A Room of One’s Own: Gender Inequality in Literature
The development of society is a complex process because it follows the influences by a variety of factors. Nevertheless, people who have authority over others determine which principles they want to become dominant in the future. From this perspective, men have always had better chances than women talking about social impact and self-realization. They invested in the inequality between genders and decided that the female gender should not interfere in their actions and fulfill the role of a toy needed for everyday life. This image has transformed through centuries; however, it has been living determining male dominance and limitations for women. Virginia Woolf has chosen to address this topic through the study of the history of literature supported by her own negative experiences with male supremacy. Therefore, the central purpose of the author of A Room of One’s Own was to show that women had been limited due to the male desire of control. Meanwhile they began to fight for own rights and have got the chances to establish equal relationships in the future.
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Experience of Gender Inequality
Virginia Woolf has decided to use the role of a narrator in the novel because it helped to share the experience of describing the reality mixed with considerations on the topic of gender equality. Her intention was to concentrate on mental property that could happen only in the institute that provides education (Woolf n.p.). As a result, in the beginning, she describes her experience from visiting a male and female university. The difference was that men had been encouraged to study and acquire a variety of priorities due to a high status in society while women had been discouraged through the attitude to them and the conditions, in which they had to survive. The raw of questions she raised at Oxbridge, “Why did men drink wine and women water? Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor? What effect has poverty on fiction? What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?” (Woolf n.p.), directed the novel to a discourse over the different treatment of genders in society and consequently dissimilar possibilities for their representations. That is why during the work, Virginia Woolf tried to study the role of women in society through centuries and compare it to the male dominance in the dimension of art.
History of Gender Inequality
The visit to the British library could be identified as a short summary of the entire discourse. It demonstrates that in the past women had received almost no attention; while, with the flow of time, the situation started to change when the first female writers appeared. On the other hand, the fact that females could not enter it alone proved that, at the narrator’s present, the discrimination had existed (Woolf n.p.). Consequently, she acquired the interest in the topic to study how the transformation of the role of a woman began. The author started to look for famous women in literature. Since the change of social order to patriarchy, the female gender lost any influence on society because of the central role to give life to new generations and ensure stability in community (Kirschner n.p.). As a result, women had spent much time with household and their children while men had worked and socialized. The duration of life and the number of threats signified that people did not have much time for self-realization; therefore, they devoted themselves to one activity. Besides, during the middle Ages, churches and monasteries were the only places that lived peacefully and had an access to education. The number of female monasteries was low while they had experienced constant attacks from males looking for pleasure. In addition, nuns preferred helping people instead of closing up from those in need so that one could not speak about their devotion to education (Petry n.p.). As a result, it had turned into a male privilege even though limited to a minority. That is why the history began with the discrimination during the middle Ages.
Nevertheless, with the flow of time, people had accumulated wealth and changed their lifestyles that led to the appearance of such epoch as the Renaissance. Then, they were free to acquire education and create art as far as they could satisfy their needs and devoted much time to self-development (Bridge n.p.). However, women had preserved their responsibilities and could not begin education or become the artists as far as it would be rejected by the male-dominant society. Even though the female gender also had a possibility to admire art with the development of theater, painting, and sculpture among other types of art, they did not have access to creation (Bridge n.p.). Men believed that the process of creation required deepness of thoughts and talents lacked by women. For example, the sister of William Shakespeare suffered because her parents did not recognize her poetry but wanted her to marry and devote herself to the family. Therefore, the improvement of living conditions did not have much impact on the access to education as far as men had tried to save their position in society.
Female Literature as a First Step for Gender Equality
First female writers appeared in the eighteenth century when women acquired their right for inheritance. The main argument for the male dominance was connected to money that they were earning for the family. Consequently, women who did not have to work and did not require any help became independent. Virginia Woolf has emphasized that even though literature is not material together with individual philosophy and knowledge (Woolf n.p.); nevertheless, money acted as a background for their acquisition. Social pressure reduced because of wealth so that they could pay for private teachers and rose to a similar educational level as men. Nevertheless, females faced another problem that was male solidarity because they refused to let the female gender to their circles. As a result, first female writers were excluded from the society but were wealthy enough to publish their works. The fact that the majority of them wrote novels demonstrated that they did not have enough preparation to produce more complex literature but succeeded in the opening of women’s nature. The citation “Hence, perhaps, the peculiar nature of woman in fiction; the astonishing extremes of her beauty and horror; her alternations between heavenly goodness and hellish depravity – for so a lover would see her as his love rose or sank, was prosperous or unhappy” proves the following fact (Woolf n.p.). Virginia Woolf admired first female writers because they had started an important mission of telling society about women, their emotions, and perception of reality. Thus, female literature has turned into the medium for addressing community.
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Besides, women introduced new types of relationships in the literature that had been not significant for men, for example, female friendship and its impact on the transformation of girls into women. They also provided another angle regarding relationships between lovers because, in male literature, social inequality had played a huge role in the plot. On the contrary, female writers contemplated the complexity of women’s emotions and their influence on the decision-making and consequently the lives of other characters (Woolf). The narrator also introduced the opinion that the desire to write and do it differently had been stimulated by limitation: “seem, even if adopted spontaneously, to be less comfortable than others. In order to keep oneself continuing in them one is unconsciously holding something back, and gradually the repression becomes an effort” (Woolf n.p.). Therefore, the way how female literature developed had been determined by people who had authority in society.
Nevertheless, the style of female writers differed and transformed with the flow of time to correspond to the needs of time. For example, the styles of Jane Austin and Mary Carmichael had nothing in common. On the one hand, Jane Austin ensured a logical flow of thoughts and developed of characters during the entire novel. Therefore, the audience could foresee what happened next because of closeness between elements. On the contrary, Carmichael eliminated logical consequences and wrote in a torn way so that sentences did not pass to each other (Woolf n.p.). The author provided the explanation of such change that she was “the descendent of all those other women whose circumstances I have been glancing at” (Woolf n.p.). The writing of Carmichael was based on a common female inheritance that had been shaped by her experience. Therefore, the more female literature developed, the less it was close to the male tradition while transforming into an independent subject.
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To conclude, A Room of One’s Own has turned into the manifesto of female discrimination where Virginia Woolf studied the history of gender inequality and described the reasons and consequences of the issue. She has proved the existence of the problem through her personal experience and regarded the structure of society. However, the examples did not belong to the central focus of the narrator while she conducted the study of how women tried and managed to influence the inequality. Starting from the sister of Shakespeare she came to famous female writers to prove that the transformation of society had ensured the possibility for the introduction of gender equality. Besides, the author concentrated on the style of female writers and analyzed their works till sentences. Therefore, she presented the paradigm of changes in writing. Consequently, the work is a deep analysis of the social core regarding the gender question together with a try to prove that women could be equal to men.