University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


The period between the First and Second World Wars was an unsettling time for women in Great Britain. After the First World War, the media, governmental acts, and everyday society urged women to return to the home. This was an especially difficult concept for women to accept after they had played a very public role during the war actively contributing to the war effort. My thesis explores three novels of interwar England that feature female characters seeking purpose in places outside of the traditional role of housewife. Ashe of Rings by Mary Butts, Harriet Hume by Rebecca West, and Lolly Willowes or the Loving Huntsman by Sylvia Townsend Warner feature females who employ untraditional methods in their quest for both stability and power in post World War I England. The women of these novels do not comply with the then popular notion that women belong in the role of wife and mother tucked back neatly into the domestic sphere. Rather, they relate to the mystical realm of nature to empower them. In Ashe of Rings, a woman returns to her homeland to reestablish herself as the rightful heir to the power of the Badbury Rings, a megalithic site in southern England. Harriet Hume is the story of a woman who discovers she has a special psychic power to read a masculine mind. A single woman, tired of being shuffled from home to home within her family, finally flees to the countryside and becomes a witch in Lolly Wi II owes or the Loving Huntsman. In carefully examining these texts as other Literary criticism on the topic, I have found that these women do indeed find solace in the mysticism of nature and the power of myth. They discover a powerful connection in a country whose certainties have been demolished by the First World War. They do not find this connection in the much encouraged role of housewife or mother, and they must search outside the boundaries of "traditional " society to find this stability. These characters possess the power to inhabit a world of their own where their strength is intertwined with the mysteries of nature and the might of the myth. Therefore, this study has implications for the potential of women to find empowerment outside the traditional patriarchy.