The United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists. This seems like an appropriate policy for the prevention of the spread of terrorism. The policy remains appropriate until your dog is held captive! In Flush, Virginia Woolf contrasts sympathy for Miss Barrett’s dog with the sensible decision not to negotiate with kidnappers in order to illustrate part of the relationship between men and women. While the men seem to represent the more sensible, more rational point of view on the subject of the ransom, Woolf draws the reader into sympathizing with Miss Barrett and with little Flushie.
After Flush is stolen, the narrator recounts the usual proceedings which accompany a stolen dog’s safe return—the ransom must be paid without hesitation, or the dog’s head and paws return to their owner in a small box. While Miss Barrett intends to pay any cost for the safe return of her Flushie, Mr. Barrett refuses to pay a single penny to the archfiend Mr. Taylor. He is accompanied in this view by all the men in the novel, as well as some of the women. This opinion seems to represent the most sensible approach to the problem of pet theft on Wimpole Street. If no one cared to pay the ransom, theft would become unprofitable, and the small industry that had arisen would surely crumble. Unfortunately, this resolution would most certainly mean Flushie’s demise. This resolution is unacceptable to Miss Barrett.
By endearing Flush to the reader—endowing him with not only human characteristics, but with noble human characteristics—Woolf constructs the setting in which Miss Barrett proves her strength and determination in both will and conviction. This setting revolves around the disagreement between Mr. Browning, Miss Barrett’s true love, and Miss Barrett herself. Mr. Browning subscribes to the opinion that paying the ransom submits to and condones the tyranny of men like Mr. Taylor. Miss Barrett’s decision is reduced to one of either yielding to the easier, more effortless decision made by the men in her life (and made by the general aristocracy of Wimpole Street), or she could choose to follow her own convictions. She chooses the latter, and in response to Mr. Browning, she cleverly proposes “what would Mr. Browning have done if the banditti had stolen her…?” (p. 93). She becomes the champion of Flush’s innocence, and risks her own safety in the pursuit of his.
In this decision, Woolf displays Miss Barrett’s strength and courage. This display stands in stark contrast to the Miss Barrett who could barely stir from her couch at the beginning of the novel. One could argue, and Flush would agree that Miss Barrett derived her strength from Mr. Browning and their love, but Woolf depicts a Miss Barrett who is strong and wise enough not to be consumed or overwhelmed by that love—she does not allow his opinion and emotion to become hers. Miss Barrett uses the strength she finds in love to save Flush.