Based on ideas found in A Room of One's Own, how would Virginia Woolf analyze the relationship between freedom and circumstance in the behavior of characters Inez and Electra in Jean-Paul Sartre's...

Based on ideas found in A Room of One's Own, how would Virginia Woolf analyze the relationship between freedom and circumstance in the behavior of characters Inez and Electra in Jean-Paul Sartre's plays No Exit and The Flies respectively?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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If Virginia Woolf were to analyze the character Inez in Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit in the same way we see her analyze women's circumstances in her collection of essays titled A Room of One's Own, one thing she would do is praise Inez for being so open with her feelings and actions.

In particular, Woolf would praise Inez for being upfront about how she doesn't really "care much for men." It is clear that Inez is a lesbian who is very outspoken about her sexuality. One example we see of Inez being upfront about her sexuality is when towards the beginning of the play, she offers herself as a mirror to the beautiful and rich Estelle. It is obvious Inez is very attracted to Estelle in the following passage:

Much more likely YOU'LL hurt ME. Still, what does it matter? If I've got to suffer, it may as well be at your hands, your pretty hands. Sit down. Come closer. Closer. Look into my eyes. What do you see?

Woolf would praise Inez for her abilities to express her feelings, just as she praises male poets like Tennyson for being able to express their feelings: "The very reason why that poetry excites one to such abandonment, such rapture, is that it celebrates some feeling that one used to have" (Ch. 1). Hence, Woolf would praise Inez for feeling such freedom to express both her sexuality and her emotions.

However, it is also quite obvious that Inez dislikes herself as a lesbian. Woolf would blame Inez's feelings of self-dislike on a male-dominated society that dictates exactly what a woman should and should not be. Inez expresses her self-dislike in at least a couple of different places. First, she hints at it when she replies to Estelle that she is always "painfully conscious" of herself in her mind. She further hints at it when she says that all three characters are "damned souls." As Steven G. Kellman, editor of Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition, points out, lesbians in the 20s were often referred to by the euphemism "damned women" (eNotes, "Summary"). Hence, while Inez freely expresses her sexuality, it's due to this very same sexuality that she feels imprisoned. We can consider her lesbianism a circumstance Inez has had to deal with all her life, a circumstance that makes her feel trapped. Woolf would point out again that it is the viewpoints coined by a male-dominant society that make Inez feel imprisoned by the circumstance of her lesbianism. Hence, Woolf would also criticize Inez for allowing herself to feel trapped by men.

Woolf would further assert that there is a direct relationship between a woman's circumstances and her freedom and that a woman will not truly be free to express herself in the way that Inez expresses herself sexually until she feels her circumstances are not being governed by men.

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