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The Ignored Side of Social Media: Customer Service


Case Analysis

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Cassandra Gill
Table of Contents

Executive Summary ____________________________________________________________3


Summary of Pertinent Case Facts _________________________________________________ 4 -5

Additional Relevant Information_______________________________________________6 9


Analysis and Recommendations For Future Action _______________________________10 - 13
References_______________________________________________________________14 &15

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Executive Summary

This case study examines an article from Knowledge@Wharton. Knowledge@Wharton is the


online business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Since its
launch in 1999, Knowledge@Wharton has been committed to sharing its intellectual capital. The journal
has grown into a network of sites that provides free access to: analysis of current business trends,
interviews with industry leaders and Wharton faculty, articles based on the most recent business
research, conference overviews, book reviews and links to relevant content, and searchable database of
more than 6,300 articles and research abstracts.
The central idea of this case study is that millions of consumers around the world are using social
media as a way to complain about the customer service they are experiencing. Whether its on Twitter,
Facebook, blogs, or other forms of social media, companies need to respond and offer solutions to their
customers problems before poor word about the company spreads rapidly to others. According to
Statistic Brain, as of last January, fifty-eight percent of people around the globe are on social media, and
that percentage is predicted only to increase as technology becomes more available to poorer people in
developing nations. Companies need to recognize the power of responding to customers needs via
social media. Few companies are effectively implementing social media customer service currently, so
the companies that do devise a strong system should benefit nicely.

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Summary of Pertinent Case Facts

1. According to panelists at the Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference, social media sites are now
such an integral part of the culture that using them for customer care is moving from cutting-edge concept
to business necessity. They write that when companies today try to meet their customers where they live,
they increasingly find that it is on social media.
2. Dennis Stoutenburgh, co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, said, Were getting to the point now that
if companies dont respond, they will have blackmail against them.
3. Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operation for JPMorgan Chase, sees an advantage in the
social care that customers can receive going to Chases Twitter page and actually see the individual with
whom they are talking, which she feels restores some of the intimacy and comfort that is lost in a phone
conversation.
4. Another advantage identified by Buckridee is that for the first time, Chase has a customer service team
that crosses its lines of business. She said, Youve got one team now that can actually allocate that and
get an answer to you, pretty much in real time.
5. American Airlines focus in its social space is closely aligned with the companys massive brand
transformation initiative. Katy Phillips, a senior analyst in social communications for AA, stated, Whats
really important to us, especially after the rough year the company had in 2012 with bankruptcy and
[public relations] issues, is to go from being vigilant about protecting our brand reputation in the social
space which we should always be doing anyway to really building customer loyalty. I think weve
created, and will continue to create, some wow moments for our customers.
6. Dennis Stoutenburgh stated, If youre not engaging customers during the entire product life cycle
through social media, youre missing out. Because someone else will.
7. Approximately 70% of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered according to Maritz
Research Company evolve24. One of the barriers companies face monitoring the social space is the
sheer volume of conversations out there, as Katy Phillips puts it. Locating discussions about a
companys brand can be daunting.
8. The evolve24 panelists agreed that when executing social media customer care, canned responses are
unacceptable. Responses must be personal, and its essential to strike the right tone.
9. According to Stoutenburgh, often the individuals making the budget decisions are themselves not active
social media users, and this becomes a stumbling block. They still think Facebook is only for their
teenage son or daughter. They are fearful of blunders, because blunders get so widely publicized. But they
have to understand that a company isnt built through outreach or listening alone. There has to be
engagement.
10. Bianca Buckridee stated, Using the right tone is not a set it and forget it model. You have to do almost
continuous daily coaching and training.

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11. Buckridee also stated that at American Airlines, We strive to make it look like real-time, but were really
doing a ton of research in the back.
12. Even with its challenges, social media customer care clearly represents a tremendous and growing
opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships.
13.

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Additional Relevant Information

Companies need to center their attention to constantly caring for their customers. According to
the Gartner Group, eighty percent of company profits will come from just twenty percent of existing
customers (Jao). In a marketing insight article on CMO.com,
Frederick F. Reichheld and Phil Schefter of the Harvard Business School say, "we showed that in
industry after industry, the high cost of acquiring customers renders many customer relationships
unprofitable during their early years. Only in later years, when the cost of serving loyal customers falls
and the volume of their purchases rises, do relationships generate big returns (Jao). It is crucial to
recognize the value of a companys existing customer base. According to a recent finding by QCI, a
company sponsored by IBM and the Royal Mail, cutting the customer defection rate from 15% to 10%
can double profits" (Harris).
Companies manage customer retention by maintaining strong customer relationships. When it
comes to the business world, customer service is one of the most important aspects of having a
successful business. Customer service keeps customers happy, increases customer retention, and
increases personal recommendations to others. By providing positive customer service experiences,
companies can better their reputation through customer word-of-mouth online (Dumon). A 2011
American Express survey found that seventy percent of American consumers were willing to spend
more with brands that provided a great service, and a whopping sixty percent thought brands werent
thinking enough about customer service (Strauss and Frost 408). Poor customer service has its
consequences too. Eighty-two percent of consumers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a
company due to poor customer experience, according to Customers That Stick, a company focused on
the customer-service arena (Newman). To avoid this outcome, businesses need to upgrade their customer

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service from their mediocre service. Companies should provide the ability to interact, engage and
provide superb customer service in real time on social media.
In a survey conducted by research group Loyalty 360, already more than twenty-five percent of
businesses indicated they ranked social media as the most effective channel for customer retention
(Newman). Social-media marketing provides easy access to companies and the ability for brands to
speak directly to customers. Currently, most companies have yet to hold a strong presence online, and
this is a problem because consumers now expect responses. According to the Digital Market
Advisement website, Convince and Convert, thirty-two percent of individuals expect a response within
thirty minutes after contacting a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support.
Moreover, forty-two percent expect a response within sixty minutes. Furthermore, even if it is a weekend
or early morning, fifty-seven percent of customers expect the same response time as normal business
hours at inconvenient hours (Baer). Very few companies are prepared to handle social media inquiries
that quickly, and companies need to adjust or face the consequences.
The concept of social media customer service is still evolving in many companies. Customers are
starting to reach out to companies more online. According to an article on Entrpreneur.com, the
transparency of communication on social platforms allows companies to showcase their devotion to
helping customers, fostering brand loyalty and authenticity among a widespread audience. Though
companies are making some advances, research suggests that there is still plenty of room for
improvement. In a recent study by PR and marketing firm Cone Communications, forty-six percent of
respondents said they would like to be able to solve problems and receive product or service information
via new media, however, only fourteen percent said they are "very satisfied" with their experiences with
companies or brands online (Andruss). In that same article, co-author of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick,
Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change, Andy Smith tells that "social

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customer service presents a great opportunity for active listening and reacting to your customers. When
you listen to and create discussions about the problems they're having, you can progress toward
becoming the person or having the product that addresses that problem" (Andruss).
Companies need to pay close attention to how they respond on social media. According to an
article on Digiday.com, a website for a media company for digital media, marketing and advertising
professionals, brands sometimes have had a tough time adapting their customer service procedures to the
social media world. There are a lot of canned responses as social media is a constantly on-demand
medium where the customers demand immediate attention or else they get even more irritated. It is
unlike a call center, where the queue is the master of control and calls are routed properly and efficiently.
Additionally, there is this new challenge companies face as they figure out how to respond to a casual
complaint on social media. In the original notion of customer service, if a customer has a problem, he
seeks out contact with the company for direct assistance. Social media is changing the confined setting
and the conversation is shortened on sites like Twitter. With 140 characters, there might not be enough
space to adequately appropriate the attention needed to professionally handle true customer service
issues (Silver).
Companies are starting to understand that canned, mass produced responses on online social
media communication are not the way to go. Their online presence needs to be individualized. Patton
Gleason, president of NaturalRunningStore.com, does not just respond to customer questions with a
quick tweet. Several times each week, he creates and posts personalized videos to help customers solve
specific problems. He tells of customers that "if they have questions about shin splints or the difference
between two shoes, I can actually show people what's happening or [give] a comparison of those shoes.
Not only can they see the products, they can also see the person behind them, which is a powerful way
to connect" (Andruss). Based on this idea, social media enhances customer experience management and

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further promotes the brand. Existing customers engaged in a positive social media interaction in turn
promote a company to new audiences when they share the information they have received on their own
networks.
Furthermore, shared content, whether it is positive or negative, fosters brand authenticity. Brie
Weiler Reynolds the director of content and social media for FlexJobs, an online job-search firm
embraces negative posts as an opportunity for FlexJobs' 17,000-plus social media followers to see that
the company cares about resolving problems. "It helps people [who are] on the fence about signing up
see that we respond quickly to people and don't shy away from problems. They see firsthand that if they
were to join and have a problem, we'd treat them the same way." Social customer service has the unique
ability to turn negatives into positives in a very public way. Reynolds tells that, "if someone posts a
negative comment on [our Facebook] Timeline they don't like the site or understand why they should
pay for membership oftentimes our fans swoop in and support us by explaining why they use the site
and why those posters should give it another shot," she says. "What could be better than our customers
solving our customer-service dilemmas with us?" (Andruss)

Analysis and Recommendations For Future Action

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Managing customer retention is essential to the life of a business. One of the best ways to do so
is create positive customer experiences through customer service. Social media is becoming the new
medium to provide customer care. Because of the nature of the Internet, customer service is no longer an
isolated experience of an upset customer. Social media allows for customers to have the ability to make
statements about a company for a massive number of people to see. Earned media has a multiplier
effect, intensifying and spreading the communication messages far and wide online (Strauss and Frost
378). Companies cannot be blind to the significance of social media and must become present online. A
company isnt built through outreach or listening alone (Knowledge@Wharton). Marketing
communication is shifting from purely impression based (e.g. ads) to recommendation based (social
media posting) (Strauss and Frost 378). With the rising power of individuals on the Internet, brands and
companies have lost a great deal of control over their images and reputations. Any time a brand fails to
deliver its promised promoted benefits, the company is open to attack in the social media. Companies
must now monitor, engage, and participate in social media conversations or pay the consequences.
Individualized customer focus on social media shows that a company truly cares. Companies
need to cross its lines of businesses and work together to give customers high-quality, original, creative
responses in real time. Automatic, scripted or canned responses are unacceptable. To create a personal
response, staffs need to be trained to pay attention to all the details the Internet makes available to them.
When a customer tweets a company a question or posts on its Facebook page, their name and basic
information is already available. There is a wealth of information on peoples social accounts that
companies need to utilize to personalize their customer service process. Moreover, customers could be
segmented using analysis based on behavior, demographics, and more, to provide company respondents
with additional background information and context. To make it look like real-time, there should
oftentimes be a ton of research in the back (Knowledge@Wharton). Companies need to understand

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who they are dealing with. Customers are very sensitive and will be upset with responses that take over
an hour to receive. Workers need to be kept on top of their game in order to succeed in social media
customer care. Bianca Buckridee is spot on for saying that it is not a set it and forget it model
(Knowledge@Wharton). Her recommendation for constant coaching and training of employees will help
businesses gain that edge over competitors. After all, customers need to feel valued and appreciated. If
they are not being engaged during all of the product life cycle on social media, a competitor will fulfill
that need instead.
Having strong customer experience management online is not just about being on the defensive
end and protecting a brands reputation in the social space; the focus should really be on building
customer loyalty through exemplary communications. Giving customers above and beyond what is
expected will elevate a company well ahead of the competition. The sum of all the little details
employees take care to pay attention to will wow customers. When this occurs, companies can
successfully create brand advocates who can be used as a great marketing tool to promote the brand
through positive reviews and word-of-mouth tactics that could even go viral. According to Harvard
Business Review authors Thomas Jones and Earl Sasser, Increased customer loyalty is the single most
important driver of long-term performance (Strauss and Frost 409).

With approximately seventy percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter going
unanswered and the sheer volume of conversations out there, it is difficult for companies to be able to
locate discussions about a brand and respond in an effective time (Knowledge@Wharton). Staffs need to
be well-trained and a strong system needs to be implemented into companies to combat these daunting
problems. It would be fitting for social media customer care to mirror the reputations management
process of building, maintaining, monitoring, and repairing (Strrauss and Frost 400). Building social

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media customer care would be the learning process of identifying needs, anticipating them, and
responding effectively to any problem customers present. Customers buy good feelings and solutions to
problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. In engaging with customers,
employees need to be genuine, honest, and sincere. These built relationships with customers will then
need to be well maintained. To do so, customer experience management teams should get to know
customer expectations to make sure the company consistently lives up to them. Touching base points
with customers will let them know they are important and ensure that they are satisfied with the services.
Clear communication will solve problems when dissatisfaction is evidenced. Additionally, regular
maintenance communication will empower the corporations to better be able to anticipate and solve
future needs.
By maintaining communication with customers, companies are able to monitor all of the
significant, wide-scale problems and needs arising with customers. Effective monitoring should involve
getting regular feedback. When contacting customers, encourage and welcome suggestions about how
the corporation could improve. Companies need to listen carefully to what customers say and provide a
method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions. Measurements of the social media
customer service program need to be taken. There should be a database for constructive criticism and the
problems customers faced each time they contacted the company. Company response times and the
number of complaints must be accounted for as well. In addition to monitoring customers interactions,
companies should also be monitoring their company program to determine the impact of the social
media customer service. They should look at the program effectiveness in terms of customer retention,
ROI, customer life in terms of increased transaction rates, and customer lifetime value. By monitoring
and taking into account all of this data, companies will best be able to identify key problems with their

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customers and their service program. Data analysis will allow companies to see directly where they need
to take action and improve.
The social media customer care process would be a constant cycle of learning and responding in
a new realm for businesses online. Social customer relationship management means that companies
must interact with customers on their own terms, and not based solely on the companys data, strategy,
and desires (Strauss and Frost 412-413). Most companies have yet to take on fully this new role, so there
are large marketing opportunities for the companies that do soon. Social media customer care will cause
businesses to face many new challenges, but establishing a focus on it in a company will lead to a strong
customer relationship management that will result in excellent long-term profits.

References

Andruss, Paula. "The Power of Social Customer Service." Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur Media,
Inc., 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 02 July 2014. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225227>.
Baer, Jay. "Convince and Convert: Social Media Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy."
Convince and Convert Social Media Strategy and Content Marketing Strategy. Convince &
Convert, LLC, n.d. Web. 25 June 2014. <http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-

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research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-responsetime/>.
Browser Media, Socialnormics, and Macworld. "Social Networking Statistics." Statistic Brain:
Percentages, Numbers, Financials, Rankings. Statistic Brain RSS, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 June
2014. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/social-networking-statistics/>.
Dumon, Marv. "Why Great Customer Service Is Important." Examiner.com. AXS Digital Group
LLC, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 June 2014. <http://www.examiner.com/article/why-great-customerservice-is-important>.
Harris, Teresa. "Value Your Customers In More Ways Than One." Second Opinion Marketing.
Second Opinion Marketing, n.d. Web. 02 July 2014.
<http://www.secondopinionmarketing.co.uk/articles/customerintelligence/value.aspx>.
Jao, Jerry. "Customer Retention Should Outweigh Customer Acquisition." CMO. Adobe Systems
Incorporated., 2 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 July 2014.
<http://www.cmo.com/articles/2013/7/18/customer_retention.html>.

Newman, Dan. "6 Reasons Social Media Is Your Secret Weapon in Customer Service."
Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur Media, Inc., 5 May 2014. Web. 25 June 2014.
<http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/233612>.
Silver, Curtis. "Dear Brands: Customer Service and Social Media Rarely Mix "
Digiday. Digiday, 18 May 2014. Web. 25 June 2014. <http://digiday.com/brands/customerservice-social-media/>.
Strauss, Judy, and Raymond Frost. E-marketing. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

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Education, 2014. Print.

Treadmills (Inspired by Barthes Toys)

Treadmills: one cannot find a more prevalent illustration of just how disconnected man has
become from his nature both from his body, his mind, and his interactions with the environment
around him. Even when the weather is perfectly fine, man prefers the artificial simulation of running
over the pure, original, free-flowing act. The phenomenon of mass indoor treadmill usage is the result of
a culture looking to pave its own manmade path and separate itself from its primordial ties. Forging a

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more refined way, the civilized urban world looks to sever its connections to its barbaric, wild roots, and
fails to recognize its need to embrace the natural chaos.
In the modern world, it appears as if man has conquered nature. The need to perform hard,
intensive manual labor is no longer essential to existence and not a part of life in the industrialized
developed world. The most movement we need to perform is limited to the shifting our fingers on a
keyboard short and short bits of walking from seat to the next. We have the luxury of not having to work
our bodies for the entire day aside from that brief workout at the gym that day.
Alienated from much of our bodies most of the day, we see that full movement of our bodies
through space as dreadful drudgery when we step onto the treadmill. The fact that this dull, hard, drab
gray and black structure was originally created to punish prisoners sentenced to hard labor seems fitting.
As we crank the speed of conveyor up and start to run, a mechanical sound becomes increasingly louder
as we procede to plod along. We find our bodies confined to a small area to move as there rails at our
sides and in front us; the bars box us in even further and restrict our stride. In response, our hamstrings
are shortened; weight is pressed more heavily on our quads; we land on our heels instead of the balls of
feet; and put more pressure on our knees. Rather than having our feet springing up and cooperating with
gravity, we pull our feet up ourselves and wear elevated, overly-cushioned, fancy shoes. We push
forward thinking the pain from the sore knees, fiery calves, and muscles cramps is normal and fail to
recognize that this is simply the result of struggle against the natural world. We fail to hear the message
our tight muscles and distressing cramps are our bodies are screaming out to us because we have a built
a wall between us and our bodies. While our bodies should be able to support the load of our weight,
they fail because they are unable to hold up both our ancient biological structures and our modern
lifestyle; they cannot stay sitting all day in one fixed position and then be expected to work efficiently
through fluid, constant movement. Ignorant of the meaning of the signs, we beat on and punish our

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bodies for eating too much or not looking a certain way. We tell the machine to impose a strict,
unforgiving pace on our legs looking for variety; we estrange ourselves from our bodies because of our
need to repress our own biological nature.
Constrained and confined to that small space in the gym, we cut off connection from our inner
nature as well. To cope with such a monotonous and boring workout, our minds must become numb to
in order get through the run effectively. We stare at the television screen in front of us and keep checking
the dash every thirty seconds to see if the time has magically passed much more quickly. Since we
cannot enjoy the journey on that mechanical machine literally going nowhere, our attention becomes
distorted to caring only about the outcome of the run. The reason that that numbers on the dash are the
placed on the focal visual point of the treadmill becomes clear. We become driven towards the results the
machine calculates; we reduce ourselves and our experiences to numbers. Like the Marxist caricature of
the capitalist caring only about the bottom line at the expense of his workers, we place value only on
miles logged on the running belt at the cost of our minds being dulled. The effect of the system on the
individual being toward the brink of mental exhaustion is negligible. Like schools caring only about the
results of a standardized test, our measurable output of calories is all that matters, and so we obsess over
that last red digit. In exchange for extra calories, we give up our minds to technology.
Unoriginal and unimaginative, the design of the boredom belt is about the same wherever we
go and has not changed much over time. The experience of one treadmill to the next is uniformly the
same. If its too hot or too cold outside, we need not worry because the treadmill is in a perfectly
temperature controlled room temperature. Our runs can carry on at an exact pace without an obstacle
ever separating our feet from a direct, flat, predictable landing on the moving belt. We do not need to
learn how to survive in the environment naturally, and since we can always manipulate it artificially. We
fail to see any value in interacting with the outside world, and disconnect ourselves from it. We place

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mankind in its own category and no longer experience the environment we have always lived in up until
the last hundred years or so.
Urbanization has made it possible for us to avoid having to interact with the world entirely. A
fifteen inch screen in front of us makes it possible to run through the woods without getting an ounce of
dirt on our legs. We can run up the Andes Mountains without ever having to leave our town. We can
create manmade simulation for anything we could find in nature.
In trying to control every aspect, we fail to see that out of some chaos, order can be found. The
divots and roots on natures paths offer variety to our perspectives and experiences. The plants and
animals heighten our awareness of our surroundings and senses. From taking in the unique ecosystem up
close, we develop a sense of connectedness to other creatures in creation. Instead of feeling exhausted
from a run, we could feel calmness and peace flowing freely from the fresh air. In our ignorance we
believe that man alone holds and knows all the answers. The simulation of running on a treadmill cannot
provide vitamin d and and natural boost in serotonin from being outside. Our overly padded shoes
cannot protect us better than having strong feet and proper alignment.
Seeing the same sights from the treadmill day after day restrict our views of the world. Instead of
looking within ourselves or toward the earthly environment to solve our natural problem, we turn to
consumerism. We buy into the idea that in order to experience a sense of relaxation we should set down
in front of the T.V. with some snacks and a drink after our dreadmill run. We listen to the marketers
and the companies telling us that we have to buy this or that product in order to feel more relaxed, be
happier, or weigh less. We need things to alleviate the burdens of life. We follow the endlessly rotating
cycle promising to bring us happiness finally this time around. We assimilate to the capitalistic culture
and allow the manufactures to mold our lives.

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We listen to the machines and value a workout by the number of calories burned, rather than by
the way it made you feel, the enjoyment it created, and the new connections and perspectives you
formed. While people report feeling more restored, less anxious, and less depressed spending time
outside, the issue is not stressed to society because nobody can make a profit off of that. We have
become dulled and passive and fail to notice this important detail as a society. We ignore that fact there
are inherent flaws in this system which tries to simplify the complex human practice of running to its
basic mechanical aspects. Running in its purest form is a celebration of our humanity. With elongated
legs and lengthened tendons, the human body is born to run. Our bodies are designed to move through
space in an unrestricted variety of ways. We are not meant to be confined to sitting in one seat all day at
school or work. Children love to run around any chance they get until the system teaches them
otherwise. For children embracing their instincts though, we call them misbehaved in proper civilized
society. We suppress our natural inclination to want to constantly be moving like our ancestors. We have
become complacent, passive pawns of the system. We have gone so far that the most natural activities
our bodies were designed to perform and have always been an integral part of our existence now feel
foreign to us.

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A Rather Romantic Critique of Twentieth Century Conformity

The power and impact of societal conformity is a central theme in Virginia Woolfs Mrs.
Dalloway. The problems of compliance and passivity were issues developed in Emersons Self-Reliance
and Dickensons Bartleby, The Scrivener. In Self-Reliance, Emerson warned of dangers of strictly
following society as it opposed individual development. In Bartley, excessive obedience to societal
standards leaves the author feeling as if he is in no way part of the problem of the creation of a character
like Bartleby; without a sense that the narrator will change anything in his life, the author perhaps
suggests that conformity leads to little progress and does address fundamental problems that critically
need to be addressed in society. Virginia Woolf recognizes the potential problems conformity poses in
these past texts in a consistent manner, and addresses the dangers of repression due to social norms
through rather Romantic criticisms. In modern times, the individual has become unnaturally trapped in
society.
There is something artificial about the world. After returning to London for the first time in five
years, Peter instantly notices some difference. Every woman in the streets of London is described by
Peter as having roses blooming under glass (Woolf 63). Additionally, in reference to society, Peter
describes people as being weighed down and women being pressed like flowers (Woolf 146). Using

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nature symbolically, Virginia Woolf portrays life as being constricted by all oppressive social systems
that distort the balance of nature (Kostkowska 197). In his ecological essay, Justyna Kostkowska argues
that Woolfs characters suggest that individual freedom can only be achieved by working in harmony
with nature, and social systems oppress everything natural because of the unnatural restrictions and
regulations on life they place on life (185). Lucrezia comments on the overall British societal
suppression of the natural individual; she describes people half alive, huddled up in Bath chairs,
looking at a few ugly flowers stuck in pots! (19). The flowers stuck in pots are symbolic of individuals
in England. Hidden from each other in one person Bath chairs, people are not out in the streets every
night interacting with each other like in Italy; they are keeping to themselves through civilizations
creations and in the process disabling themselves as autonomous individuals and alienating each other.
This unnaturality of the world leads to the problem of a lack of thought or acceptance of the
culture as it is. When Lucrezia is trying to make Septimus notice the young boys playing cricket in the
park, he thinks, But what was there to look at? A few sheep. That was all" (21). Septimus sees the
people around him as "sheep." Though they may be children, Septimus recognizes these people as
simple followers of orders who act just as everyone else does; they are not spontaneous individuals all
acting differently according to his own will. They are unimportant and mindless to him. He sees no point
in paying attention to these "sheep."
Because of this unquestioning obedience to the established culture, people face constant battles
within themselves as they struggle to express themselves in a civilization that places stringent codes on
what is and what is not acceptable. Clarissa spends the entire day and novel wondering what could
have been if she had taken a different path in life. Unlike Emersons unapologetic, self-reliant,
completely autonomous man, Clarissa is plagued with worries of what others think of her and desperate
to comply perfectly with social expectations. She states that half the time she did things not simply, not

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for themselves; but to make people think this or that . . . Oh if she could have had her life over again!
she thought, stepping on to the pavement, could have looked even differently! (7) Mrs. Dalloway
allows other people to guide many of her choices.
Forcing flowing, changing, multi-dimensional individuals to fit into a fixed one dimensional
mold is an unfortunate result of the establishment of Englands social standards. What is worse though is
what happens to those who fail to conform. Septimus represents the most extreme and prevalent
example of the fragmented individual who is unable to communicate his pieces clearly to others, and so
becomes needlessly broken permanently. He cannot fit the mold of society and reintegrate to life in
England after the war. When Septimus tries to explain his thoughts to the culture, Sir William Bradshaw
tells him, Try to think as little about yourself as possible, and thinks, really, he [Septimus] was not fit
to be about (88). Septimus is rejected in his communication efforts because no one wants to hear of
differing perspectives on the world. Dr. Holmes and Dr. Bradshaw advocate that Septimus repress his
knowledge and thoughts on the war he had experienced. Instead of talking about the war, Dr. Holmes
suggests ignoring Septimuss strange thoughts and make him notice real things, go to a music hall, play
cricket (21); real things suggesting as if Septimuss experiences and interpretations of life after the
war are completely unreflective of reality. Because the war is no longer a real thing since it is no
longer going on, the doctors imply that the war should not have this much effect on Septimus. When the
accomplished soldier tells others his thoughts of killing himself, his wife thinks, But he did not mean it,
she said. Of course not. It was merely a question of rest, said Sir William (86). Others downplay the
seriousness of what he had experienced in the war; because war trauma and PTSD was not recognized in
British society at the time, Septimus is diagnosed as having nothing the matter with him by Dr.
Holmes simply not having a sense of proportion according to Sir William (19, 59, 86).

Gill 23
Septimus tells that the answer to his problem is proper communication with
others. He says, "Communication is health; communication is happiness" (Dalloway
83). It has already been successfully argued by Karen DeMeester in an essay on
Trauma and Recovery in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway that, Septimus's death is
the result of his inability to communicate his experiences to others and thereby
give those experiences meaning and purpose (649). Society does not want to
listen to Septimuss cry to the public about the tragedies of war. They want to
convince themselves that the war had been like a "little shindy of schoolboys with
gunpowder" as Septimus puts it (85). Society wants to preserve its delusional
conception of warfare. The civilized community does not want to hear Septimus
gasping, trembling, painfully drawing out these profound truths which needed, so
deep were they, so difficult, an immense effort to speak out; they sought to ignore
ideas the world was entirely changed by for ever (60). Septimus is blocking
the way of the world and for that he is not allowed to live in society (Woolf 10).
Clearly, Woolf expresses the seriousness of the issues that come out of conforming to English
social standards. Because of compliances creation disconnection among people, alienation, and
sometimes even death, Woolf establishes the need for reform. She perhaps even suggests that the answer
somehow lies in a turn back towards Romanticism. The references made to nature cannot be understated.
Flowers alone are mentioned forty-five times in the novel. Individuals find happiness in nature. In his
book devoted entirely to symbolism in Mrs. Dalloway, N.C. Thakur discusses how both Clarissa and
Sally find sanctuaries of peace in natures gardens and flowers (Thakur 66). In Miss Pyms flower
shop, Clarissa finds reprieve from societys demands. Then, Woolf writes that Sally, despairing of
human relationships (people were so difficult) . . . often went into her garden and got from her flowers a

Gill 24
peace which men and women never gave her (175). In nature, individuals can escape the pressures of
society and temporarily find peace and purity that does not exist in the civilized world (Thakur 67).
It appears that looking on nature gives Woolfs characters a sense of the sublime Of
something far more deeply infused as Wordsworths narrator felt (Wordsworth 96-97). In an essay on
Ecocritism which examines the ways in which characters in Mrs. Dalloway interact with flowers, IrinaAna Drobot points to that the fact that in the text there are moments of being for the characters in
nature, meaning intensely experienced moments, revelations, or epiphanies (149). There appears to be
moments where the characters are able to transcend to a higher level. When Septimus sees nature, he
imagines that the trees waved, brandished. We welcome, the world seemed to say; we accept; we
create. Beauty, the world seemed to say and that they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive.
And the leaves being connected by millions of fibres with his own body, there on the seat, fanned it up
and down; when the branch stretched he, too, made that statement (61, 18). Septimus does not just view
nature as objects in the background; he feels that it is an integral part of his being.
In many ways, Septimus himself is calling for us to see beyond reason and seek transcendence.
After facing encounters with death and other intense experiences during the war, Septimus recognizes
the need for social change and need for something more meaningful in his life. He seeks to tell those in
power what he has learned so societal change can be made. He thinks:
he was free. he, Septimus, was alone, called forth in advance of the mass of men to hear the
truth, to learn the meaning, which was to be given whole to. . . . To the Prime Minister,
The supreme secret must be told to the Cabinet; first that trees are alive; next there is no crime;
next love, universal love (59-60).

Gill 25
While Septimus may be suffering from psychological damage while he is thinking this, what he is
thinking is true. His pressing need to instigate change in the social, political system of society comes out
of his trauma that resulted from this awry, fragmented world; it takes a broken man who fully
experienced the implications of conformity to social standards to see just how bad of a path respectable
European society had taken.
Drawing many references to nature, Woolf is able to demonstrate just what is wrong with the
culture of her time. By using language of the past particularly Romantic language Woolf criticizes
society for forcing complex individuals to exist in a specific, simplistic way. Great influence and
advancement comes from the rejection of the norm and refusal to conform to existing practices. Picasso
and Stravinsky were pioneers of great artistic movements that forced people to change their perception
of how they thought about and experienced art; they took risks to completely self-express themselves.
Woolf succeeds in doing the same through her own artistic cultural critique in Mrs. Dalloway and uses
language of the past Romantic language like Stravinsky did to do so.

Works Cited
DeMeester, Karen. Trauma and Recovery in Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway. MFS Modern
Fiction Studies 44.2 (1998): 648-73.
Drobot, Irina-Ana. "Flowers in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Light Of Day by
Graham Swift." The Scientific Journal of Humanitisic Studies 4.7 (2012): 147-52.
Gunes, Ali. "Williams Wordsworth's Double Awareness of Memory in Virginia Woolf's Mrs.

Gill 26
Dalloway." Dogus Universitesi Dergisi 4.2 (2003): 183-96. Web.
Kostkowska, Justyna. Scissors and Silks, Flowers and Trees, and Geraniums Ruined by the
War: Virginia Woolfs Ecological Critique of Science in Mrs. Dalloway. Womens
Studies 33 (2004): 183+. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Dallas Baptist
University Library, TX 11 Nov. 2004 <http//ephost@epnet.com>
Thakur, N. C., The Symbolism of Virginia Woolf, London: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Woolf, Virginia (2005-08-01). Mrs. Dalloway (p. 61). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle
Edition.

Muddy Water in Candide

Gill 27

In Candide, Voltaire grossly satirizes European society. The story is filled with vivid extremes;
however, there are also some subtle points about problems in the world of Candide as well. Almost all
the most horrific acts of the novel happen just to women; on a smaller scale, minor transgressions
towards women are constantly committed as well. Through the subtleties, Voltaire illustrates some
complexities in the issue of the debasement of women. The problem is that not just the evil, arrogant
men objectify women. The degradation of women is a collective problem in which all members of the
European civilization contribute to in some way, even women themselves. The sexual objectification of
women is a deeply engrained societal problem across the entire spectrum, including women and good,
innocent men.
In Voltaires story, all of the female characters are sexually exploited, raped, and forced into
prostitution regardless of their wealth or political power. Cungonde, Paquette, and the Old Woman are
victims; they are of little importance to the action of the story; things just happen to them, they do not
instill action. In perceiving and experiencing the fate in which they cannot control, women take on the
views of society to a certain extent. They cannot help but be influenced by the environment they live in.
Because their lives are so full of hardship, women start to believe that these crimes committed against
them is simply a part of being the female gender. When Cungonde describes the attack on her familys
castle and her subsequent rape, she tells, I cried, I struggled, I bit, I scratched, I wanted to tear out the
tall Bulgarians eyesnot knowing that what happened at my fathers house was the usual practice of
war. She speaks as if what was happened to her was just the customary way of doing things she should
have accepted.
In the eighteenth century world, women are valued for their beauty and exist for the pleasure of
men. With such a prevalent theme in the European community, women objectify themselves even. The

Gill 28
Old Woman defines her younger selfs value as a human being almost entirely based on her beauty. She
tells Candide in great detail:
My throat was formed, and such a throat! white, firm, and shaped like that of the Venus of
Medici; and what eyes! what eyelids! what black eyebrows! such flames darted from my dark
pupils that they eclipsed the scintillation of the stars. . . . My waiting women, when dressing and
undressing me, used to fall into an ecstasy, whether they viewed me before or behind; how glad
would the gentlemen have been to perform that office for them! (24)
The Old Woman identifies herself by her beauty, not her personality. Additionally, Cungonde believes
that the good man Candide still loves her exclusively because of her status sexually. When she tells of
her encounters with the Inquisitor and Don Issachar, she says, For my part, I have so far held out
against both, and I verily believe that this is the reason why I am still beloved (18). Cungonde
suggests to her noble love that her worth as a human being is contingent upon her sexuality, not who she
is as a person.
While there is the issue of female self-objectification, there is also the problem of good men in
the European civilization continuing the cultural norm. The good man of Europe as seen through
Candide would never think of exploiting women, but in some ways further engrains the objectification
of women in the culture. Candide does what he believes to be the right thing always. He sacrifices his
own desires do so even; for example, he chooses to marry Cungonde despite having no wish at the
bottom of his heart because he believes it to be the only chivalrous choice (84). Despite treating woman
kindly, the language Candide uses to describe the female characters is concerning. The narrator sees the
women as if they are simplistic beings. Embracing the male perspective, Candide does not deem it
fitting to describe the female gender with any interesting or redeeming qualities throughout the text. The

Gill 29
Old Woman is seen as being ugly and world-weary, and does not even earn a name, despite playing a
significant role in the text. Paquette is merely described as a little brown wench, very pretty and very
docile (2).
Moreover, Candide even objectifies Cungonde. He does so when he reduces his initial act of
passion with Cungonde to being something that occurred because of her immense beauty. Essentially
his entire voyage begins because of Cungondes beautiful bright eyes (5). The protagonist is moved
into action to be able to call this beautiful woman his own, a prized possession. This point is further
demonstrated by the fact that Candide no longer values loving and marrying Cungonde once she is no
longer physically attractive (77,84). Thus, according to the good male narrator, Cungonde, Paquette,
and the Old Woman are not intricate characters at all and, they experience a lack character development
throughout the plot. It can be argued that women are described in this one dimensional way as to
accurately reflect the European community. The female characters are not displayed as complex
individuals, because they are simply seen as objects.
Not only does the just, common man see women as being reduced to a few benefits that they can
provide, the female gender is viewed as the property of males. When Don Issachar came back to the
house to sexually exploit Cungonde, the narrator tells that he had come to enjoy his rights (19). This
line by Candide suggests as if Cungonde rightfully belonged to him in society. Now it can be argued
that Candide is being ironic, but that idea becomes foggier when Candide himself claims rightful
ownership of Cungonde. He tells the Baron that because I rescued your sister from the arms of a Jew
and of an Inquisitor; she has great obligations to me.... (36). While Candides intensions to marry her
are just even after her seventy-two quarterings and Cungonde does love him, it cannot be ignored
that Candide feels he has particular rights to be with her (36). In other words, it is as if Candide is
saying, Cungonde is my property. In this game of love, I won my prize fair and square.

Gill 30
This trophy language towards women is widespread. Cacambo, Candides good, loyal servant,
exemplifies this issue as well. When Cacambo tells Candide what has happened to Cungonde, he says,
My dear master, Cungonde washes dishes on the banks of the Propontis, in the service of a prince,
who has very few dishes to wash; she is a slave in the family of an ancient sovereign named Ragotsky,
to whom the Grand Turk allows three crowns a day in his exile. But what is worse still is, that she has
lost her beauty and has become horribly ugly (77-78). Whats worse in the eyes of men, is not what
terrible things Cungonde has to endure, but that she is no longer a prized possession once she is no
longer beautiful. Her feelings and thoughts are of little value to men.
The problem of good men in the world of Candide is that they accept the cultural norms towards
women. The protagonist tells that he saw countries at war brutalize girls:
According to the laws of war daughters, [were] disembowelled and breathing their last after
having satisfied the natural wants of Bulgarian heroes Candide fled quickly to another village;
it belonged to the Bulgarians heroesand the Abarian heroes had treated it [the next village] in
the same way (5).
The rape of women is described as natural and the rapists are heroes of the story from the words
Candide uses himself. Though he may be being ironic when using such terms, Candide passively seems
to accept the rape as an unfortunate, but common occurrence. In his passivity, the common man fails to
take any responsibility and allows this brutalization toward women to continue to occur. Without much
thought, Candide never takes action to stop the evil acts he witnesses; he only responds to stimuli that
directly affect him.
Therefore, with both women and good men contributing, the degradation of women is a societal
problem at large. Now women are not responsible for allowing this to occur and the good common man

Gill 31
does not treat women terribly either. The cultural objectification of women by all results from
unfortunate consequences, as the degradation of women affects the psychological thoughts of every
woman and good man for the worse; this further exacerbates the problem as these members make the
issue more deeply engrained in the culture. The concept is not completely black and white between those
that further the plight of women and those that fight back. There are some very gray areas of
responsibility. Though to very different degrees, the sexual objectification of women is a predominant
world problem shared by all.
However, it should be noted that despite this great tragedy in society, there may be hope for all.
In the end of the novel the objectification of women is not so prevalent in the garden. The characters all
take on different task to be a self-sufficient group in which both sexes rely on each other to live. Voltaire
writes how all seem content as:
Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she
became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after
the linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Girofle, of some service or other; for he made a
good joiner, and became a very honest man (87).
Women are valued by men not in a sexual way for once. When no longer physically attractive,
Cungonde finds a new value in herself making pastries. Thus, while the sexual objectification is a
problem shared by all, it is a problem that can also be answered by all.

Gill 32

Works Cited
Voltaire. Candide. Dover Thrift ed. New York: Dover Publications, 2012. Kindle.