Throughout history, women all over the world have been treated with less than equal rights. In Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, she puts forward a strong message in a unique way. The techniques Woolf uses are not only different to what people are used to, but also make her arguments more relatable to readers. She uses these diverse styles to clearly separate herself from other writers. By doing this, she offers a clear view into her arguments that everyone needs their own place of privacy and work, and also that even in writing, it is much different for her gender as opposed to the males.
The title of her essay referring to having your own room, is not only her own struggle, but that of many others. Woolf states that “… a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ (21) Many readers find this thesis as a truthful statement. Not only do you need your own privacy to keep from getting distracted, but you also need money in order to have a safe workplace. However, money was very difficult to earn, especially for women. Men were considered to be the breadwinners and women were constantly belittled and not allowed in to certain places. Woolf’s experience living in a full house with nowhere to write or have her own privacy was an obstacle in the way of becoming the great writer she is now known to be.
Woolf’s digression from her main issue is useful to readers, because it helps visualize the situation and understand her point of view a bit clearer. “… Here was my soup. Dinner was being served in the great dining-hall.” (Woolf 25) As she describes the food, she paints a mental picture for the reader and seems to put them into her own view. While she does that, Woolf also seems to express the disappointment in the food served at the women’s college compared to the appetizing platters served at the men’s college. “… they had sent my little fish into hiding…” (Woolf 22) In this passage, Woolf had encountered an officer while being in a spot where only “faculty and scholars” (22) are allowed. She had seemed to have spaced out and was pondering in her thoughts. With her encounter of the officer, her thoughts, or “fish” had been lost or gone into hiding. Her explanation as to what had happened when she was moved over to the other path, was detailed to the point where the reader can imagine the officer’s facial expressions.
Woolf’s argument insinuating that it was much more difficult for women to make money as opposed to men is also linked to her saying “… and what effect poverty has on the mind; and what effect wealth has on the mind.” (29) She also mentions that she thought about how “unpleasant it is to be locked out” (29) which means that she has experienced that. Women being locked out and forced out of places and not being allowed to be involved with the works of men, is further adding to her points. It is more than unfair to her and all women worldwide. Her disappointment is further expressed when she is not allowed into the library, only because she is not accompanied by a male. Not only has she been in the situation, but she is also seeing other people be treated the way she has been treated.
“…Once more I looked up Women” (Woolf 30) While studying “History of England” (30) Woolf finds very disturbing materials and texts claiming praise for “beating your own wife” (30) and “locking up your daughter if she refused to marry.” (30) She notices how the next text is from 200 years after the first are written. She continues to name women of power and lists many female poets. Her listing everyone shows that even though men have been praised for abusing women, they can still overcome. Not only are women strong, but they have the power to outshine many men. But the men would see it as less. “…Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room.” (31)
Woolf blames the small number of women writers during the Elizabethan age on the fact that they do not have sufficient amounts of money that is required to have a home with their own rooms in order to have privacy or a quiet place to write or study. “… Here I am asking why women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age…They had no money evidently.” (32) Another reason was that girls were not being sent to school where they could learn to read, write and use grammar. Women were treated as if they were not human beings, they had no rights and were forced to do as they were told.
Woolf’s constant mention of “gold and silver” (23) really paints an image in the readers head. She does not mean literal gold and silver; however, she does mean it in a metaphorical way. The men’s college has received plenty of money while the women’s college has not. Oxbridge College has not only used the money on the buildings, but also on little things such as chairs and shelves. Oxbridge College had much nicer things than Fernham College. It is obvious as to why the men have more than the women. It was much easier for them to get jobs and money.
Woolf’s constant use of stream of consciousness grabs the reader and really makes them wonder the same thing she is thinking. During her encounter with the officer, we were basically in her mind as she realized what was going on. Her reactions to the dinners, allowed the readers to almost feel her emotions. She does a phenomenal job with allowing this essay to be as interactive as it is. It gives an in-depth view of her experience being a woman writer and the struggles and obstacles she has faced on her journey. It really does change your point of view after a while. Although to this day, there is still inequality for women in many places, it shows a vast improvement, with many more female writers and poets.
It seems as though men have always had it relatively easy, getting things handed to them or being treated better just because they are men, but that only shows that women have always worked harder to achieve their goals. Not only with life obstacles such as school and work, but also in writing, poetry and other types of literature. Everybody needs their own quiet room as well. Not only for their privacy but also for their ideas to flourish in peace and work on their writing. Virginia Woolf does an excellent job expressing this in her own unique style and shows us that setbacks such as gender inequality can not only affect you but can also lead you to pursue a better outcome.
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