From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Room of One's Own

A Room of One's Own


by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own Chapter 4 Summary

  • Still standing in front of her bookshelf, Mary considers several woman writers over time, and how their gift was perverted by anger and bitterness.
  • You'll notice that Mary has a very complete bookshelf.
  • Lady Winchilsea and Margaret of Newcastle were "lad[ies] of title" who were too angry at their condition to write the beautiful texts they were capable of (4.1).
  • Then we turn to Aphra Behn, the first woman to make money by writing.
  • Not that she was wearing furs and sipping Cristal, mind you. Her life was very hard.
  • So why is it that so many of these works by women were novels? Surely someone would have wanted to write a poem or a play or something.
  • Here's an idea: women couldn't just run off to their rooms to scribble verses in their locked diaries.
  • Family duties meant that they had to write in the living room, and a novel is about public relationships between people, like the kind you might see in the living room.
  • Plus, you can write a novel even if your family is asking you to wipe their noses and cook them dinner every five minutes.
  • If you like Jane Austen now, imagine how much you would have liked her if she'd had her own space.
  • Mary gets fancy, linking the literal interruptions that plague women writers to the figurative interruptions she talked about before, where a woman's bitterness and anger might interrupt the flow of her text.
  • Another reason women have a hard time writing is that they don't have a long tradition, the way that male writers do.
  • So women have to figure out a way to write that fits their perspectives.
  • Woolf compares this to finding clothes that fit your body (4.34), the way that you have to try on a bunch of dresses before you find the one that fits just right.
  • One thing is for sure: whatever kind of writing women do in the future, it's going to have to be able to withstand constant, annoying interruptions.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...