Indiana Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2016

Publication Citation

91 Indiana Law Journal 1473 (2016)


This Note explores the disjunctive moral gap between a civilian ethic of mutual responsibility and the laws of war that eschew that ethic. To illustrate that gap, this Note conducts a case study of Virginia Woolf’s rendering of shell shock in her 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. The war put mass, mechanized killing at center stage, and international law permitted killing in war. But Woolf’s character study of Septimus Smith reveals that whether war-associated killing is “criminal” requires more than legal analysis. An extralegal approach is especially meaningful because it demonstrates the difficulty of processing and rationalizing global conflict that plays itself out in a localized way—on the consciences of individual soldiers. Law may constrain war, but law does not constrain pangs of conscience. Woolf’s novel illustrates this salient reality.