A Room of One's Own

by Virginia Woolf

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Does Virginia Woolf use the stream of consciousness technique in "A Room of One's Own"?

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Yes, Woolf uses a stream of consciousness technique to build her argument in "A Room of One's Own." In this essay, Woolf contrasts the wealth and privilege of men's colleges to the poverty of women's colleges and from this argues that lack of money and space cramps women's ability to achieve and create.

However, instead of just telling this to us in a straightforward manner, she shows it through stream of consciousness. We are inside her (or her narrator's) head as she wanders through these different colleges. We see, for example, the fine food and wine and servants at the men's college (this essay was written in the 1920s, when higher education in England was still sex segregated) and then the mutton and austere surroundings at the threadbare women's college. Detail by detail, Woolf shows us the way having resources and being in a position of not having to worry about money frees a person to pursue the creative or intellectual life. Through a technique of showing, not telling, filtered through the mind of an intelligent, perceptive—and angry—woman, we see how much more women could accomplish given rooms of their own.

While the slow, meandering stream-of-consciousness accumulation of detail is convincing in this essay, you might compare it to the way Woolf makes the same argument through answering a letter in Three Guineas.

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The simple answer would be "yes", but there is much more to Virginia Woolf than "yes" and "no" answers, as you will find out the more you read about her and her works.

As a genre-bending production that combines the basics of essay, discourse, self-analysis, and autobiography, "A Room of One's Own" does show plenty of the stream of consciousness narrative in that it features:

Characters are consistently talking to themselves. We are not the intended audience. We really are the secondary listeners.

  • Ongoing analysis

Woolf is determined to make a point throughout this essay regarding her conviction that there should be equality for men and women. She does this consistently.

  • Non sequential (non linear) narrative

Can we really categorize the story by beginning, middle or end? We cannot. It is all over the place, sometimes with some parts of the narrative showing more organization than others.

  • Tangential thoughts

There is literary license to shift from one theme to another, or even from one mood to another, as well.

  • Free, indirect speech

Again, we are not being asked to sit down and read, or sit and listen. The narrator will do it, regardless.

In other words, Virginia is not speaking to us directly, nor is she trying to convince us of anything. In literary works that feature this narrative style, the characters who do the talking seem more like they are making an attempt at convincing themselves of what they are saying.

It is no different than speaking out a manifesto where an idea is exposed and evidence is given to support the main thesis, hence, the "essay" traits also evident in this work.

Whether it is as Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael, or even as Judith Shakespeare, the reader gets the gist that Virginia Woolf is speaking about a topic that is very dear and strong to her: gender equality in literature. As such, she uses a variety of foci to make her point, present her ideas, and perhaps elicit a sense of agreement in the audience, to justify her point.

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