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English: Unit 3 & 4 : A Room of One's Own

Analysing arguments and presenting a point of view

Resources in the library

Themes

For the narrator of A Room of One’s Own, money is the primary element that prevents women from having a room of their own, and thus, having money is of the utmost importance. Because women do not have power, their creativity has been systematically stifled throughout the ages. The narrator writes, “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time . . .” She uses this quotation to explain why so few women have written successful poetry. She believes that the writing of novels lends itself more easily to frequent starts and stops, so women are more likely to write novels than poetry: women must contend with frequent interruptions because they are so often deprived of a room of their own in which to write. Without money, the narrator implies, women will remain in second place to their creative male counterparts. The financial discrepancy between men and women at the time of Woolf’s writing perpetuated the myth that women were less successful writers.

In A Room of One’s Own, the narrator argues that even history is subjective. What she seeks is nothing less than “the essential oil of truth,” but this eludes her, and she eventually concludes that no such thing exists. The narrator later writes, “When a subject is highly controversial, one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.” To demonstrate the idea that opinion is the only thing that a person can actually “prove,” she fictionalizes her lecture, claiming, “Fiction is likely to contain more truth than fact.” Reality is not objective: rather, it is contingent upon the circumstances of one’s world. This argument complicates her narrative: Woolf forces her reader to question the veracity of everything she has presented as truth so far, and yet she also tells them that the fictional parts of any story contain more essential truth than the factual parts. With this observation she recasts the accepted truths and opinions of countless literary works

Critical Reviews

Background to the text

"In this extraordinary essay, Virginia Woolf examines the limitations of womanhood in the early twentieth century. With the startling prose and poetic licence of a novelist, she makes a bid for freedom, emphasizing that the lack of an independent income, and the titular ‘room of one’s own’, prevents most women from reaching their full literary potential.

As relevant in its insight and indignation today as it was when first delivered in those hallowed lecture theatres, A Room of One’s Own remains both a beautiful work of literature and an incisive analysis of women and their place in the world.

This Macmillan Collector’s Library edition of A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf features an afterword by the British art historian Frances Spalding.

Designed to appeal to the booklover, the Macmillan Collector’s Library is a series of beautiful gift editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector’s Library are books to love and treasure."

A Room of One's Own (Project Gutenberg)