It’s OK Not To Be OK.

Monday, February 22, I presented on the opinions of Shell Shock after World War I in regards to Mrs. Dalloway. Mental illness was stigmatized as a women’s issue, labeled hysteria. A majority of people saw the soldiers that fell victim of Shell Shock weak; they were not acting like ‘true men’ because they were not in fully in control of their body and emotions. German psychiatrist during the war said the soldiers claiming to be suffering from Shell Shock had poor morale and did not acknowledge Shell Shock as a mental illness.

Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway was a revolutionary character in literature because he showed the trauma and ugliness of war. Virginia Woolf shows characters being dismissive of Septimus’ condition, even the doctors that were supposed to take care of him. Septimus is suffering from Shell Shock; this was a result of repressing is emotions during the war because that is what men were expected to do. He prides himself on the fact that he was able to ‘react reasonably’ (Woolf 86) to the death of his friend, Evans. His first doctor, Dr. Holmes, regarded Septimus’ disease as nerve symptoms as a result of combat, (Woolf 91). The second doctor, Sir William Bradshaw, recommended that Septimus be sent to the countryside and placed in solitary confinement because that would be best for his wife’s sanity, (Woolf 96). Bradshaw was not even concerned about Septimus, or focused on a cure for his condition. Woolf herself suffered from mental illness and was probably one few writing about it in 1925. Few understand the implications of mental illness and that time; even today mental illness is not fully understood.

Today mental illness is still not really talked about; in many ways to have a mental illness is to be weak. For example, my junior year in high school the community was shocked to discover that Madison Holleran had committed suicide. She had been suffering from depression and jumped off a parking garage at the University of Pennsylvania. On the surface her life seemed perfect; she was a star athlete, smart, beautiful, and super nice, everyone loved her. She told her parents that she wasn’t happy, but no one would expect her to take her own life. Though on the surface she seemed to have everything, she was not happy and she thought she had to be. Her family has risen above this tragic event to spread awareness for mental illness. Her father has created a foundation in her name, The Madison Holleran Foundation. The homepage of the website quotes Virginia Woolf: “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”




5 thoughts on “It’s OK Not To Be OK.

  1. After reading this response I gained a greater perspective on the immense impact mental illness has not only on an individual but on society as a whole. After finishing the novel Mrs. Dalloway I was able to learn a lot more about how mental illnesses,specifically shell shock, can consume your entire life and can even horrifically cause death upon an individual. In Mrs. Dalloway Septimus is a character who was completely transformed by the war. After he returned, Septimus came back as if he were a totally new person, unable to live a normal life ever again. Just like what Naomi said in her post, Septimus helps to reveal the darkness and terror that is caused by the war. After reading Naomi’s post and learning more about mental illness ,especially with war veterans, I began to form a connection to the movie American Sniper .
    American Sniper is based on the most lethal sniper in the U.S military history Chris Kyle. Kyle was noted for having 160 confirmed kills. Chris was so notorious for what he did that he was labeled the “Devil of Ramadi”. Though Chris loved what he did the war did take an immense toll on him both physically and mentally. Kyle learned to shoot a gun even before he could ride a bike witnessed great tragedy as he witnessed another comrade die and lost a third friend who an enemy grenade bounds off his chest and he jumped on it before it exploded in order to save everyone around him. These including many other awful trudges that he experienced in his career led to tons of sleepless nights when Kyle returned home, including days in which he spent his days in solitary drinking. Though Kyle ended up seeking counseling for “combat stress” after his third deployment he claimed that he still had “no unresolved issues”. Though the war had such a negative impact on his mind he still longed return to combat. It is almost as though he became obsessed with this world as it became the only one he knew best and was most comfortable in. Ultimately, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was a mental illness that Chris Kyle suffered with until the day he died.


    1. I agree with Sarah’s critique on Chris Kyle in American Sniper because though he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, he did not want to leave combat. This is very similar to Madison Holleran because though she was aware of her suffering, she hid it from her friends and family in order to continue on with her life. Both were highly praised individuals: Chris Kyle for being the most lethal sniper in the U.S. military and Madison Holleran for her athletic talent. She suffered from depression because she believed that she was not living up to her full potential socially, academically, or athletically. She continuously compared her life to those around her, causing her to feel inferior to her peers. If they could be Division I athletes and excel at an Ivy League university, then she should be able to as well (she attended the University of Pennsylvania). Chris Kyle and Madison Holleran differ from Septimus in Mrs. Dalloway because Septimus did not try to conceal his mental illness, however those around him did. Though mental illness is more widely accepted today than during Virginia Woolf’s time, it is still viewed as a sign of weakness. I believe because of the negative connotations of mental illness, many refuse to acknowledge their symptoms as legitimate.


  2. Dear Naomi,

    Originally upon scanning what blog post to respond to next, I picked a random post of yours that sounded interesting. However, while initially planning to have an academic response, your post has hit me very emotionally. I think that your title give the first hint that your post is going to be more than just an analysis of a piece of literature. You have a fantastic review of the character of Septimus Smith and the problems that he encounters within the novel, and how that also connects to Woolf’s own hardships with mental illness. I completely agree with your observation that although we have come further than in Woolf’s time, there is still a negative connotation associated with mental illness. There is also a stigma around people who take their life, with people judging everything that they had, saying they still seemed happy, and not understanding what happened. The problem there is that while it is okay for people to try to find a route to be able to connect to understand what happen, you can never truly understand an illness unless you experience it. Mental illness is so prevalent in today’s society, and there are still many disputed forms of treatment and how to go about it. One of my friends suffers from severe depression, yet her parents refuse medication for her and offer instead forms of therapy that have not helped at all. This is a very tough subject, and one that is very timely both for today’s society and for trying to find ways to treat it before death feels like the only option, for cases like depression. Various forms of mental illness effect a large proportion of the country and I think it is great that you are furthering that awareness and supporting a cause that is clearly very close to you.


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