The Contempt and Bitterness of Virginia Woolf Exposed in A Room of One's Own

The Contempt and Bitterness of Virginia Woolf Exposed in A Room of One's Own

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The Contempt and Bitterness of Virginia Woolf Exposed in A Room of One's Own


Virginia Woolf refuses the role society prescribes her. She stands up against glass ceilings, separate spheres, and double standards-cultural institutions that create and uphold a weaker sex. In her writing, specifically "A Room of One's Own," she manifests her contempt and bitterness by advocating "it is necessary [for women] to have five hundred [pounds] a year and a lock on the door if you are to write fiction or poetry" (769). However, to break and step above the institutions she criticizes, Woolf knows she cannot simply complain about her brothers' years at Oxford while she stayed home with tutors-that would lead an audience to believe "she has an axe to grind" (quoted in Bartholomae and Petrosky, 750). Rather, she must strive for the calm collectedness of her male academic counterparts. This presents a problem for Woolf: how does she convey the oppression of women-the passion behind her work-through an objective and level voice? She needed a vehicle that could be neutral yet emotional, provocative but wise. Ultimately, Woolf needed a mask: one that mimicked the reserved quality of men, yet allowed her to bare the thoughts of a woman subjected to society's mechanisms.

Woolf found her solution in the persona "Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael, or byanynarneyouplease"(751). Mary,Mary,orMary,quitecontrarytoWoolf, is a superb ballerinas prima donna of the highest caliber-she was sent to the front of the class not for punishment, but to set the par. She learned earlier than the other girls to stay quiet for her superiors and to please them, even at the risk of pain Through years of training, conditioning and practice, performing en pointe h...


... middle of paper ...


... the lobby with such a confident air because she knew she was the best-the purse her mother gave her proved that. On a less frequent basis she remembers one girl who was in her class for a short time. This girl-the name Virginia sounds familiar-always had a sloppy bun and leaned to the left in her pirouettes As Mary gets ready for a grand gala (that society has told her to attend) she wonders what ever happened to that girl.

Works Cited

Bartholomae, David and Anthony Petrosky, eds. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.

Rich, Adrienne. "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision." Ways of Reading. Eds. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 603-620.

Woolf, Virginia. "A Room of One's Own." Ways of Reading. Eds. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999. 750-778,

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