clearly discernible life patterns for war neurotic ex-servicemen" outlined by Peter Leese (156):

   First were those affected by the war but able to recover relatively
   quickly, at the latest by the early 1920s.... Second were the
   veterans less able to shed their symptoms or reenter civilian life,
   and who either never recovered from the war or suffered a severe
   relapse some years afterwards. Third were cases of men who left the
   services apparently healthy, but whose mental condition later
   deteriorated. (156)

Outwardly, Septimus appeared to thrive in the war: "he developed manliness; he was promoted; he drew the attention, indeed the affection of his officer, Evans by name. It was a case of two dogs playing," Woolf writes, the younger playful and energetic, the elder "raising a paw, turning and growling good-temperedly" (MD 84), reflecting the bond often forged between men in wartime. (8) Septimus earned awards, which later earns the respect of his employer, Mr. Brewer, for before the war, Brewer had worried about Septimus's disinclination for sport and interest in poetry. Yet when Bradshaw questions him about his war experience, Septimus does not answer. Lest Bradshaw doubt his bravery, Rezia quickly assures him that her husband served with distinction.

Reminding Septimus of his promotions and medals only exacerbates his sense of guilt, which many critics attribute to his homosexual relationship with, or feelings for, Evans--feelings inadmissible in patriarchal culture. Suzette Henke notes Septimus's "frustrated homosexual desire" (15), and Karen S. McPherson states that his "vocabulary of crime and confession" includes the criminality, in his doctors' view, of "resisting heterosexual convention" (135). Mitchell A. Leaska considers the novel's "allusions to homosexuality too obvious to be ignored" in regard to Septimus and surmises that Septimus believes his feelings for Evans constitute "a transgression of society's moral code" (108). Similarly, Tonya Krouse believes "Septimus's emotional numbness leads to his ultimate inability to speak his grief, and this silencing of his emotions and of his voice directly relates to his society's prohibition against homosexuality" (15). Alternatively, DeMeester deems it "more likely that the crime [Septimus] refers to is the killing and, particularly, killing with indifference that he saw and more than likely participated in" during the war (654), noting, however, that "[d]uring combat, indifference is a survival tool that protects the psyche from being overwhelmed by the horror received through the senses" (658). Yet as Mrs. Dalloway makes clear, such indifference only heightens Septimus's anguish and confusion in later years.

Kathryn Van Wert goes back farther in Septimus's life to discover the source of his trauma. Examining Woolf's draft of Mrs. Dalloway, "The Hours," which devotes greater attention to Septimus's early years, she locates the source of his distress in the pedestrian, discordant aspects of home life. Van Wert acknowledges the difficulty of pinning down exactly what went awry for Septimus before the war, but even in Mrs. Dalloway we see him leaving home due to a mother who lied and a desire to be a poet--impossible, he believes, in his provincial hometown. Like Van Wert, Wyatt Bonikowski traces Septimus's post-war guilt and trauma to prewar experiences, namely his heterosexual, not homosexual, impulses. "Marriage, Septimus discovers, is not about love but about lies and seduction; his innocent yearning for [his poetry teacher] Miss Isabel Pole contained within it an 'outrage'; and women who look on him see the mark of vice," he writes (53). "The 'crime,' in other words, had been within him and his relations with women all along, even before the war" (Bonikowski 53). Teasing out the precise cause of Septimus's distress is no easy task, yet the myriad theories proffered all point to the damage wrought upon him by heteronormative social codes.

Ceremony also explores young men's impulses to enlist, their wartime conduct, and their subsequent trauma--also related to Western norms regarding masculinity. At the post office one day, Rocky and Tayo approach an army recruiter, with Rocky telling Tayo it is their duty as Americans to enlist. In fact, "42% of the eligible adult Indian males served in the war ... the highest ratio of service men of any ethnic minority or the white majority" (Abe 129). In World War II and the American Indian, Townsend writes:

   By November 1941, nearly forty-two thousand Native Americans, aged
   twenty-one to thirty-five, had fulfilled their registration
   requirement. This number represented almost two-thirds of all
   eligible Indian males. Not only did Indians comply with draft
   registration, many voluntarily enlisted in the armed forces rather
   than wait for induction orders. Of the 4,500 Indians in service one
   week before Pearl Harbor, more than sixty percent had enlisted.

Many enlisted from "a sense of inclusion as Americans" in their response to Hitler's domination. "A war in which a minority race was to be exterminated carried very real and vivid images and emotions among American Indians," Townsend explains (76). Indians also wished to fight for the land. "In contrast to the temporal and linear underpinnings of Christian religion and its fundamental premise that God's Word is universal, Indian spirituality was (and is) spatial. All life, knowledge, and truth are derived from the land, as is tribal identity" (Townsend 77). Native Americans were also attracted by military pay and the opportunity to learn skills that would be, they were led to believe, of practical use to them after the war.

In Ceremony, however, Rocky enlists without regard for tribal concerns. Throughout his life, he repudiates his Laguna heritage and resolves to join the white world. Tayo, in turn, resists enlisting because he promised to help Josiah care for a herd of Mexican spotted cattle. Contrary to Septimus, Rocky, and the millions of young men who heeded the injunction to go to war abroad, Tayo feels compelled to stay on his own land. Pressured by Rocky and overwhelmed with emotion when Rocky tells the recruiter that he and Tayo are brothers, however, he succumbs, and unlike the benumbed Septimus, he goes on to feel intense emotion during his service. He sobs uncontrollably at the carnage around him, including the death of Rocky at the hands of a Japanese soldier. Later he tries to muffle the pain with alcohol and occasional bursts of violence, including a drunken assault on a fellow veteran at a bar one night. Allen explains the individual and communal post-war sickness experienced by characters in Ceremony:

   Tayo's illness is a function of disordered thinking--his own, that
   of those around him and that of the forces that propelled them all
   into the tragic circumstances of World War II. The witchery put
   this disordered thinking into motion long ago and distorted human
   beings' perceptions so that they believed that other
   creatures--insects and beasts and half-breeds and whites and
   Indians and Japanese--were enemies, rather than part of the one
   being we all share, and thus should be destroyed. (125)

Tayo's fellow veterans believe in the witchery, replacing traditional Laguna rituals with post-war barroom rituals of their own: "[T]hey repeated the stories ... like long medicine chants," Silko writes, "the beer bottles pounding on the counter tops like drums" (C 39). Tayo declines to join them in their gloating over the killing of Japanese soldiers, for he does not hate the Japanese and never did.

During the war, Tayo notes that the skin of the Japanese resembles his and even sees his uncle Josiah's face in one of theirs. Unlike Septimus's "killing with indifference," Tayo refuses to engage in combat and begins to cry when the man he believes to be Josiah is killed. Although "Rocky made him look at the corpse and said, 'Tayo, this is a Jap!'" (C 7), Tayo screams, convinced it is Josiah who lies dead at his feet. Later, army doctors tell him "it was all superstition, seeing Josiah" (C 181). However, John Peacock explains, the "Navajo medicine-man named Betonie, to whom Tayo goes for a curing ceremony, takes it as a profound insight into the facial identity of Native Americans who crossed the Bering Strait from Asia thirty thousand years ago" (302): "It isn't surprising you saw [Josiah] with [the Japanese]," Betonie says. "You saw who they were. Thirty thousand years ago they were not strangers" (C 114-15). (9) Tayo will grow increasingly aware of the significance of his vision when he reintegrates into his Pueblo community. "[H]e will realize that in a crucial sense the executed man actually was Josiah," writes Louis Owens, "that all men and women are one and all phenomena inextricably interrelated. What is dismissed as a form of insanity is, Silko ultimately argues in the novel, the only sane view of the world. The alternative is universal death" (98). Additionally, a Japanese soldier reminds Tayo of a friend from Albuquerque Indian School; amidst the chaos, Tayo addresses this man as "Willie" (C 40).

Listening to his fellow veterans try to recapture their wartime glory, Tayo tells them that any notoriety they received during the war, particularly sexual attention from white women, was due only to their uniform, "voic[ing] Euramerican dismissal of Indians as well as Indian anger over it," states David Rice (123). Tayo listens impassively as the men recount their sexual exploits in vulgar detail, egging each other on and repeating the misogynist stories they have told dozens of times. (10) One occurrence in particular shows how the men had to hide their Indian identity from white women if not from their white fellow soldiers. Emo tells of a night when he decides to sleep with a woman he sees at a bar. His drinking buddy encourages him with, "Go get 'em, Chief," and in mapping out his strategy, Emo decides, "I'm Italian tonight" (C 53). Townsend states:

   Cultural differences typically dimmed once in training. Those
   differences that persisted generally received light-hearted
   attention. Often, Indian soldiers were called "chief" or "Geronimo"
   by white comrades, but the conveyance of a racial slur was normally
   not intended or inferred. In fact, Indian soldiers widely expressed
   a certain approval for the names given them. (140)

On the contrary, Jere' Bishop Franco finds that "some World War II participants, out of respect for a ranking officer, never used the appellation" (134). She cites a veteran who had a Native American sergeant "that the troops never dared address ... as 'Chief.' 'We never called him that,' remarked [the veteran], 'because we wanted to respect him'" (134).

We see the disrespect intended in Ceremony when a white man uses the name "Geronimo" as a slur. Out drinking one night, the veterans Pinkie, Leroy, and Harley ask Emo to "tell the one about the time that guy told on you" (55). As Emo becomes uncharacteristically quiet, the others tell of a night he was having sex with a woman when "the Irishman knocked on the door and yelled, 'Hey, Geronimo!'" (55). The white woman with Emo hears this but does not realize what it means, asking Emo who Geronimo is. "She says, 'That's an Indian, isn't it?' She yells back at him, 'This guy's an Indian?' He says, 'Yeah--his name is Geronimo.' She starts screaming and faints. Passes out" (55). Humiliated again, Emo deflects attention away from himself by taunting Tayo. A moment later, he takes out his prized wartime souvenir, a small bag full of Japanese teeth, and pours them onto the table, revealing the intersections between warfare, misogyny, racism, and internalized racism as he crows over his killing of Japanese officers, curses the barren land, and desires the trappings of white success, including white women.

Unlike those around them, Septimus and Tayo reject war rhetoric. Although Septimus initially believed it, as did Tayo's cousin Rocky, five years after the Armistice, he embodies the horrors of war the English refuse to acknowledge as they ignore or scorn the veterans among them and focus instead on raising monuments to those who have died. Septimus is left to sit idly in Regent's Park and meander through London, his despondent wife at his side. He mutters, jots things down, looks furtively around, and notes "revelations on the backs of envelopes" (MD 24). The sound of a car backfiring sends him into a paroxysm of paranoia and fear, while other Londoners enjoy imagining who might be inside the sleek sedan. If Mrs. Dalloway is "a full-scale Modernist onslaught on the official version of World War I" (Poole 81), Septimus's palpable anguish serves as its most potent weapon. He harbors a truth no one will hear and defies in body and mind English war and post-war rhetoric in all of its "heroic visions and masculinist fantasies" (Showalter 169).

During World War Two, the American military developed its own rhetoric rooted in stereotypes of Native Americans to showcase the aforementioned high Indian enlistment numbers and loyalty to American military interests. Such rhetoric depicted American Indian men at war as killing machines with "natural fighting abilities" (Townsend 133). In a Congressional Report published in the Washington Star, Major Lee Gilstrap says of the Indians he observed at an army training post:

"The sense perception of many Indians is so acute that they can spot a snake by sound or smell before they can see it. They have an uncanny faculty at weaseling over any kind of terrain at night, and there is a saying that 'the only Indian who can't find his way back to his own lines is a dead Indian.'" Physically, "their long, sleek muscles are built for endurance. ... I never saw an Indian who lacked rhythm, timing, coordination." (qtd. in Townsend 133-34)

It is not only Tayo's revulsion at violence and killing that belies such rhetoric but also his tribe's attitude toward war:

War is so distasteful to [the Keres] that they long ago devised ritual institutions to deal with antagonism between persons and groups such as medicine societies. They also developed rituals that would purify those who had participated in warfare. If a person had actually killed someone, the ritual purification was doubly imperative, for without it a sickness would come among the people and would infect the land and the animals and prevent the rainfall. (Allen 21)

Such are the precise conditions depicted in Ceremony.

Attendant with their rejection of jingoism is Septimus's and Tayo's inability, or refusal, to fulfill further aspects of Western culture's proscribed role for men. Septimus marries Rezia in a panic at his inability to feel--his wartime indifference spilling over into his post-war life--and perhaps to mask his homosexuality. His wife and doctors dwell on the couple's lack of children, and Bradshaw asks him outright about his sexual impulses--a tactic also deployed by British propaganda posters suggesting the sexual impotence of non-enlisters, (11) while after the war, impotence was a widespread symptom of shell shock. (12) Despite his disinclinations, Septimus's rare moments of happiness and lucidity stem from being with Rezia. "Miracles, revelations, agonies, loneliness, falling through the sea, down, down into the flames, all were burnt out, for he had a sense, as he watched Rezia trimming the straw hat for Mrs. Peters, of a coverlet of flowers" (MD 139). Relaxing, he begins to joke with her and help her with the hat, for "When she sewed, he thought, she made a sound like a kettle on the hob; bubbling, murmuring" (MD 140)--the soothing sounds of the maternal chora, theorized by Julia Kristeva as the warm, safe space of the womb where structured language, subjectivity, and threats to subjectivity do not yet exist.

Jesse Wolfe views such moments as problematic, however, stating that while "his metaphorically feminine qualities speak well to his compassion and gentleness: his Christ-like suffering, his concern for the trees, his participation with Rezia in making hats ... it is during his states of most severe distraction--bordering on disintegration--that these feminine qualities emerge most intensely" (41). While Wolfe sees Virginia Woolf imbuing Septimus's androgyny with "suggestions of arrested development or maladjustment" (41), I see Woolf critiquing a society that deems certain characteristics essentially female and strives to eradicate them in men. Septimus believes his crime lies in not feeling, yet as Elaine Showalter observes, "Septimus's problem is that he feels too much for a man" (193). McPherson concurs, stating, "In the novel it is clearly feeling too much that transgresses acceptable and normal behavior" (136). Septimus is plagued by thoughts of suicide and cries in terror over "faces laughing at him, calling him horrible disgusting names" (MD 65). Rezia recalls him "arguing, laughing, crying, getting very excited and making her write things down ... about death; about Miss Isabel Pole" (MD 65). In Regent's Park, his feelings vacillate between agony, fear, bewilderment, and peace as he imagines himself privy to divine messages, believes himself joined to the earth with flowers growing through his flesh, and envisions Evans coming toward him through the shrubs. (13)

Just as an array of images elicits strong emotion in Septimus, Tayo's tears flow often and urgently after the war at memories of Rocky and Josiah and from helplessly watching his family's starving animals during the drought. In her article on gender in Ceremony, Kristin Herzog calls attention to "male figures [in Native American literature] who are sensitive instead of ruthless, gentle instead of heroic, community-conscious instead of individualistic" (25). She identifies Tayo as one such "feeling man" with a "thinking woman" in the background: a Laguna "female divinity" (25), Thought-Woman, whom Silko presents on the first page of Ceremony as the originator of the story to come and creator of the world: "Thought-Woman, the spider, / named things and / as she named them / they appeared" (C 1). As Judith A. Antell observes, Tayo's healing ceremony involves embracing "the power and importance of the feminine principle," one that "acknowledges and supports the ancient power of Indian women in tribal life, a power which has been sustained to the present" (213). Growing up in colonized spaces and engaging in warfare, however, effects a rupture between Tayo and the woman-centered nature of his tribe. Healing this rupture becomes vital to his ceremony.

Woolf and Silko depict the different modes of treating these damaged young men: the conversion tactics of Septimus's doctors and the healing rituals of Tayo's community. DeMeester views modern literature as "a literature of trauma" depicting characters' psychological damage along with their "need ... to give meaning to their suffering in order to recover from the trauma. Septimus's death," she writes, "is the result of his inability to communicate his experiences to others and thereby give those experiences meaning and purpose" (649). No one except Rezia will listen to Septimus, and even she struggles to do so, try as he might to transmit his messages on torn up scraps of paper. As McFarlane and van der Kolk find, "many [post-traumatic stress disorder] victims suffer from an impaired capacity to translate their intense emotions and perceptions related to the trauma into communicable language" (27). Those who should be furnishing Septimus with a fruitful means of relaying his anguish, such as Holmes and Bradshaw, are instead among those determined to deny or ignore war's impact on its former soldiers.

As Christine Froula states, "Mrs. Dalloway's postwar world of multifarious and contested realities pits Septimus's reality against that of his doctors to frame 'madness' as censored truth" (110). Holmes insists there is nothing wrong with Septimus that a little heavy food, fresh air, and exercise cannot cure. (14) "'So you're in a funk,' he said agreeably ... He had actually talked of killing himself to his wife, quite a girl, a foreigner, wasn't she? Didn't that give her a very odd idea of English husbands? Didn't one owe perhaps a duty to one's wife?'" (MD 89-90). His words echo those of an English nerve specialist to a shell-shocked soldier in 1917: "You are a young man with a wife and child at home; you owe it to them if not to yourself to make every effort to restore yourself. You appear to me to be very indifferent, but that will not do in such times as these....You must recover your speech at once" (qtd. in Showalter 176). Both doctors believe in belittling their patients' suffering and goading them into recovery. This "lack of validation and support," state McFarlane and van der Kolk, generally prolongs the damaging effects of traumatic memories upon PTSD victims (25). (15)

While McFarlane and van der Kolk find that providing and restoring social support are widely accepted means of treating PTSD (24), complications arise when "the psychological needs of victims and the needs of their social network" clash (25), particularly "when the meaning of the trauma is secret, forbidden, or unacceptable (as in intrafamilial abuse or government-sanctioned violence)," such as war (25). Unlike Holmes, Sir William senses immediately the gravity of Septimus's condition but proposes to treat him by shutting him away in an asylum. "Woolf's portrait of shell shock shows close attention to the public debates of the early 1920s," Leese writes, and Bradshaw's "treatment is a composite of Woolf's experiences with Dr George Savage and Sir Maurice Craig, both of whom were in some way involved in the treatment of traumatic neurosis during the war" (166). Holmes is the more bumbling of the two doctors yet possesses a threatening brute strength, while Sir William, wielding greater influence, is the more insidious as the novel's remarkable passage on Proportion and Conversion indicates. Proportion, Sir William's goddess, constitutes a way of life, Woolf writes, a patriarchal, machine-like society--Silko calls it the witchery--exerting subtle yet relentless pressure on its citizens to conform. Proportion taken to extremes becomes Conversion, "less smiling, more formidable a Goddess" (MD 97), eradicating people's individuality as Lady Bradshaw, for instance, experiences the "slow sinking, water-logged, of her will into" her husband's (MD 98). Conversion operates not only in England but also in the colonization of "the heat and sands of India, the mud and swamp of Africa" (MD 97).

Conversion has been decimating American Indian cultures for nearly 500 years when Ceremony opens. The denigration of Indian ways Tayo experiences as a schoolboy had caused his identity to disintegrate years before he went to war. In a mental hospital in Los Angeles afterwards, drugged by doctors, he determines to vanish altogether. He metaphorizes himself as "white smoke" in which he loses consciousness of himself, believes he is invisible, and speaks of himself in the third person. The doctors call Tayo's condition "battle fatigue" and tell his aunt and uncle that "the cause ... was a mystery, even to them" (C 28). The treatment for it has changed somewhat since the First World War, for "by the mid-1940s, and in the midst of a major military conflict, in popular imagination shell shock was acknowledged and tolerated as a part of modern combat" (Leese 160). While Holmes advises Rezia to distract Septimus from thinking about himself, hence her continual injunctions to him to "Look" when he grows distracted, Tayo's white doctors yell at him "that he had to think only of himself, and not about the others, that he would never get well as long as he used words like 'we' and 'us'" (C 116). And, they admonish, "No Indian medicine" (C 31). Disconnecting psychologically from his community, however, causes Tayo to dissociate from his own psyche. At his lowest moments, he longs to be white smoke again, for "the smoke had been dense; visions and memories of the past did not penetrate there" (C 14). After he has been discharged and gone home, he grows worse until his family calls in old Ku'oosh, a Laguna priest. Ku'oosh proves ineffective, however, for he relies solely on traditional medicine, finding the white world and its inhumanity--genocide, atomic weapons--beyond his comprehension, as is the notion that Tayo might have killed someone in the war and not know it. (16) Weeks later, Tayo's uncle tells him that Ku'oosh stopped by and "told your grandma what some of the old men are thinking. They think you better get help pretty soon" (C 98).

It is in terms of the two men's treatment and the results thereof that the novels most sharply diverge as Ceremony depicts a matriarchal culture that heals the wounded, and Mrs. Dalloway critiques a patriarchy that will not. Septimus's fate is sealed by his doctors' insistence on proportion, for he understands as Holmes barges into his home that conversion in the form of confinement is near at hand. Although he loves life at this particular moment, feeling at ease creating hats with Rezia, he jumps out the window onto the railings below in order to preserve, as Clarissa sees it upon hearing of his death, "the thing there was that mattered" (MD 180)--the honesty and integrity forfeited by so many throughout their lives. DeMeester states that "modernist forms are ... well-suited for depicting the traumatized mind but ill-suited for depicting recovery" as "the task of giving individual and cultural meaning to the suffering falls to later generations of artists" (649, 652). In fact Mrs. Dalloway does lend meaning to Septimus's suffering, proffering an alternative to patriarchy in his symbiotic if unsettling relationship with nature; his revelations about time, the body, war, and death; and his transmission of his insights onto paper--in short, his accessing "the power of art, thought, and imagination to grapple with reality and console for loss" (Froula 112). Entrapped in a society denying such strategies to men, Septimus loses his life.

Imbued with Laguna history, myth, symbolism, poetry, ritual prayers, and elements of the oral tradition, it is the language of Ceremony that constitutes recovery, starting with Tayo's name. "'Tayo' is the name of a Laguna folk hero," Todd explains. "Spider Woman gave this legendary Tayo gifts, which he took back to help his people. Readers familiar with this story suspect that Silko's Tayo will perform similar feats" (161). Paul Beekman Taylor points out the difference between names in Euramerican and Native American cultures. "Even names for whites are but banal indicators of people with little or no secret signifying power," he writes, "whereas an Indian's names--in both their native and European forms--are hidden texts of being.... the Indian carefully guards the story force in names, which can be marshaled at an appropriate moment" (46-47). Such symbolism contrasts starkly with the naming of Septimus: "London has swallowed up many millions of young men called Smith," Woolf writes, "thought nothing of fantastic Christian names like Septimus with which their parents have thought to distinguish them" (MD 82). Ariela Freedman refers to Septimus as "nameless" (3), and Showalter notes that in post-war England, "there was a theory that 'strange first names' were symptomatic of latent family degeneracy" (179). (17)

Along with his name, other factors save Tayo's life. Above all, healing him becomes a communal endeavor. A group of elders gathers to weigh their options, leading Tayo's uncle Robert to bring him to the Navajo medicine man, Betonie, who teaches Tayo important lessons, listens to what he needs to say, and allows him periods of silent reflection, unlike Septimus's doctors. Tayo doubts Betonie at first, unsettled by the proximity of his hogan to the squalid city below. Looking down at the "broken glass, blinding reflections off the mirrors and chrome of the wrecked cars in the dump below," he "felt the old nausea rising up in his stomach" (C 108). Nevertheless he senses "something familiar about the old man" as he looks into his eyes (C 109). "They were hazel like his own. The medicine man nodded. 'My grandmother was a remarkable Mexican with green eyes,' he said" (C 109). (18) Although Tayo has been tormented by his biracial heritage, Betonie sees wholeness and strength in hybridity--like that of the spotted cattle, missing since Josiah's death, a mixed breed able to survive drought.

Once inside the hogan, Tayo again has misgivings about Betonie when he sees a seemingly haphazard jumble of Native and Western items: "bouquets of dried sage and the brown leaves of mountain tobacco," newspapers, telephone books, and Woolworth bags, "shrunken skin pouches and black leather purses trimmed with hammered silver buttons," and "[l]ayers of old calendars, the sequences of years confused and lost" (C 110, 110, 111). Betonie acknowledges that many Indians distrust him because of where he lives and for his mixing of Native and Western ways. "They think the ceremonies must be performed exactly as they have always been done," he says, but points out that they began to change long ago, "if only in the aging of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle's claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing the chants" (C 116). He explains that in the past, the ceremonies were well suited to achieving balance and harmony within Native American cultures. After European contact, however, "it became necessary to create new ceremonies. I have made changes in the rituals. The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong" (C 116), an idea that "challenges Euramerican stereotypes of Native American ritual as codified and stagnant and thus unable to survive the change of Euramerican encroachment and expansion" (Rice 127). Betonie surmounts false binaries by merging traditions of the past with contemporary conditions in an ongoing process of transition. "But don't be so quick to call something good or bad," he tells Tayo. "There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain....It is a matter of transitions, you see; the changing, the becoming must be cared for closely" (C 120). Transition, not conversion, proves key to strength and survival.

Conversely, during and after the First World War, England sought to reaffirm polarities. By 1916, "with the nation's fighting strength being drained away by the death toll at the front," writes Cate Haste, "fears built up that its moral strength was being undermined at home" (39, 50). The pre-war sense of liberation and change for women gave way to "countervailing social pressures ... to curtail women's economic independence, revive their 'femininity' and dependence, and send women back to the home and keep them as nurturers of the future" (Haste 63). After the war, such pressures only increased. "[M]en were feared to have been brutalised by the War," states Jessica Meyer, "a concern that influenced the desire to re-establish pre-war gender norms in order to control the effects of such brutalisation. On the other hand ... men were understood to have been emasculated by war, especially through their experience of neurasthenia" (119). Both theories led to a reification of gender dichotomy in England. Meyer goes on to note "that in the case of neurasthenic pensioners, isolation from the family could be a deliberate part of the treatment" (125), for it was believed that the sympathy of relatives, particularly females, would exacerbate the patient's symptoms and delay or even prevent his recuperation.

Thus while doctors in Mrs. Dalloway resolve to separate Septimus from his wife, in Ceremony, Tayo's experiences with women are essential to his recovery. Shortly before the war, his intimacy with Josiah's mistress, a Mexican woman called Night Swan, initiates an understanding of his world that he will later call upon throughout his healing journey. Several years before the war, he brings a message to Night Swan from Josiah, and the blue of her room along with the cotton ball filling a hole in her screen represent her link to nature--to the sky, clouds, and rain that finally arrives after the years-long pre-war drought. Night Swan strengthens Tayo's communion with the rhythms of the natural world, and before he leaves her, she mentions the color of his eyes. "I always wished I had dark eyes like other people," Tayo responds, believing his hazel eyes evoke his mother's shame (C 92). As Betonie will later reiterate, Night Swan tells him that the people fear his biracial status. "Indians or Mexicans or whites--most people are afraid of change," she says. "They think that if their children have the same color of skin, the same color of eyes, that nothing is changing....They are fools. They blame us, the ones who look different. That way they don't have to think about what has happened inside themselves" (C 92)--as the English fail to look inward to acknowledge their own culpability in patriarchal atrocities. As Tayo leaves, Night Swan tells him that while he might not immediately understand their encounter, he "will recognize it later. You are part of it now" (C 92)--part of the ceremony he will continue to live out. "Through Night Swan," Owens explains, "Silko lays out her rationale for the power of the mixed blood to introduce a new vitality into the Indian world" (105).

A woman foreseen by Betonie plays an even more integral role in the ceremony. "Remember these stars," Betonie says to Tayo after conducting the sand-painting ceremony. "I've seen them and I've seen the spotted cattle; I've seen a mountain and I've seen a woman" (C 141). After heading out to search for the cattle, Tayo follows the constellations that lead him to the home of a woman named Ts'eh, whose name incorporates part of the name of "the sacred mountain, Tse-pi'na, 'the woman veiled in clouds.' Tse-pi'na (Mount Taylor on modern maps) is blue in the distance, the color associated by Keres people with west, the direction of rain" (Owens 103-4). Ts'eh invites Tayo in, feeds him, talks with him, and after they make love, he dreams of the cattle. With her and in sight of the mountain, he begins to feel whole again, for "there was no sign the white people had ever come ... they had no existence then, except as he remembered them" (C 171). As Tayo sets out from Ts'eh's home to renew his search for the cattle, "Betonie's vision was a story he could feel happening--from the stars and the woman, the mountain and the cattle would come" (C 173), and indeed they do. Tayo finds Ts'eh again during a snowstorm that ends when she folds her "black storm-pattern blanket" (C 193-4)--one of several indications that she is a "supernatural being, a Holy Person" (Owens 109), and, like Night Swan, an avatar of Thought Woman. Tayo goes to Ts'eh once more the following summer, when she teaches him about "the roots and plants she had gathered" to cultivate and transplant in order to bring forth light, warmth, and rain (C 208). Ts'eh is a "mysterious woman who is also--on the mythological level--a goddess or mountain spirit," Herzog writes. "She is so important in his gradual recovery that Paula Gunn Allen speaks of Tayo's 'initiation into motherhood' through Ts'eh, because she taught him to care for all living beings, to be a nurturer, to create new life" (29).

The importance of feminine principles to Tayo's healing occasions another look at Septimus's post-war views on humanity, particularly women. Commonly understood as a means of resisting social pressure, Septimus's refusal to have sex and start a family with Rezia may indicate his misogyny--a further effect upon him of Western social mores. Rather than recognize, let alone cherish, the interconnectedness of all life forms, Septimus sees himself at a remove from others. He considers sexual intimacy with a woman defiling and procreation a disgusting, merely biological act. In Native America, conversely, "maternity is a concept reaching far beyond biological reproduction" (Allen 255). Even Auntie, despite her problematic posture towards Tayo, grasps this truth. "An old sensitivity had descended in her, surviving thousands of years from the oldest times," Silko writes (C 62):

When Little Sister had started drinking wine and riding in cars with white men and Mexicans, the people could not define their feeling about her. The Catholic priest shook his finger at the drunkenness and lust, but the people felt something deeper: they were losing her, they were losing part of themselves. The older sister had to act; she had to act for the people, to get this young girl back.... Her older sister must bring her back. For the people, it was that simple, and when they failed, the humiliation fell on all of them; what happened to the girl did not happen to her alone, it happened to all of them. (C 63)

Lacking such a concept of communal responsibility, a concept integral to "Native American oral tradition and worldview" (Owens 107), the English feel no compulsion to draw Septimus or other suffering veterans back into the fold.

Septimus's isolation is therefore not of his own making, of course, nor is his aversion to intimacy with women given the prevalence of misogyny throughout his society, including military culture as the veterans' experiences with women in Ceremony also indicate. (19) "Thus," write Gilbert and Gubar, "where the liberating sisterhood experienced by women [during the First World War] was mostly untainted by hostility to men ... the combatants' comradeship ... was as often energized by a disgust with the feminine as it was by a desire for the masculine" (No Man's Land v. 2 302). When considered alongside the Laguna worldview, Western culture's derogatory stance toward women, writ large in Septimus's post-war frame of mind, can only lead to, in Owens's words, universal death.

Nevertheless Mrs. Dalloway concludes with a woman experiencing a renewed appreciation for life due, I would argue, to a worldview not unlike that of Native Americans. As a young woman, Clarissa grasps the relatedness of all things and the circular, cyclical contours of human experience. "She was all that," she realizes one day surveying the bustling city and people around her. "So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to ... It ended in a transcendental theory" that there are seen and unseen parts of us, and "the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death" (MD 149). Such an understanding allows Clarissa to survive within social constructs fostering divisiveness.

In the same vein, Clarissa welcomes key moments from the past into her consciousness. As she embraces both joyous and painful memories while walking in London or in the solitude of her attic room, she exemplifies the importance of linking the past with the present--of continually transitioning from one to the other rather than allocating past and present to irreconcilable categories. It is in retrospect, for example, after experiencing sexual disappointment with her husband and reliving her days at Bourton, that Clarissa appreciates the magnitude of her earlier relationship with Sally Seton. Having extinguished that relationship upon her marriage, Clarissa rekindles it repeatedly in her mind and gains a deeper understanding of its significance. When they arrive at her party, Peter Walsh and Sally construe her breezy affection toward them as the superficial put-on of a hostess. On the contrary, Clarissa is sincere, for by rehearsing the past earlier that day, she has reaffirmed and revived her selfhood. By the time her party is in full swing, she has acknowledged the past, released it, and prepared herself for what may come, a process that repeats itself each day, if this particular day in June is any indication. Her rich inner life defies her society's resolve to deny the past.

Clarissa also remains open to the vagaries of the present. Upon overhearing Bradshaw tell her husband about Septimus's suicide, her displeasure at having such a matter mentioned at her party turns to more meaningful introspection as she walks into a quiet room to contemplate the event. As she envisions what must have occurred, details emerge that are absent from the abrupt suicide scene itself. "He had thrown himself from a window," she thinks. "Up had flashed the ground; through him, blundering, bruising, went the rusty spikes. There he lay with a thud, thud, thud in his brain, and then a suffocation of blackness. So she saw it" (MD 179). Clarissa is unafraid to acknowledge the tragedy, to arrest the procession of events that night and consider the ramifications on her of the life and death of another human being, even one she has never met. Septimus's sacrifice "made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun" of a life often filled with terror (MD 182). "This is why death comes to Clarissa's party, of all the parties in London," Froula writes: "because she can admit it; because she lets it in" (102). (20)

The beggar woman outside the Tube station in Mrs. Dalloway also evokes a world in opposition to the alienating modern city and the machinery of warfare. Peter is the first to hear the battered woman singing in "a voice bubbling up without direction, vigour, beginning or end, running weakly and shrilly and with an absence of all human meaning into ee um fah um so / foo swee too eem oo--the voice of no age or sex, the voice of an ancient spring spouting from the earth" (MD 78-9)--the voice, once again, of the maternal chora. The battered woman suggests a primordial past that unsettles other characters and subverts an imperialist, racist, and misogynist status quo. Kate Sedon sees in the battered woman Woolf's revision of the youthful, fertile Mother Nature archetype, drawing attention to society's "social retrogressions and psychological devaluations of aging women" (163). In light of Native American matriarchy, we see that it is Western society that devalues aging women. Peter puts money into the battered woman's outstretched hand, a common means of assuaging a pang of guilt when faced with society's have-nots and also indicative of Peter's cavalier stance toward women altogether.

Rezia wonders what brought the woman to this point and where she sleeps at night, revealing her own unhappiness and worries about her fate should Septimus not recover. But the battered woman is without shame or guile: "'And if someone should see,' her song seems to say, 'what matter they?'" (MD 81)--a resounding counterpoint to Rezia's terror that someone might see Septimus acting strangely and to his doctors' determination to hide him away in a sanitarium. The woman's haunting song "made [Rezia] suddenly quite sure that everything was going to be right" (MD 81). Yet everything goes wrong as Septimus's doctors easily outmaneuver any potentially influential female, particularly a poor and aged one.

Tayo's alternative to patriarchy lies in embracing his tribe's prevailing feminine precepts. In doing so, he recognizes the folly of believing the lie of white hegemony. "The liars had fooled everyone," he thinks, "white people and Indians alike; as long as people believed the lies, they would never be able to see what had been done to them or what they were doing to each other" (C 177). Ts'eh had also warned him about the lies told by "the ones who would insist upon the Indian as victim, those who insist upon the 'vanishing American' image of the Indian as incapable of change and invariably defeated" (Owens 111). Rejecting the lies, Tayo returns to his people with the truth. Significantly, Ku'oosh and the other elders have been awaiting him. They invite him into the kiva to learn from his experience of healing and cultural understanding. "It took a long time to tell them the story," Silko writes; "they stopped him frequently with questions about the location and the time of day; they asked about the direction [Ts'eh] had come from and the color of her eyes" (C 238). As he shares his stories and engages in dialogue with the elders, he becomes a "culture hero" (Swan 229), whereas Septimus's doctors consider him a threat to be shut away and silenced.

In light of such imposed silences, I concur with Bonikowski that the implications of the effect of Septimus's death on Clarissa could help foster better relations between the sexes and lead to positive cultural change. The connection forged between them upon his death "suggests the possibility of a new relation between a man and a woman," Bonikowski states, "one not subject to the cultural and social requirements that Septimus finds repulsive and that many of the novel's characters, including Clarissa, find unfulfilling" (167-8). Of course, it is too late for Septimus to benefit from any such new relation; he gains no relief through Clarissa's empathy with his isolation. In the same vein, Froula considers the possibility that "Clarissa's elegy for Septimus [may be] inadequate to arraign the world before the truths it brands madness" (118). Although Tayo returns to his tribe with renewed spiritual and mental health, thereby strengthening the Laguna people overall, Ceremony resembles Mrs. Dalloway in its equivocal ending. The novel illustrates the life-affirming, life-sustaining nature of certain cultural and social injunctions when situated in a matriarchal rather than a patriarchal context, yet, we are told in the end, the witchery is "dead for now," not forever (C 243). Just as Tayo's journey to recovery does not follow a straight trajectory, we see that his and his people's struggle will perhaps never be truly over.

The novels' conclusions also resemble each other in offering hopefulness, for Froula goes on to state, "Mrs. Dalloway captures [Septimus's] message within its fictional bounds for the actual world beyond them. Not Clarissa but we readers receive (or not) the message of Septimus's death" (118). The novel harbors numerous tragedies--the suffering and dying war veteran, the denigration of women in patriarchy--but "Woolf's elegiac art battles alongside them on the side of Love for a future that history had not, in 1925, foreclosed," Froula writes (125), citing, for example, Peter Walsh's sense of "an exhilarating forward motion in postwar civilization" (126). Similarly, Tayo realizes that the world has "no boundaries, only transitions through all distances and time" (C 219), that "Josiah and Rocky were not far away. They were close; they had always been close. And he loved them then as he had always loved them ... nothing was ever lost as long as the love remained" (C 204). When he returns to his reservation after the war and reintegrates into his woman-centered tribe, the promise of a new beginning holds forth in the simple verse that encircles the novel: "Sunrise" at the story's opening (C 5), and "Sunrise, / accept this offering, / Sunrise" at the end (C 244). (21) As Clarissa's party continues, as Tayo's community nurtures him, and as he in turn becomes a nurturer, feminine principles keep the witchery at bay and offer a path forward.

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(1) Justine Dymond finds Okanogan author Mourning Dove's 1927 novel, Cogewea, the Half-Blood, "troubl[ing] the formula of the Western romance" and "obtain[ing] a dimension of experimentation 'other' than, but tangential to, modernism's experiments in form" (298). In addition, the novel's "half-breed" female protagonist displays "the radical break Mourning Dove makes with modernity's ontology of the colonized, the 'primitive,' and the racialized other ... allow[ing] us to reread canonical modernists such as Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein with an eye to the spatiality of race, subjectivity, and language that limits their experimentality" (309). In his postmodern reading of Ojibwe writer Louise Erdrich, Fabienne C. Quennet notes that like Woolf, Erdrich employs various narrative perspectives in her novels and stories (55). My own article examining Native American gender traditions in Woolf's Orlando and Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was recently published (Czarnecki, "Two-Spirits").

(2) Jeannette McVicker finds "genuine affinities between [Woolf's and Hurston's] use of language, each providing pointed socio-political critique within narratives of skillful beauty" (279), yet she also places Woolf and Hurston in dialogue with each other to demonstrate the instability of traditional concepts of literary modernism. Anne E. Fernald and Laurie McMillan consider the feminist personal criticism of Woolf's A Room of One's Own and the essays in Walker's In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. Writing of Walker's direct appeal to Room in creating her volume's eponymous essay, Fernald explores the question, "To what extent do we choose our models based on categories of identity politics, and to what extent on less categorizable qualities of mind?" (245). She cites "Woolf's and Walker's shared project of honoring and calling attention to women writers" while also revealing how such "similarities highlight the vast differences between Woolf and Walker's language and rhetoric" (246). Weighing the pros and cons of autobiographical criticism, McMillan states, "Both writers combine attention to socio-material conditions with performance and symbolism," yet "[a]t the same time, the change Walker is working towards becomes more pressing because the oppression she catalogues makes Woolf's concerns pale in comparison" (116). In terms of war trauma, the comparative work linking Woolf to African-American writers is well developed, but there is nothing linking Woolf to Native American texts in this respect. For example, Eileen Barrett examines shell shock in Mrs. Dalloway and Toni Morrison's second novel, Sula. Heeding Morrison's call in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination for "new interpretations of literature" that "analyze the use of black images and the representation of black people" (Barrett 26), Barrett examines not only the manifestations of the veterans' trauma but also the responses to them of their respective communities. Addressing "not the communal but the militaristic spirit of London" in Mrs. Dalloway brings into even sharper focus how "Morrison rejects the masculine western tradition of war, its heroes and its madness" (27, 30). Lorie Watkins Fulton considers the "strikingly similar plots" of Mrs. Dalloway and Sula and how the latter overcomes the isolation and alienation she believes remain unresolved in the former (67).

(3) Toril Moi finds Woolf "reject[ing] the metaphysical essentialism underlying patriarchal ideology" (9), while Rachel Blau DuPlessis views Woolf's refutation of "gender polarization and the dichotomy of male and female, public and private spheres" as hallmarks of "female modernism" manifest in the "choral or group protagonist" of The Years and Between the Acts (162). Denise Delorey writes of the "unabashedly antimasculinist, pacifist ideological underpinnings" of Woolf's "feminist aesthetic" (93), along with her narrative techniques that deflate "the illusion" of "an overdetermined social structure" (105). Melba Cuddy-Keane finds Woolf "seek[ing] an alternative to the authorial / authoritative dominance of patriarchal discourse" (137) in her "object[ion] to monologic prose" (144), her "polyvocality" (151), and the "conversational turn" in her essays in particular--a strategy "enabling polyphonic thinking in the individual reader and challenging the monologic societal voice" (153). As Patricia Matson writes, "deconstructing patriarchal ideology and foregrounding woman's subjectivity are central to the textual politics at play in Woolf's fiction and essays" (162). In Mrs. Dalloway, she states, "The authority of the humanist subject and the authority of patriarchal value systems are challenged at every turn" (163), while Woolf's oeuvre overall "pose[s] a fundamental challenge" to dichotomies and dualism (163). Twenty-first-century Woolf scholarship has focused heavily on the natural world in Woolf's works. See Christina Alt, Bonnie Kime Scott, Czarnecki and Rohman, and #81 and #84 of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, special topics issues on "Eco-Woolf" (edited by Diana Swanson) and "Woolf and Animals" (edited by Kristin Czarnecki and Vara Neverow), respectively.

(4) Hussey refers here to comparative studies of war in Woolf and Willa Cather, yet his words also express the value in exploring war trauma in Woolf and Silko.

(5) "12,000 Indians--fully eighty-five percent of them volunteers--served in the First World War," Franco states. "During World War I, 600 Indian volunteers dominated the 36th Infantry Division," and "[n]umerous witnesses attested to the bravery of the American Indian in World War I" (60). In addition, A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff explains, "Because Indians volunteered, were wounded, and died in World War I far out of proportion to their numbers in the society, Congress awarded them citizenship [in 1924] out of gratitude for their service" (183).

(6) See Gilbert and Gubar's three-volume No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, especially "Soldier's Heart: Literary Men, Literary Women, and the Great War," the seventh chapter in Volume 2: Sexchanges (258-323), and "Charred Skirts and Deathmask: World War II and the Blitz on Women," the fifth chapter in Volume 3: Letters from the Front (211-65).

(7) "Back home," Christine Froula explains, "Septimus is fated to know 'everything,' to grasp 'the meaning of the world,' and to bear the burden of witnessing his civilization's unimaginable violence without being driven mad" (149).

(8) "The bond between officer and man was usually good and often intense," states Leese, "and comparable to the relationship between husband and wife, or brother and brother" (28).

(9) The Bering Strait theory is a disputed hypothesis. F. David Peat states that some, the Early Arrivalists, "place the first human beings in the Americas at between 30,000 years ago and as many as 250,000 years ago" (103). Some of their evidence has been dated "as being many tens of thousands of years old....If these dates are correct, then it means that the Americas were occupied long before the first hypothetical hunter-gatherer group could have marched across the Bering Strait" (103). Vine Deloria, Jr., is among those asserting that "the insistence on seeing American Indians as recent arrivals on the continent has as much to do with an ideological investment in denying them rights to the land as it does with hard evidence" (Murray 329).

(10) Townsend explains the aimlessness and hopelessness of World War II Indian veterans such as those in Ceremony, stating, "returning Indians found ... limited choices. Reservation services and economies deteriorated during the war ....Wartime necessities stripped tribal communities of most federal services. Schools and medical facilities had either closed entirely or suffered from shortages in personnel and supplies, land remained uncultivated, and irrigation projects had fallen victim to appropriations cuts....Native American veterans themselves compounded the social pressures that pervaded Indian communities in late 1945 and in 1946. The war left its mark on thousands of men. Physical dismemberment, alcoholism, and memories of the war's brutality affected many of them, and the ever-present sight of orphans, widows, and parents who had lost sons proved a constant and grim reminder of the war" (217).

(11) Freedman 17-18.

(12) Showalter 172.

(13) See MD 66, 67, and 68.

(14) Showalter notes that in the latter part of the nineteenth century, nerve specialists "were conspicuously and aggressively masculine in their interests, attitudes, and goals.... They were athletic rather than literary; sportsmen and clubmen rather than stay-at-home fathers of a lunatic famille nombreuse. Maudsley won ten gold medals in sports at the university; John Charles Bucknill was an ardent sportsman, proficient in fishing, hunting, sailing, coursing, and riflery; G. Fielding Blandford developed his taste for sports at Rugby; Lyttleton Winslow was a fanatical cricketer; George Savage was a passionate golfer, fisherman, and Alpine climber.... In their practice too, healthy physical exercise, in the form of 'manly sport and games,' was fervently recommended as an antidote to idleness and morbid introspection" (117).

(15) This lack of validation affects more than the PTSD victim alone: "Failure to deal with the plight of victims can be disastrous for a society," write McFarlane and van der Kolk. "For example, in the aftermath of World War I, the inability to face its effects on the capacity of the veterans to function effectively in society, and the social intolerance of their 'weakness,' may have substantially contributed to the subsequent rise of Fascism and militarism" (34).

(16) Discussing Silko's writing of Ceremony, Chavkin says, "she recalled that after World War II ended, frequently the Pueblo and the Navajo performed traditional purification rituals for returning veterans. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these rituals for some of the soldiers was inadequate, which some people interpreted as evidence of the inadequacy of American Indian beliefs. Silko suggests, however, that because these rituals were not devised with modern warfare in mind, they must be modified if they are to be effective" (6).

(17) I wish to thank Anne E. Fernald for pointing out that the name Septimus does carry allegorical weight. If Septimus is the seventh son, as his name suggests, then according to lore, he is imbued with special powers; so many siblings would also account for his family's poverty, perhaps another reason he flees his hometown and later enlists. In addition, Dante designated the seventh circle of hell for suicides.

(18) Septimus also has hazel eyes (MD 14).

(19) Paul Delany's keynote address at the 2013 Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf, published in the subsequent book of conference proceedings, raises the specter of Septimus's misogyny. In "'The Death of a Beautiful Man': Rupert Brooke in Memory and Imagination," Delany notes that Septimus may have been modeled on Rupert Brooke. "Woolf was told everything about Brooke's 1913 breakdown by Ka Cox," Delany writes, "whose flirtation with Henry Lamb had set off the crisis. For the first half of 1913 Ka tried to make amends in every way possible, as an uneasy combination of mistress and psychiatric nurse. She had a private income, and the time and disposition to nurture the more fragile of her friends. By August Rupert had cast her off brutally in a torrent of misogynistic abuse; something of this may appear in Septimus's sexual rejection of his wife" (53).

(20) DeMeester, conversely, believes Clarissa "silences Septimus and robs his death of meaning by refusing to change in response to his message" (663). Moreover, she finds Clarissa complicit in the conversion enforced by Holmes and Bradshaw: "Clarissa and the members of her social class do not abolish evil; they merely domesticate it," DeMeester states. "They veil it with social convention and protocol, but the evil is evident in England's perpetuation of its empire and its sacrifice of a generation to war" (665). Clearly, there is a great deal more to be said about Clarissa's response to Septimus's death along with her thoughts regarding her life experience, the function of her parties, and the state of her relationships, yet I wish in this article to maintain the focus on Septimus, Tayo, and war trauma.

(21) Woolf's The Waves (1931) similarly links character and narrative to the natural world's cycles.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A410506486