Analysis of Virginia Woolf Essay
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The essay “In search of a Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf starts out by asking a simple question, what were the living conditions of women in England, in the time of Elizabeth? The author wants to understand why no woman had written any literature, unlike a man who was capable of a song or sonnet. It was as if the life of a woman was fiction. We must first start out by understanding how women were viewed in the public’s eye and then understand how they could not have been as smart as men; or could they? The author uses expressive and mimetic elements throughout the essay to support her argument.
Young girls had their husbands chosen for them when they are still young by her parents. Any girl who refused to marry the man that was chosen for them was liable to be locked up and beaten without it even being looked upon as bad in the public’s eyes.
Marriage was not about personal feelings; it was at the convenience of the family. Mostly taking place in the upper class societies, women were allowed to be beaten by their husbands. It was a recognized right and practiced without shame. Eventually women of upper and middle class were allowed the right to decide their husbands.
When they had chosen their husband, he would become the lord and master over her. Plainly saying she was his property. Women were not wanted if they had any personality or character. This is referring to Shakespeare’s women, who were lacking of both. This is why women have no real existence saved in the fiction written by men. The author disagrees with this way of thinking; women are much more than that, “… one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some think even greater” (Woolf 383).
This is the author’s way of expressing that men and women think differently about the women’s role in life. Although men saw woman as a piece of property with no real value, they really are more than that. A woman is everything and nothing at the same time. A woman is of the highest importance and completely insignificant. She pervades poetry and is basically absent from history.
She is a slave to any man whose parents forced her to marry. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband”(Woolf 383). The reality of how things were for women in this era was how a man said they were. There were plenty of women in this time that had preceded the notion of what men thought. For instance Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, and Rosalind were strong willed women who did not follow the fictional depiction of what men said they were.
Throughout history, a woman is only mentioned here and there, and normally they are all queens or great ladies. Women had the brains and character to be just as great as their male counterparts, but they would never receive a chance. A middle-class woman would never be mentioned, because of her oppression by man. According to historians, she was not allowed to write about her life or keep a diary. This leaves nothing to judge her by. Out of the many men that were all great writers, artists, and inventors only a handful of extraordinary woman do we know of equal caliber.
The author is expressing emotional despair for the average woman. Her passion would be suppressed and forever unfulfilled. The author starts asking why is there nothing known about women before the eighteenth century? How can there be no such poetry produced by a woman. According to men, “… it was impossible for any woman, past, present, or to come, to have the genius of Shakespeare” (Woolf 385). A stroke of genius like this would drive a woman insane and they would kill themselves. Genius like this is not something you are born with. It comes from the proper education and training.
Things like this were not allowed for women. A highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been hated and punished by other people. “…so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty” (Woolf 388). This is expressing how a smart woman will be so hated and revered that they will not have a chance for a normal life. Even if they were able to survive and actually write some poetry, it would have been twisted and deformed, coming from a strained and morbid imagination.
If there was work from a woman it would have been published in a man’s name. This was the only way for a woman to get published. The women who did get published under a man’s name were still looked upon as distasteful. “Thus they did homage to the convention, which if not implanted by the other sex was liberally encouraged by them (the chief glory of a woman is not to be talked of, said Pericles, himself a much-talked-of man), that publicity in women is detestable” (p. 389). This means that women are nothing compared to men. Women do not care as much about fame as men do.
What is most important is to be heard not seen. If a woman was born in the sixteenth century with a gift of poetry, their life would be unhappy and they would strife against themselves. The conditions of her life and her own instincts are what set her up for her ultimate demise. Nothing is to be expected intellectually from a woman. Any girl can read, but this lowered her vitality, and said wonders about her work. “There would always have been that assertion – you cannot do this, you are incapable of doing that – to protest against, to overcome” (Woolf 392).
The author expresses how again the women are repressed and told what and how to think. Women were not encouraged to be or do anything with their lives. They were told how to think and act. They were tortured, snubbed, slapped, lectured, and exhorted. Her mind was strained and her vitality was lowered by the need of opposing and disproving stuff. The woman is inferior and the man is superior. The author uses different expressive ideas to help the audience understand the oppression against women in the eighteenth century. To make the audience feel as oppressed as the women did.
Thought out the years there has been women poets and writers, but because of the oppression from the men, they used a man’s name to be able to get their point across. Any genius should be looked upon as a gift, not torn apart because it was from a woman. In conclusion, Virginia Woolf argues a strong point on how women were treated unjust and as if they were property of a man. She expresses her ideas in a clear way using vivid descriptive language that sets the audience into her state of mind. The argument is so strong; it makes the reader feel pity for the women of that era. Makes them want to stand up and take charge of their own lives.