Virginia Woolf Essay, Research Paper
Virginia Woolf was a very powerful and imaginative writer. In a “Room of Ones Own” she takes her motivational views about women and fiction and weaves them into a story. Her story is set in a imaginary place where here audience can feel comfortable and open their minds to what she is saying. In this imaginary setting with imaginary people Woolf can live out and see the problems women faced in writing. Woolf also goes farther by breaking many of the rules of writing in her essay. She may do this to show that the standards can be broken, and to encourage more women to write. An example of this is in the very first line when Woolf writes, “But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction what has that got to do with a room of one s own(719)?” Why did Woolf start her story of like that? Maybe it was to show how different women really were from men. By starting out with this completely unconventional opening sentence she was already showing that the rules could be broken.
Woolf starts her essay by explaining to her audience what she could have talked about and what other things her topic might mean, she is letting the audience be drawn in to her consciousness. Woolf wants them to know why she decided to use this topic instead of some less meaningful one, that may have made for a good speech but would not have really covered the full scope of the problem. Woolf said:
They just might mean simply a few remarks about Fanny Burney; a few more about Jane Austen; a tribute to the Brontes and a sketch of Haworth Parsonage under snow; some witticisms if possible about Miss Mitford; a respectful allusion to George Eliot; a reference to Mrs. Gaskell and one would have done. But at second sight the words seemed not so simple (719).
Woolf wanted her essay to be different and break away from the conventions created by men. She even tells her audience that she is going to break away from conventions in this part of her essay, “It is part of the novelist s conventions not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance whatsoever, as if nobody ever smoked a cigar or drank a glass of wine. Here, however, I shall take the liberty of defying that convention(724) ”
Woolf also explains the duties of a speaker stating, “One can only give one s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker (720).” By saying this, she is telling her audience that she is not going to just come out and say what she thinks, she is going to let them make their own decisions. Woolf starts her story off on a river bank on a beautiful day, although she is probably in a room somewhere typing it. I think Woolf does this because most everyone can relate to this as being a good place to sit down and think. When Woolf says, “Call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael, or by any other name you please (720),” she was trying to make the story relate any woman in the audience no matter who they were. Woolf has created a world where people can be comfortable and open minded about her sensitive subject. She could not get on stage and rage about how woman have been held back by men. Woolf would have scared all her listeners away with her radical view. By creating a place where her audience can have the problems she is talking about Woolf lets the audience formulate their own opinions.
Now that Woolf has got her audience in a comfortable state of mind she can begin to talk about the real problems of woman writers. Woolf believes the real problem is the lack of money women have. First she addresses the fact that women must raise the children and tells us to consider the facts, “First there is nine months before the baby is born. Then the baby is born. Then there are three of four months spent in feeding the baby. After the baby is fed there are certainly five years spent in playing with the baby(730-731).” And even if the women could make money it would be dispensed at the discretion of their husbands, because women were not allowed to own property. So what does money have to do with writing? Woolf believes that intellectual freedom depends on material things and poetry depends on intellectual freedom. She even quotes Sir Arthur Quiler-couch who wrote, “The poor poet has not in theses days, nor has had for two hundred years, a dog s chance a poor child in England has little more hope than had the son of an Athenian slave to be emancipated into that intellectual freedom which great writers are born (740).”
So if it is so hard for women to write why should they write? Well, Woolf wants them to write for her selfish reasons. She says like most women she grows tired of histories and biographies about great men. Woolf says there should be more books by women because, “Men that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of brains. It is a mistake for women to read them, for she will inevitably look for something that she will not find(736).” Woolf is tired of reading books written by men for other men, she wants some more fresh new books by women writers. Woolf starts to give almost a pregame pep-talk, because she wants to fire the women up so they will stop accepting the rules. Woolf wants to show them that the are being held back. She does this by telling them what Napoleon once thought of them and what Mussolini thinks now. She even quotes Mr. John Langdon Davis who warned women “that when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary (742).” She even calls them “disgracefully ignorant,” and reminds them that they have never led an army, ran a country, or made a important discovery. Woolf wants her listeners to leave with a sense of responsibility to improve their race.
Woolf s lecture has many changes in it and each one serve a different purpose. She starts out slow and nice, describes the scenery and makes a comfortable place for her listeners to open up their minds, and by breaking many conventions she shows anything can be done in writing even by a women. Once she has them in this imaginary world, she could then preach about the problem without scaring anybody off. By the end, she could go as far as calling them “disgracefully ignorant,” just to pump them up. Woolf took a very sensitive subject and used her imagination to create a world where her audience could comfortable listen to it.