Essay on A Room Of One 's Own

Essay on A Room Of One 's Own

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Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own , offers an understanding of the relationship between gender and literature through examining the societal patriarchal hegemony that results in inequality between the male and female genders. This examination results in an introduction to the concept of androgyny, the abolition of gender inequality and the gender binary, which will allow space and freedom for all writers to pursue their intellectual and creative endeavours without interruption or suppression.

Woolf’s narrator reflects upon the ‘reprehensible poverty’ (p.22) of women and the effect of the patriarchy on the female ability to write, stating for instance that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ (p. 6). Throughout the essay both Woolf and her narrator consistently draw attention to the importance of these material objects to creativity and intellectual success. This poverty is illustrated in the narrator’s anecdotes detailing the difference in the meals at the colleges she attended. Oxbridge is described as serving ‘a retinue of sauces […] potatoes, thin as coins […] sprouts, foliated as rosebuds’ (p.12). This is decadent in comparison to the ‘plain gravy soup’ (p.19) provided at Fernham’s Women’s College, and is symbolically demonstrative of institutionalised sexism in education, where historically men with capital invest in systems which keep them in power. This is further discussed by the narrator in more explicit terms -
an unending stream of gold and silver […] from the purses of men who had made, say, a fortune from industry, and returned, in their wills, a bounteous share of it to endow more chairs, more lectureships, more fellowships in the university where they had learnt...


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... a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself’ (p.105), and thus demonstrates the literal and abstract freedom that women will have the ability to achieve with financial security. Furthermore, considering that Woolf asserts that ‘women think back through [their] mothers’ (p.76) and that ‘books continue each other’ (p.79), the essay implies that it is a starting point for the tradition of women writers that will counter the long traditions of the patriarchy regarding poverty, domesticity and the notion of inferiority placed on women that impede their ability to produce literature. Whilst there are some criticisms regarding classism and intersectional feminism that could be examined, and whilst androgyny may not have fully arrived, Woolf offers an insight into the relationship between gender and literature that is instrumental in the progression of feminism.

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