The essays in A Room of One's Own grew out of a request that Virginia Woolf received to lecture about "women and fiction ." Throughout the book, she elaborates on different aspects of her interpretation of this topic, as she originally wondered if it meant the fiction that women have...
The essays in A Room of One's Own grew out of a request that Virginia Woolf received to lecture about "women and fiction." Throughout the book, she elaborates on different aspects of her interpretation of this topic, as she originally wondered if it meant the fiction that women have written or the fiction that has been written about them.
In chapter 3, Woolf turns to a specific period in English literary history, "the time of Elizabeth." She selected this period not only because William Shakespeare—widely considered England's greatest writer—lived and wrote then, but also because it was an era when so many talented writers were productive. Given that high quality and level of productivity, she finds it
a perennial puzzle why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature….
Focusing on this singular era allows her to contextualize the reasons that women have gained less renown and financial success than men. She accepts, but finds there is not as yet a satisfactory explanation for, a fact of modern life: "Women are poorer than men because—this or that…."
The question of relative poverty is essential to the topic of women and fiction, because the material and social conditions of production matter. This is the overall point of the book: women need private space and adequate income in order to write. To stress that these factors are also social conditions, which include nurturing, Woolf uses a simile: "Fiction is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground."
By outlining the life of a fictional sister to William Shakespeare, Woolf explicitly writes against the idea of innate genius. She stresses the gender differences of male and female children's upbringing as a crucial aspect of Elizabethan living conditions. Education and literacy are two important components. Equally important are personal safety and camaraderie, neither of which Judith would have found in London. Existing within a hostile environment would not merely discourage her from being productive but would propel her toward self-destruction.