What is the purpose or the main thesis of A Room of One's Own?

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The central thesis of A Room of One's Own as it is generally understood is well captured in the title and is only slightly expanded by the often-quoted statement, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

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The central thesis of A Room of One's Own as it is generally understood is well captured in the title and is only slightly expanded by the often-quoted statement, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

It is clear, however, that Virginia Woolf knew this simple statement was not literally true. The brief history of women's writing she gives in the essay obviously includes Jane Austen who, famously, never had a room of her own, but wrote in a draughty hallway with a creaking-door to warn her when anyone was coming. Jane Austen, moreover, was one of the more privileged female writers. Alice Walker, the American novelist, observes,

Virginia Woolf, in her book A Room of One's Own, wrote that in order for a woman to write fiction she must have two things, certainly: a room of her own (with key and lock) and enough money to support herself. What then are we to make of Phillis Wheatley, a slave, who owned not even herself? (In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose)

One might respond that Phillis Wheatley wrote poetry, not fiction, which may not be subject to exactly the same constraints, but Jane Austen obviously wrote fiction, and it would be absurd to say that Virginia Woolf was unaware that women had written without financial independence and rooms of their own. The more modest but more accurate claim that is substantiated, in particular, by Woolf's remarks on Shakespeare's imagined sister Judith, is that women have labored under much greater difficulties than men in their quest to become writers, and that these difficulties include lack of privacy and lack of independence (though other formidable obstacles, such as the difficulty of accessing education or institutional misogyny, also exist). The chief purpose of the essay is to illustrate and draw attention to these obstacles and suggest how much greater the field of women's literature might be if they were removed.

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Virginia Woolf has long been held as one of the most influential modernist writers of the twentieth century. In her book-length essay A Room of One’s Own, Woolf tackles the idea of a woman’s place in literary society and the writing life in general in the face of socio-political and economic forces.

One of her quintessential and oft-cited lines states, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” This quote captures the simultaneous simplicity and impossibility of women writers to realize their potential within an oppressive, misogynistic society that educated them differently, dismissed their works as fancies, and privileged male writers within the literary canon. While the above-mentioned line has been criticized for leaving out women writers of color and of lower socioeconomic status, the spirit of Woolf’s exploration endears.

By imagining the life of sisterly counterpart to Shakespeare, one which goes unrecognized and ultimately languishes in an unhappy marriage, Woolf shows us the fate of highly intelligent women of society who are kept from realizing their potential. Woolf goes on to highlight the lives and works of major nineteenth-century women novelists, and emphasizes the role of tradition by examining Mary Carmichael’s Life’s Adventure in particular and the state of contemporary literature in general. She then closes with a call to arms to women writers to inspire them to produce their own works and endow future generations with a tradition that can live on.

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