Virginia Woolf's A Room of One’s Own

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In Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf argues that “a woman must have money and a room of her own” (16) if she is to write fiction of any merit. The point as she develops it is a perceptive one, and far more layered and various in its implications than it might at first seem. But I wonder if perhaps Woolf did not really tap the full power of her thesis. She recognized the necessity of the writer’s financial independence to the birth of great writing, but she failed to discover the true relationship to great writing of another freedom; for just as economic freedom allows one to inhabit a physical space---a room of one’s own---so does mental freedom allow one to inhabit one’s own mind and body “incandescent and unimpeded.” Woolf seems to believe that the development and expression of creative genius hinges upon the mental freedom of the writer(50), and that the development of mental freedom hinges upon the economic freedom of the writer (34, 47). But after careful consideration of Woolf’s essay and also of the recent trend in feminist criticism, one realizes that if women are to do anything with Woolf’s words; if we are to act upon them---to write the next chapter in this great drama---we must take her argument a little farther. We must propel it to its own conclusion to find that in fact both the freedom from economic dependence and the freedom from fetters to the mind and body are conditions of the possibility of genius and its full expression; we must learn to ‘move in’: to inhabit and take possession of, not only a physical room, but the more abstract rooms of our minds and our bodies. It is only from this perspective in full possession of ourselves that we can find the unconsciousness of ourselves,...

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...d imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky” (34). In this, the message is clear: women’s perspectives of the world should not be framed by the figure of a man; we should not allow the limits of our minds to be dictated to us by a patriarchal social structure, nor should we allow ourselves to be defined by the function that is prescribed for our bodies. We should instead transcend the struggle to find our right relation to men, and move in to our own minds and bodies; regain possession of them, inhabit them, and from these rooms of our own we should look for our place, our room, our right relation to reality. Only then will our glances upward be greeted with an incandescent, unimpeded view of the open sky.

Works Cited

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1989.
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