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

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In Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf argues that “a woman must have money and a room of her own” (16) if she is to write fiction of any merit. The point as she develops it is a perceptive one, and far more layered and various in its implications than it might at first seem. But I wonder if perhaps Woolf did not really tap the full power of her thesis. She recognized the necessity of the writer’s financial independence to the birth of great writing, but she failed to discover the true relationship to great writing of another freedom; for just as economic freedom allows one to inhabit a physical space---a room of one’s own---so does mental freedom allow one to inhabit one’s own mind and body “incandescent and…show more content…
Woolf gives us an example of what it means to her to write well when she speaks of Shakespeare. “[T]he mind of an artist,” she says, “in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent, like Shakespeare’s. . . . There must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter unconsumed” (43). By this, she means that when Shakespeare wrote, he was able to “use writing as an art, not as a method of self-expression” (55). He did not use his writing to vent his frustrations with the world; he used it for nothing at all---that is, no particular end. His writings are ends in themselves. It is in this way that Woolf asks us to write.

Woolf demonstrates how women writers have often failed in this because of our frustration and bitterness with a world that presented to us and our writing not welcome, or even indifference, but hostility (41). She makes it clear that if there is ever going to be a “Shakespeare’s sister,” we must---at least while we are writing---swallow that sense of having been wronged, for it stands as an impediment to our creativity. This is the mental freedom that women writers must attain.

Her statements on this subject may seem at times to be contradictory. She says that “it is fatal for
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