Virginia Woolf

A Prominent Writer

Virginia Woolf is considered one of the most prominent writers of the modernist movement. She was born in an affluent family in London to philosopher Leslie Stephen, which gives her access to libraries and other useful resources that helped her immensely in her initial education that later played a crucial role in establishing her as a widely admired intellectual female figure and novelist of her time.

Stream of Consciousness

She is primarily known for her novels like Mrs Dalloway (1925), To The Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando: A Biography (1928). Her reputation and greatness lie in her ability and creativity to use the “stream of consciousness” technique that was one of the most common techniques used by modernist writers.

Using this literary device which is also loosely termed as an interior monologue, they, the modernist writers explored the interior psyche and emotions of their characters in a way that was unprecedented.

Modern Novels

Unlike traditional realist novels, which relies heavily on a well-crafted linear plot which we, the audience usually witness through the eyes of the omniscient narrator, these modernist novels defied all such preconceived notions and tried their best to reflect the emotions of the characters like it happens in real-world i.e. the emotions and thoughts that go inside our mind are not always so logically coherent and connected as they are presented in realists novels but are often disconnected and random in essence.

Apart from being hailed as a great modernist writer, Woolf is also regarded as a pioneering feminist figure. Her works which talk about feminist concerns are A Room of One’s Own which is a long essay based on the lectures that she gave in women’s college at Cambridge University in 1929 and Three Guineas (1938).

A Room of One’s Own

In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf argues that to become a successful writer a woman should be economically and socially independent. She is using the room in this work in both figurative and literal sense.

If someone wants to be a writer, one definitely needs a proper and separate room of their own, where they can focus on their work without much distraction. However, in that time when Woolf was talking about these issues, women hardly had any basic voting, education and marriage rights, let alone trying to be autonomous enough to choose a career as a writer.

Room – Symbolic Meaning

She uses the room, symbolically too, to refer to all sorts of freedom that women should ideally have, that are granted to a male writer of her time. She says, and very aptly so that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

But as mentioned above, she isn’t just referring to the idea that women were never allowed to earn their living. Few writers who tried to make money and name by being an artist and writers were always looked down upon were met with scorns and harsh remarks from society, family and their male counterparts.

Story of Judith

She explains this situation amazingly by giving the fictional account of Shakespeare’s sister Judith, who was exceptionally talented like her brother and tried her best to establish her career in theatre.

But her entire efforts goes in vain as she didn’t get any support, be it financial or emotional from her co-workers or from her family.

As Woolf points out in her essay- any woman that was born a genius to be an artist or a writer “would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage,” if she had tried to make her career without “a room of her own.”