I'm looking for additional support or help on a paper that involves comparison/contrast of four women writers: Mary Wollstonecraft's introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Virginia...

I'm looking for additional support or help on a paper that involves comparison/contrast of four women writers: Mary Wollstonecraft's introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Virginia Woolf's excerpt from A Room of One's Own (Shakespeare's Sister), Adrienne Rich's When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Revision, and Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens.

Even though I've covered the material I can still unfortunately not comprehend the work. I am supposed to compare and contrast the obstacles these four women discuss, their challenges, along with remedies and resolutions they propose. Any assistance in helping me to fully comprehend the meaning of all the writings would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you so much, 


Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In discussing Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich and Alice Walker in terms of excerpts from their respective works, the obvious and most compelling similarity is their desire for change and their struggle, as women writers, in a male-dominated, class-conscious society. Patriarchy and discrimination, which provide for an unconscious but apparently indisputable and inevitable right to dominate society, because of men's obvious physical strength and educated people's superiority, has led to the misconception that physical strength indicates intellectual strength and this has been perpetuated by men and women throughout the centuries. These four women equate the problem of domination with a lack of identity and they all recognize that attitudes, tradition and culture, philosophies and opportunities lie at the center of the problem and the solution. They use a feminist perspective in these excerpts as a means of expressing their views and exposing the obstacles to change.

In her Introduction to A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft laments the "unhealthy state" of women's minds. Virginia Woolf, in the section of A Room of One's Own where she discusses Shakespeare's hypothetical sister, talks of how Judith Shakespeare was "severely beaten by her father" for considering shaming him in her refusal of marriage, desperate as she were to be an actor. Adrienne Rich, discussing When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision, understands how it feels to be "mastered" by a man and how, at least, the imagination cannot be controlled. Her poetry reflects her own development and ability to change and to promote change. Alice Walker's, In Search of our Mothers' Gardens, also draws attention to this need for changing attitudes. Although broader in scope, it has the same essential elements and enduring theme of women's inability to escape control, being "abused and mutilated... dimmed and confused by pain," as black slave workers.

Alice Walker criticizes what she sees as Virginia Woolf's defeatism and this is evident when, whilst supporting feminist thinking, Woolf's character of Shakespeare's sister finds her escape in suicide, not struggle. If a black slave, "who owned not even herself," had the same attitude, progress would elude civilization. Socio-economics then unites the writers but their interpretation of it divides them as does the fact that they write for very different audiences in different eras. 

Collectively, therefore, obstacles would include attitudes (male and female, black and white), tradition and culture, social issues, opportunity and domination. The challenges are the set roles in gender (and wealth), the unequal relationships and resultant patriarchal society, the dependence (blind obedience even)on others rather than self, the abuse of power, misinformation and lack of education. The remedies, first and foremost, include a more gender neutral education for women (not just in the art of beauty, sewing, style, etiquette, etc) and more careers and professions which accept women. Equal opportunity is crucial in creating a more open society and the recognition that women are able to make a meaningful contribution in the intellectual sphere is a natural remedy. The resolutions that will follow, include well-developed citizens, natural expression, equal opportunity , a sense of identity and individuality, an end to dominance and control, intellectual equality and all for the good of society. 

sbhagley | Student

Wow!!! I am so glad I "ask" and  "you" answered, because you have a gift for explaining and breaking down very involved pieces of work. Bless you !!!