Virginia Woolf

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How does Virginia Woolf portray the role of the female writer or artist in society in two of her writings?

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In The Voyage Out, her first novel, Virginia Woolf offers the figure of Miss Allen, a single woman and a writer. Although Rachel does not fully appreciate this woman, Woolf portrays her as a positive figure, wise and kind, with a room that reflects her interests:

There were no variously coloured hatpins on her dressing-table; no scent-bottles; no narrow curved pairs of scissors; no great variety of shoes and boots; no silk petticoats lying on the chairs. The room was extremely neat. There seemed to be two pairs of everything. The writing-table, however, was piled with manuscript, and a table was drawn out to stand by the arm-chair on which were two separate heaps of dark library books.

Miss Allen is working on books about literature in the different "ages," such as the age of Elizabeth and the age of Dryden. As the above quote indicates, she is not interested in clothes and superficial appearances, but in the life of the mind. She introduces Rachel to creme de menthe, revealing that, if Rachel had been receptive, Miss Allen could have introduced her to new ways of living. Miss Allen is thoughtful, kind, perceptive, and independent, showing Woolf's respect for the woman artist.

In "A Room of One's Own," Woolf decries the obstacles put in front of the woman writer, and creates a fictive character in Shakespeare's sister, who is destroyed by social forces when she tries to follow in her brother's footsteps and become a playwright. Here, Woolf argues against those who were saying, in the 1920s, that the lack of "great" women writers proved that women lacked men's talent and intelligence. Woolf shows that it is social forces, such as lack of money and privacy, and prejudice against women, which are the causes of women not excelling as writers to the same extent as men.

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In A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, the narrator accounts for women's lack of ability to produce literary works of the same quality and quantity as those produced by men in terms of the material circumstances of their literary production, ranging from lack of educational opportunity to lack of free time and private space.

Woolf turns to more spiritual and emotional concerns of women's artistic production in her novel To the Lighthouse in which Mr. Ramsey's philosophical labours are supported by the complete dedication of his wife whose own creative and emotional nature has been dedicated to him. Lily shows one path to artistic creation for a woman which is being a spinster, but she regrets that the choice deprives her of a certain domestic happiness.

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