Hellen Zenna Smith tries to get across a clear and concise message in her novel Not So Quiet. That message implies no matter the war, it is a grizzly and destructive force and it can shake free even the deepest-rooted forms of social norms and values. Smith emphasizes this idea straight from the beginning of the novel when Tosh shaved off all of her hair (14). She described how necessity took over in these women's lives. This necessity caused most of the women to look at their roles in society differently. Some of the values and norms that are questioned in the text are, nationalism, femininity, sexual morality and social standing.
In the beginning of the book, we see that the women feel bonded by nationalism. This nationalism has brought them to the front line as ambulance drivers during World War I. Nellie "Smithy " Smith, the main character of this novel, questions this nationalism many times throughout the book. Even Tosh pokes fun at Smithy when she calls her "one of England's Splendid Daughters " (Smith 13) because of how Tosh sees Smithy's high class standing as part of the reason she has this nationalistic obligation. In that same line, Tosh makes fun at the fact that the older generation is sending the younger generation to war, due to what she feels is pride-lead stupidity. World War I was a severe and terrible war, marked by young men dying in some of the most horrible conditions ever possibly imagined. These women, being ambulance drivers, saw this on a regular basis. They saw their own friends die horrible deaths for example, when Tosh dies Smith writes, "Tosh lies in my arms dead, soaking my overcoat with blood. Dead. " (160). It is no wonder the characters in this book would start to question if fighting this war was right. .
Smithy has to also wrestle with the idea of her absolute resentment toward her mother. Her mother brags that Smithy is doing so much on the front line where she has no understanding of the actual psychological toll that the war effort was taking on her daughter.