In A Room of One’s Own, a novel written by Virginia Woolf, the female main character strives to find a way to unlock her creativity. She is constantly bombarded with limitations placed upon her by the male dominant society of the 1920s. The main character feels trapped in this society at “Oxbridge” (a university designed to represent Oxford and Cambridge) during a time of war and finds herself longing to have a room of her own to work. Throughout the novel, the main character expresses the inequality through the importance of money, interruptions, and gender inequality, but she does not take a physical stand against the current institutions.
The importance of money
Money is represented as the primary source that hinders woman from having a room of their own. Without money, woman of the 1920s have little power and lack the resources to find a sustainable income for education and expressing their creativity without having to marry and give birth to children. “And woman have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time.” (Woolf 106). Woman must contend with criticism by males about being less creative and the only way to overcome this limitation it to create a room of their own and woman will not be considered equal until they are able to become financially dependent. The main character did have a financial backing to live independently and she did not voice her opinion openly. Though she would have been rejected by society, her points about creativity would be public, instead of writing them down waiting for time to pass for equality.
The main character does not maintain a consistent thought throughout the novel. She often builds thoughts upon thoughts without completing the last one. During a visit to the riverside, her thoughts were interrupted by a deformed cat without a tail and the thoughts begin to drift. Virginia Woolf may have written this way to explain to the reader that this is how woman writers felt, always interrupted by abnormalities of society and pulled away from their main focus. The main character lacked to take a physical stand and make a public point when she was told that “ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.” (Woolf 8) or when she was confronted by Beadle (security guard) “This was the turf; there was the path. Only Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; gravel is the place for me.” (Woolf 6). Active rebellions against society’s limitations could have gained her female friends within the university. Society’s interruptions did play their rule to stop the main characters creativity and helped to continually sidetrack the writer from the thoughts she was trying to complete.
The main character explores the issue that woman’s work has been suppressed because of the unequal treatment woman have received based on their gender. To illustrate the impacts of society on females, the narrator created a story about Judith Shakespeare. The twin sister of William Shakespeare may have had the equivalent skills of her brother, but society would not have accepted her the same or if at all. Judith Shakespeare is forced into a role that she did not want and ultimately takes her own life to escape the life in a society with such discrimination. The main character relates to Judith Shakespeare because she feels that even if her work is a equal to a male’s writing and it will still be rejected in the 1920s. And this story of Judith’s death foreshadows what will happen to the main character based on her longing for creative freedom. This action of suicide does not help fight the gender inequality that is embedded around, but only makes society look at her as if she is crazy.
A woman needs a room of her own, which is something men are able to have without objection. A room of one’s own would provide a haven to take time to write. During this time period, few women could afford such luxuries and this unavailability to the common woman hindered woman’s art. The main character left behind a piece of work to serve as an inspiration to other woman in the future; she failed to take immediate action in releasing the chains of inequality. The main character shows her inspiration despite society’s influence “the effect of tradition and of the lack of tradition upon the mind of a writer.” and how tradition still leaves woman in a search for a room of one’s own. (Woolf 24)
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own (Annotated). Harvest Books: New York, 2005.
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