"I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work, at its most intense." Virginia Woolf's provocative statement about her intentions in writing Mrs. Dalloway has regularly been ignored by the critics, since it highlights an aspect of her literary interests very different from the traditional picture of the "poetic" novelist concerned with examining states of reverie and vision and with following the intricate pathways of individual consciousness. But Virginia Woolf was a realistic as well as a poetic novelist, a satirist and social critic as well as a visionary: literary critics' cavalier dismissal of Woolf's social vision will not withstand scrutiny. In her novels, Woolf is deeply engaged by the questions of how individuals are shaped (or deformed) by their social environments, how historical forces impinge on people's lives, how class, wealth, and gender help to determine people's fates. Most of her novels are rooted in a realistically rendered social setting and in a precise historical time.