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Women's Position in Society in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own Essay

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Women's Position in Society in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own


The passage at the end of the Third Chapter in A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf deals with two major themes of this essay. The first being the ways in which women were kept down and made inferior to men, and the second being how this affected women’s writing. Woolf asserts that women were made inferior as a direct result of men’s perceived superiority. This assertment provides a new way of thinking about women’s lower position in society and the subsequent low opinion men held of women and their capabilties as writers. Woolf firmly believes that it is the prerogative of all writers to pay great heed to what is thought of them and to suffer when that opinion is negative. Because the opinion of women’s writing was negative, women could not write freely. Their minds, Woolf believes, were clouded with agendas. They had something to prove or a grudge to vindicate. This is not the ideal situation for writing, or the proper environment for genius. Therefore, through her revolutionary way of examining women’s position in society, Woolf proves that the “masculine complex” and low expectations of women impeded upon their writing process.

One major theme this essay illuminates is that of what subordinated women and how that inferiority was maintained. Woolf states, “Even in the nineteenth century a woman was not encouraged to be an artist” (55). In fact she was discouraged and made to believe such a vocation was beyond her capabilities. Here Woolf turns the issue around showing that women did not consciously choose not to become writers, but were prodded not to write by men. Woolf speculates about the affects of this discouragement saying...


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...ganized the traditional way of examining women’s position in society and it’s affect on their art. Her concept of the “masculine complex” approaches gender relations from a totally different angle. It is male superiority not female inferiority, which perpetuates this system. Men’s dominance is strong and their resistance to the women’s movement was so effective that even strong willed women were humbled. Women were further hindered by the prevailing male sentiment that they were incompetent writers. This naturally fired women’s incentive to prove their capabilities, because all artists are concerned about what others think of them. Yet, this very situation inhibits creativity and continued to prevent women from reaching their full potential. This new line of thinking explains and reexamines the forces that held women down and separated them from their genius.


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