A Room of One's Own

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Virginia Woolf Character Analysis

Woolf, of course, is not a character in her lecture. But by creating a narrator to carry the bulk of her lecture, she makes explicit her own role as author and creates a separation between herself and the ideas of the narrator, and the importance of fiction in communicating inner experience (since she relies on the narrator to communicate these ideas rather than doing so herself. Woolf essentially introduces the narrator at the beginning of the lecture and then takes over from the narrator at the end of the novel to provide closing remarks.

Virginia Woolf Quotes in A Room of One's Own

The A Room of One's Own quotes below are all either spoken by Virginia Woolf or refer to Virginia Woolf. 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 1 Quotes

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

Related Characters: Virginia Woolf (speaker)
Related Symbols: A Room of One's Own
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Woolf has been asked to give a speech on the topic of women and fiction, and here she admits that her speech will be limited to "an opinion upon one minor point" related to this issue. She explains that she believes a woman must have money and "a room of her own" to write fiction––two things which, historically, extremely few women have possessed. The fact that Woolf presents her main argument right at the beginning of her speech highlights the way in which this argument is both simple and non-negotiable. While other writers and philosophers had invented much more complex explanations for why there were so few female authors in comparison to male ones, Woolf insists that the only valid explanation is the socioeconomic subordination of women.

Woolf seems to intentionally downplay the weight of her argument by saying "All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon a minor point." This may be a sardonic reflection of the low expectations for women's intellectual and argumentative capacities at the time. The use of the word "minor" is certainly ironic, as Woolf's point––as she herself admits in the second half of this passage––has hugely significant consequences for our understanding of both women and fiction. Indeed, A Room of One's Own resulted in a major shift in the way people viewed the literary canon; in response to Woolf's intervention, it became common to search for or imagine the voices of people who would have been able to write had their socioeconomic circumstances been different. 

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Chapter 6 Quotes

The fact is that neither Mr. Galsworthy nor Mr. Kipling has a spark of the woman in him.

Related Characters: Virginia Woolf (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has returned to the library and begun reading a book by "Mr. A," who represents the typical male author of the time. She is struck by the fact that Mr. A does seem to write in a consciously gendered way; she observes that in response to the female suffrage movement, contemporary male authors have tended to adopt an egotistical, aggressively masculine tone. Bearing in mind Samuel Taylor Coleridge's point that the best writers are "androgynous"––meaning a mix of male and female––the narrator argues that John Galsworthy and Rudyard Kipling, two well-known male writers at the time, write in a way that is too masculine and therefore unacceptably narrow. 

This passage arguably contradicts the narrator's earlier point that the first great lesson for female authors is to write in a way that implies they have forgotten their gender. Here she seems to indicate that the best writing is indeed gendered, but that it should be a mix of both genders. Either way, her criticism of Galsworthy or Kipling for not containing the "spark" of woman would have been highly controversial at the time. Many would have considered the notion of criticizing celebrated male authors for not being feminine enough so absurd as to be laughable. However, by connecting her argument to that of Coleridge, Woolf suggests that it is not as outlandish as people at the time might otherwise first assume.  

Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.

Related Characters: Virginia Woolf (speaker), Judith Shakespeare
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final section of the speech, Woolf has dropped the narrator persona and is speaking as herself. Having reviewed several of the main issues of the speech and responded to anticipated criticism, she returns to the character of Judith Shakespeare, "this poet who never wrote a word." Although Judith's story reflects Woolf's rather pessimistic depiction of women whose ambitions were suffocated before they could ever be realized, Woolf ends on a hopeful note by implying that Judith "still lives" within herself and the audience, as well as other women who remain at home attending to domestic tasks. 

Woolf implies that women are connected to one another across the barriers of history, geography, and socioeconomic class, and that this connection inspires women to have a sense of duty to each other. On one hand, this is uplifting and inspirational, a silver lining to the tragic story of Judith Shakespeare and the countless other women whose lives and ambitions have been thwarted by sexism. On the other hand, it is possible that Woolf is being overly optimistic here in proposing a supposedly universal connection between women. Critics of A Room of One's Own have pointed to the fact that Woolf provides a sense of hope to young, educated, upper-class women, but promises nothing to other women other than vague references to female solidarity. Such promises might make little difference to the lives of women who remain socially, politically, and economically oppressed, with no hope of achieving independence or autonomy over their own lives. 

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Virginia Woolf Character Timeline in A Room of One's Own

The timeline below shows where the character Virginia Woolf appears in A Room of One's Own. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Woolf has been asked to speak about Women and Fiction to a group of female students... (full context)
Chapter 6
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
Here, the narrator leaves off and Virginia Woolf returns. She knows that her audience will have listened to Mary's journey with their own... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
The second criticism could be that Woolf has been too concerned with money. Haven't there been poor writers who have risen above... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...why, then, if it is both so difficult to write fiction and socially dangerous, is Woolf so obsessed with it? Because she loves to read, she says. She charges her audience... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
Woolf suggests that her motives are not entirely selfish, though. There is something about writing that... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Woolf acknowledges that women are supposed to hate women. She is expected to end with something... (full context)
Financial and Intellectual Freedom Theme Icon
Women and Society Theme Icon
Creating a Legacy of Women Writers Theme Icon
Finally, Woolf conjures the character of Judith Shakespeare again, who died and lies beneath the omnibuses driving... (full context)