In her essay “A Room of One’s Own” (1929), Virginia Woolf discusses the struggles women writers had faced to win the same success as their male counterparts. Acknowledging the achievements of novelists such as Jane Austen and George Eliot, Woolf describes how the confines of domesticity could hinder such work. Women often wrote in communal areas of the home, surrounded by distractions, and seldom had the financial independence necessary to break free. She conjures up Judith, a fictitious sister of William Shakespeare, and wonders what life would have been like for her. Had she been “as imaginative, as agog to see the world” as her brother, she would still have been expected to be content with being a wife and mother. Woolf imagines that, in despair, Judith kills herself, her genius unexpressed.
In her essay, Woolf uses metaphors to explore social injustices and comments on women’s lack of free expression. Her metaphor of a fish explains her most essential point, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. She writes of a woman whose thought had “let its line down into the stream”. As the woman starts to think of an idea, a guard enforces a rule whereby women are not allowed to walk on the grass. Abiding by the rule, the woman loses her idea. Here, Woolf describes the influence of women’s social expectations as mere domestic child bearers, ignorant and chaste.
Sources: Book of Feminism (DK)