Virginia Woolf, and educated woman, described two luncheons at a male and female college. The intended audience of both passages is educated men who can make a change. Virginia Woolf demonstrates the differences in quality of education between men and women through narrative structure, selection of detail, and tone in order to garner support to change the quality of education for female students.
The quality of food served at the men’s college reflects the quality of the education. For example, Woolf describes her experience of the luncheon at the men’s college through narrative structure, “lunch…began with soles, sunk in a deep dish” (10-11). The moment the luncheon starts, Woolf is impressed with how much effort is put into the food. Describing how much effort people went through leaves the intended audience confident. Also the selection of detail in the passages supports the authors purpose by illustrating every food item, “potatoes, thin as coins” (18). The precision of the food item is mentioned through a simile to emphasize the importance of men in society.
Enhancing the importance of men assists the author by proving how much people focus on what men want; putting all their energy to ensure that the education provided at the men’s college is exceptional quality. Woolf’s erudite tone towards the luncheon also reflects how impressed she was with the conversations surround her, “brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips” (29). The author supports her purpose through the erudite tone in order to present the intelligence surrounding her. The brilliant conversation Woolf hears at the luncheon is presented through personification, which represents the level of intelligence male students attending the college has from the quality of their education. Men will always have an advantage in society no matter if there is equality between men and women.
Women earned equal rights as men, but there is a significant difference between the qualities of education, which Woolf explains through her experience at the women’s college luncheon. Woolf describes her meal from the beginning as “a plain gravy soup” (41-42) and ending with “everybody scraped their chairs back” (62-63). Right from the start there is nothing special about the luncheon at the women’s college. The whole lunch is characterized from the use of imagery to create the effect of the unmotivated students at the women’s college, presenting to the audience that there is a clear difference in quality of education. The selection of detail adds emphasis on the simplicity of the meal, “beef with…greens and potatoes” (45-46).
There is nothing special about the meal, which also involves the length of the passage being concise, but still no one complains because it still is “…nature’s daily food…”(50). This help the author to further prove people do not pay close attention to the quality of female education. In addition to selection of detail, the morose tone adds to the bland luncheon, that consisted of no conversation at all, “ That was all. The meal was over” (62-63). Woolf is simply pointing out the women who attend the college are not motivated. The quality of education the women are receiving may be adequate however; the education could become great if people paid more attention to it. Although women have equal rights as men, their quality in rights is not the same.
Both the men and women’s college provided an education, but there is a difference in the quality of education provided. The narrative style Woolf writes for the male college represents an elegant lifestyle, while the women’s represents old fashion lifestyle, “To call it pudding…would be an insult”(23-24), “sprouts… yellowed at the edge” (47-48). The difference supports the author’s purpose, emphasizing the contrast in foods as a metaphor for the difference in education. Men have always dominated society and sadly it is hard to have men and women become equal partners in society; leaving the intended audience aware of women’s place in society through Woolf’s own awareness of the change. Describing the food in detail described the elaborate food provided for the men while the women had plain food “the partridges…came wit all their retinue”(16-17), “prunes and custard followed” (52).
The selection of detail indicates that people pay more attention to men than to women by giving men the best of the best and women what is considered as ordinary. The technique of personification describing the partridges creates a picture in the audience’s mind on how grand the meal is by saying the food had an entourage. Lastly there is a shift in tone going from enlightening “all are going to heaven” (33) to dreary “ soon the hall was emptied” (63-64). The students at the male college are given plenty of support that they think they are the best; on the other hand the students at the women’s college go on with their daily lives as individuals. After leaving the luncheon at the men’s college Woolf felt amazing which is the complete opposite of what she felt leaving the women’s luncheon. Although the students at the women’s college eat together, they eat and live as individuals rather than a community like the men’s college.
Although it may seem like men and women have equal rights, which is not the complete truth. Virginia Woolf uses her experience of two complete opposite luncheons at a male and female college to persuade the audience that there is no equality in the quality of education.
Courtney from Study Moose
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