Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

In His Shadow

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Of the various themes in Virginia Woolf’s, ‘‘A Room of One’s Own’’, one theme that constantly streams throughout is the superiority complex men have in regards to women. For one reason or another men expect the women to “know their place” and to know that that place, is nowhere among men.

“Wife-beating, was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low…” (35).

Mr. Oscar Browning   “The impression left on his mind, after looking over any set of examination papers, was that, irrespective of the marks he might give, the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst man.” (41).

It was evident that men felt superior to women and expressed that feeling through their work, either as professors or writers. Woolf suggests that men act this way towards women as a way to lift themselves up. It is almost as if men play on the inferiority of women in order to further illustrate the superiority of them.

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man twice its natural size.” (32)

“For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?” (32)

The Role of Women in the 19th Century

It is true that not all men had this view on women and Woolf in her research found French moralist, Jean de La Bruyère‘s opinion of women, “Les femmes sont extremes; ells sont meilleures ou pires que les hommes- Women are extreme; they are either better or worse than men.” (29) Just in that moment Woolf allows the reader to see the difference in the opinions of men and that gives a chance to speculate whether their thoughts on women belong to one man or many men.

In conclusion Woolf did a nice job at carrying this theme throughout the reading and provided qualified reasons and evidence of this issue of that time. Though things in society have changed they still line up with Woolf’s words, which I believe drives the whole of the reading.

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