Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Room of One's Own

This is my first time reading Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and it was very different than I expected. I never realized the relationship Woolf weaved together between women and fiction, and after reading it’s obvious why the book is such a seminal text in feminist writings. Again, the narrative seems to begin with little plot though there are chapters, which is relieving! The metaphor of the fish in chapter one struck me as very interesting as I was considering the circular narrative structure that Woolf’s uses so frequently (as well as other women writers). The narrator is walking along the campus of Oxbridge caught up in her thoughts that she describes as “very exciting” like a fish that “darted and sank” (5). As her imagination wanders, so does her path, and the woman finds herself off the gravel path into the grass which is only allowed for the scholars of Oxbridge. It is at the moment the Beadle rushes her back into her place that she realizes her “little fish” has been sent “into hiding” (6). Because of the narrator’s position as a woman her thoughts and ideas are prevented from the same linear thought process as a man’s within the space of Oxbridge. It’s no surprise that this would manifest itself in one’s writing as a female. The chapter then becomes a subsequent chain of interruptions to the narrator’s thoughts and ideas. As Woolf explains at the beginning of her speech she intends to blur the lines between fact and fiction, claiming “fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact” (4). The narrative certainly does that, as the reader is often torn between time and space as Woolf speaks as narrator, and as the unspecified and unnamed narrator speaks. Chapter two reflects the ambiguous relationship between fact and fiction especially where women are concerned. When the narrator researches the literature on women and men she notes the astounding differences in opinions on the nature of women by male contemporaries. Are women “capable of education or incapable,” do women have souls “or have they not souls” (30)? The narrator points out that “wherever one looked men thought about women and thought differently” (30). The status of a woman during that time however, clearly showed that the general consensus believed that women were not worthy or capable of the same access of education that men were. The narrator’s research into the interest of women by men reflects the confusing distinctions between fact and fiction. The narrator or Woolf, or both, seem to put a lot of emphasis on the ultimate achievement a woman may make is being a poet, which I found interesting. I didn’t think that Woolf wrote poetry herself, or that she valued it more highly than prose. As the narrator contemplates the status of Amy Carmichael as a novelist, she thinks that Carmichael could one achieve the goal of poet with a little money and a room. Does that mean the poetry is the ultimate achievement in Woolf’s eyes? This reminded me of Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, as well as Sylvia Plath. Esther’s character was always concerned with being a poet, though she never did to our knowledge through the novel, which could arguably be due to the limitations she struggled with as a woman. Likewise, Plath also feared being defined for her prose work (especially The Bell Jar) rather than her poetry. Is the suggestion that the natural way of women’s writing, or the “women’s sentence” is that of poetry rather than prose?

No comments:

Post a Comment