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One of the greatest female authors of all time, Virginia Woolf, produced a body of writing respected worldwide. Driven by uncontrollable circumstances and internal conflict, her life was cut short by suicide. Her role in feminism, along with the personal relationships in her life, influenced her literary works.
Virginia's relationships throughout her life contributed, not only to her literature, but the quality of her life as well. Perhaps the greatest influence in Virginia's life is her mother, Julia Stephen. "Julia Stephen was the most arresting figure which her daughter [Virginia Woolf] tried to resurrect and preserve" (Gordon 4). Woolf, a manic-depressive, found herself constantly searching for approval. "Virginia needed her mother's approval in order to 'measure her own stature" (Bond 38). Battling with a sense of worthlessness, Virginia's mother helped her temporarily rid herself of self-criticism and doubt. This however was short-lived. When Mrs. Stephen rejected Virginia, she felt her mother's disapproval directly related to the quality of her writing. "Virginia Woolf could not bear to reread anything she had written… Mrs. Stephen's rejection of Virginia may have been the paradigm of her failure to meet her own standards" (Bond 39). With the death of her mother Woolf used her novel, To the Lighthouse to "reconstruct and preserve" the memories that still remained. According to Woolf, "the character of Mrs. Ramsey in To the Lighthouse was modeled entirely upon that of her mother" (Bond 27). This helped Virginia in her closure when dealing with the loss and obsession with her mother. Although Virginia clung to the relationship with her mother, she favored her father, Leslie Stephen. Virginia resembled her father uncannily in character traits, in her writing and self-doubts, in her great and malicious sense of humor, in her marriage, in her frugality, in her fear of aging, and in her social consciousness. (Bond 59) They were both extremely outspoken while sparing no one's feelings with their comments. Virginia and Leslie both had strong personalities and rapid mood changes. Woolf portrayed her father, like her mother, through characterization in To the Lighthouse. Mr. Ramsey captures her father as a man of "baffling mutability, a lightening switch from the most lovable of men, to a 'famished wolfhound' and back again" (Gordon 22). This portrayal of Leslie Stephens relates to his uncontrollable rages and mood swings. Leslie Stephen not only controlled Virginia's mental development, but her intellectual development as well.
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Bond, Ala Halbert. Who Killed Virginia Woolf? New York: Human Sciences Inc, 1989.
Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life. New York: Worton and Company, 1984.
Transue, Pamela J. Virginia Woolf and the Politics of Style. Albany: University of New York Press, 1986
Marcus, Jane. Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.