A Room of One's Own

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Mary Carmichael Character Analysis

is the imagined author of a book called "Life's Adventure" which the narrator reads and criticizes for its broken sentences that fail to emulate the master of sentences, Jane Austen. Despite her obvious lack of genius though, Carmichael does provide the narrator with the first confession of lesbianism that she has seen in fiction and shows how far women and fiction have come.

Mary Carmichael Quotes in A Room of One's Own

The A Room of One's Own quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Carmichael or refer to Mary Carmichael. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of A Room of One's Own published in 1989.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Awkward though she was and without the unconscious bearing of long descent which makes the least turn of the pen of a Thackeray or a Lamb delightful to the ear, she had—I began to think—mastered the first great lesson; she wrote as a woman, but as a woman who has forgotten that she is a woman, so that her pages were full of that curious sexual quality which comes only when sex is unconscious of itself.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mary Carmichael
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator evaluates Mary Carmichael's imaginary novel, assessing how Carmichael measures up against male authors such as William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Lamb. Although she remains critical of several aspects of Carmichael's writing, she praises the way in which Carmichael writes "as a woman who has forgotten that she is a woman," which she calls "the first great lesson." This is another controversial moment in the speech. Depending on one's interpretation, Woolf might be implying that women writers should strive to rid themselves of any sense of inferiority to men; perhaps this is what the narrator means when she speaks of "forgetting" one's sex.

On the other hand, some feminist critics have identified this passage as evidence of internalized misogyny. Woolf seems to suggest that women's writing can only be truly excellent if it does not bear any marks of the author's gender. The fact that earlier in the passage the narrator compares Carmichael's work to the male authors Thackeray and Lamb could indicate that the "genderless" standard against which she measure women's writing is in fact a male standard. Indeed, later feminist theorists have argued that it is impossible to forget or conceal the identity of an author, including the author's gender. This view contends that genderless writing is a myth created by the pervasiveness of male authors whose gender is not seen as relevant because it is the norm.

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Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Mary Carmichael
Related Symbols: A Room of One's Own
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Having finished reading Mary Carmichael's imaginary novel, the narrator admits that Carmichael was "no genius," but that given her circumstances the novel was impressive. She adds that if Carmichael were to receive the prescribed allowance of five hundred pounds a year and a room of her own, as well as the freedom to "speak her mind," she would write a much better novel. Again, Woolf seems careful not to overestimate women's existing literary achievements. Instead, she stresses their potential, and emphasizes the idea that the work people produce is highly determined by their social situation. For Woolf, the tragedy of women's place in intellectual history lies less within the notion that female genius has gone unnoticed, and more in the idea that women have not been able to realize the true extent of their own capabilities. 

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Mary Carmichael Character Timeline in A Room of One's Own

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Carmichael appears in A Room of One's Own. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
...have less of women's struggling within them. To investigate, the narrator opens a novel by Mary Carmicheal called "Life's Adventure". Though this hypothetical text is a debut, it must be read... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
She starts reading Mary Carmicheal's novel, and finds at first that its sentences are somehow broken, do not flow... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
She reads on and finds that as well as breaking the sentence, Mary has also "broken the sequence". Just when the reader expects one thing, Mary has provided... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
The narrator holds her breath as she realizes that Mary Carmichael's genius lies in how she deals with the next moment, when Chloe watches as... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
With this in mind, the narrator warns Mary Carmicheal that by staying outside the viewpoint of Chloe and Olivia, she risks becoming a... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
The narrator stops herself from continuing to tell Mary what she should write, and instead goes back to the novel and reads on, hoping... (full context)
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
As she reads, the narrator waits nervously for the important moment that Mary Carmicheal must show if she is to prove herself. It is a moment of going... (full context)