Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own Essay

Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own Essay

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In chapter two of A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf introduces the reader to the uncomfortable conditions existing between men and women during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Woolf’s character, Mary Beton, surveys books about women at the British Museum and discovers that nearly all of them are written by men. What’s more, the books that she does find express negative sentiments about women, leading Beton to believe that men are expressing “anger that had gone underground and mixed itself with all kinds of other emotions” (32). She links this repressed anger to man’s need to feel superior over women, and, wondering how and why men have cause to be angry with the female sex, she has every right to be angry with men.
Beton discovers men’s anger toward women by glancing through an apparently well-known Professor von X’s book titled The Mental, Moral, and Physical Inferiority of the Female Sex. The mere title makes her angry—outraged that the words could even form the title of a book, which, to Beton, is the natural response to “be[ing] told that one is naturally the inferior of a little man” (32). She does not know at first why men are so critical of women, but she does know that their arguments say more about them than they do about the women they write about. The books “had been written in the red light of emotion,” she says, “and not in the white light of truth” (33), meaning that the men Beton speaks of are responding to something—some feeling or condition that they, as a sex identifying with one another, are sensing, rather than merely expressing a natural fact as their rhetoric seems to suggest.
If this is true, what reason do they have for being so critical? Men are obviously the rulers of s...


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...n. She rejected domesticity, the socially accepted and enforced idea that women were to be limited to life within the home, preferring instead to find a job of her own and support herself. Furthermore, the Married Women’s Property Act in the late nineteenth century and the fight for women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century alienated men. Therefore, given the social structure of pre-nineteenth century Europe, it is understandable that the men Woolf describes are more than a little critical of women during this time; however, Beton’s anger is also understandable because she is a human being, and regardless of social structure, norms and etiquette, human beings have a right to be angry when they are treated unequally because of mere physical differences.



Works Cited

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1929. Print.

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