A Review of Virginia Woolf’s Writing

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

A Room of One’s Own

Summary

During the midst of A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, Woolf utilizes the experiences of a fictitious woman to support her beliefs on the necessities of a female author. This unnamed lady narrates her thinking as she attempts to solve the same dilemma Woolf confronted, which is deciding the thesis of her essay on woman and fiction. The narrator is first encountered while gazing at a stream and contemplating the topic of her composition. Suddenly, the woman thinks of an idea and races across a female restricted area in her excitement. A security guard then reprimands her, which causes the woman to forget her idea. Subsequently, when the narrator ventures to research a poem found in the library at the college of Oxbridge, she is informed that ladies are not allowed inside without meeting certain requirements.

She then attempts to shake off her feelings of repudiation by observing the magnificent lunch and intelligent conversation of Oxbridge’s male members. After this, she returns to her female college and notices that the discussion seems less imploring than that of the other universities, most likely because of the uninspiring food her institute provides. Later on, the unnamed woman converses on this observation with a friend, in which her comrade points out that their school lacks the funds needed to provide such amenities. The narrator then deduces that discriminatory laws and gender-specific roles are to blame for this, since they prevent women from leaving an inheritance for their college.

After once more failing to select the premise of her essay, the unnamed woman resolves to conduct research at the British Museum. While she is doing do, she locates bookshelves full of compositions written by men on the subject of females, but virtually none composed by ladies on the same field. Not only this, but most of the material seems to focus on the flaws of women and why men are better than ladies. When eating lunch, the narrator notes that most of these male authors appear to write about the failings of females out of anger. The unnamed woman questions their motives, and she decides that they are seeking to assert their male superiority over ladies. As she pays the bill for her lunch, she reflects on the freedom her large inheritance of five hundred pounds a year provides. This income allows her to comprehend both gender’s struggles and inner thoughts, since her emotions are not influenced by any discriminatory working policies.

The narrator then returns to her home, where she questions if gender specific boundaries will dissolve over time. She later resorts to the facts of history to further understand women, but finds that very little information is available on ladies during the Elizabethan age. She observes that in Shakespeare’s plays women seem to be incredibly significant. However, in reality, matrons appear to be analogous to uneducated workers. It seems improbable, then, for a woman of Shakespeare’s talent to have contributed to literature like he did during that era, which the narrator illustrates through the imaginative accounts of Judith Shakespeare. The narrator speculates that Judith would have experienced extreme hardships while attempting to contribute to the acting world, and that she would have eventually committed suicide as a result. The unnamed woman decides that such a gifted female would not have existed during that period, because of her poor education, her lack of space to write, and her acceptance in the inferiority of ladies. Based on this thinking, the first women novelists were probably aristocrats that had the space and education to conduct their work. The open rebellion of standards by such middle class women as Aphra Behn then ensued, which paved the way for other brilliant female novelists. The narrator also maintains that all of these women were driven to write novels because they had educated themselves through similar literary works. Moreover, the narrator postulates that lady authors lack a feminine literary tradition that men have already constructed for themselves, which heightens a female’s task in producing a novel in comparison to a man.

The narrator then analyzes a young lady author’s first book and decides that, on the surface, this writer is an amateur at best. Although, the unnamed woman concludes that the plot constructed is ingenious, mainly because the author has created relationships between the women characters instead of just the male. The narrator speculates that an exceptional female author may arise in a few generations based on the progress she observes, if the person has financial freedom and a room of her own. As the unnamed woman regards the interactions between both sexes the next day, she notes that the perfect author would display both female and male qualities. She remarks that the self-consciousness surrounding gender has increased during her lifetime, which has caused both sexes to retaliate. This self-awareness is what causes men to create women bashing novels, though in general the author should never think of their own sex while writing.

After this last thought by the narrator, Woolf communicates through her own voice, where she ventures to counter any objections she foresees to her thesis. She claims that despite the belief that an author must rise above their circumstances, a room of one’s own and financial freedom are necessities for women authors. Without these elements, ladies will lack the ability to separate unnecessary emotions from their compositions, which decreases the work’s integrity overall. As a last thought, Woolf urges female authors to understand their current advantages as well as their disadvantages, and to write books of all genres. By doing so, their publications will influence themselves and the future women writers as well.

Theme

When analyzing A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, the requirements of an exemplary female author seems to be the major theme present. Woolf claims that the distinguishing factor for such exemplary authors as Jane Austen is that their books contain integrity, since they are able to separate their personal grievances from their masterpieces. In order to have this ability, these writers require the financial freedom that five hundred pounds a year provides. Thus, instead of constantly encountering discriminatory working policies, female authors are able to avoid the negative emotional experiences that clouds a person’s literary works. As the title suggests, Woolf also claims that a gifted female author requires a room of their own, since this privacy allows for them to direct their attention to the task at hand.

Another main idea present throughout Woolf’s composition is the discriminatory policies society has towards female authors of that time. This is especially evident when the narrator fabricates the existence of Judith Shakespeare. Though Judith has the same potential as her brother, she fails to contribute to the arts because of societal standards and discriminatory laws. Also, while writing her essay, the fictitious narrator is repeatedly hindered by society. As soon as the unnamed woman constructs an idea, a security guard confronts her for trespassing onto the grass, which causes her to forget it. The narrator’s memory elapses once more as she is denied access to Oxbridge’s library because of her gender. These are just a few examples that display society’s oppression over women, since Judith and the narrator are hindered by society while attempting to contribute to the arts. Overall, by examining A Room of One’s Own, the major themes on the requirements of a great female author and societal oppression become apparent.

Characters

The narrator- The narrator is the lone speaker throughout most of the essay, though she is never officially given a name. Despite this, she is continuously questioning society as well as gender standards, and strives to use logic in her analysis of both. She is also relentless in her pursuit to develop a thesis for her essay. Though her thoughts usually begin as simple observations, the unnamed woman develops these ideas into imploring and controversial statements, which places society in a harsh light. The narrator seems to be persistent in her quest to write a meaningful composition, even though she is often distracted by discriminatory gender policies and a general sense of anger men feel towards females. She appears to be extremely intelligent and outraged by the way in which ladies are treated. The unnamed woman assumes that her financial security allows her to impartially analyze society from both genders’ viewpoints, but she seems to mainly focus on the faults of men.

Structure

Woolf adopts a very unique plot structure during her essay, A Room of One’s Own. In order for the audience to understand her point of view, she creates an unnamed woman that justifies Woolf’s thesis through her own experiences. This nameless lady encounters a variety of different gender discriminatory policies, and in the process answers different questions she raises so as to write a meaningful essay on women authors and fiction. The imaginary character seems to be extremely thoughtful as well as educated, so that she is able to strengthen Wolf’s thesis through her own credible argument. Furthermore, this character communicates as if she has experienced all of the situations involved in being a lady, which gives her the ability to speak for all women. Woolf also seems to limit the development of the narrator so that her only purpose is to support the thesis statement. This could be because Woolf saw no need for the character to display any relationships or characteristics besides ones that would aid the task at hand. In spite of this, she does sacrifice some of the depth of the character in doing so, such as the narrator’s name and family life. Overall, Woolf creates an educated yet static character to prove her thesis, which heavily influences the structure of her argument.

Opinion

After reading A Room of One’s Own, a person can definitely appreciate the author’s purpose and admire the advancements in gender equality that have occurred. Despite these attributes, the text appears to be out of date and lacks a universal theme. Though a pressing issue at the time, gender discrimination seems to have almost disappeared from society, because of hardworking women, such as Virginia Woolf. Because the topic of the essay does not relate to today’s events, this composition may be considered tedious. Moreover, Woolf gives a very long winded explanation for a relatively simple argument. When the fictitious character is forced out of an area because of her gender, did she honestly need to be rejected from the library to display female discrimination? This repetition can be utilized to emphasize her point, though its overuse often causes the essay to become dull and boring. Moreover, Woolf’s argument is based mostly on fiction, from her suicidal Judith Shakespeare to the unnamed narrator. A large portion of the essay is on the events of an imaginary character’s life, as she encounters different fictitious obstacles. When the unnamed woman finds very little information on ladies from the past, she decides to construct her own history to prove her point. Though Woolf displays a mastery of the English language, this should not be used to create events to prove her thesis, which once analyzed seem to simply be emotional responses of imaginary characters in unreal scenarios. Overall, though Woolf’s thesis is beautifully explained based on her thinking, she does so through immense repetition and a long winded explanation, with very little real world evidence to support her point.

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