Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1931) and Willa Cather's One of Ours critique the visual propaganda of World War 1 through metaphoric representations of nature. Although the writers were not personally acquainted, Virginia Woolf contextualized Cather's work in “American Fiction,” while Cather judged A Room of One's Own (1929) to be an accurate account of the challenges faced by some women writers (Woodress 423). Additionally, the argument of Cather's essay “The Novel Demeuble,” is clearly indebted to Woolf's insistence in “Modern Fiction” that novelists should only sparingly represent material reality (O'Brien 155). Further, each novelist had researched conditions at the French front, and each disapproved of the distortions on which visual and verbal government wartime propaganda depended.
Willa Cather has long been branded with the infamous image of the plow that broke the plains encircled by the huge red ball of the setting sun from My Antonia (254). Denounced as “scenic nationalis[m],” mocked as praise of American frontier expansionism (Cooperman, qtd. in Trout 4), Cather's work is currently undergoing reappraisal. Some critics now champion Cather as an eco–feminist (Ryder “A Cry” 75–6). Most current critics argue that Woolf did not reduce the land to the body of the female (Bagley, Zeiss), although Cather critics reluctantly acknowledge her reductive practices about “the feminine landscape” (Stout 82–3, O'Brien 409–11). However, both Cather and Woolf were fierce preservationists of both rural and natural landscapes (Hussey “I'd,” Ryder, “A Cry” 77–9).
Twice as long as Mrs. Dalloway (1925), One of Ours won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. It earned gratitude from numerous war survivors and their families (Lewis 122–3, Harris 32–3), along with male denunciations such as Hemingway's that the novel desecrated their depictions of the manly art of war (North 172–4, 178–9). One of Ours remains controversial. Some read its narrative voice as praise of American war–fervor, while others champion the novel's undermining of American militarism (Trout, Memorial 191). In fact, argues Steven Trout, Cather's novel juxtaposes “clashing discourses,” narrated through several “inconsistent points of view,” (Memorial 7) in order to create “a many–faceted Modernist texture” (Memorial 146). Critical discourse about Woolf's narrative methods is equally contentious. Not surprisingly, the cacophony of interwoven voices and competing, embedded interpreters within Mrs. Dalloway resembles the layered, often “conflicted” (Memorial 83) narrative voices of One of Ours.