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A Room of One's Own

A Room of One's Own

by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own Chapter 6 Summary

  • The next day, Mary's at her window looking at the streets of London.
  • She sees a man and a woman get into a taxi together and drive off. Something about the way they and the taxi all seemed to flow together and then off into the stream of traffic gives her the idea that "thinking of one sex as distinct from another is an effort" (6.3).
  • A writer's mind has to have both sexes in order to be any good.
  • She takes the case of Mr. A's book, which is too masculine and therefore not interesting. (He just gets straight to the sex scenes.)
  • Or the critic, Mr. B., who is also so lacking in a female side that "his feelings no longer communicated" (6.5).
  • Then Mary treats us to a glorious sex metaphor for the self-fertilization of the writer's mind by the male and female parts. What ho, botany!
  • Finally, Virginia Woolf takes off her mask and ends Mary's portion of the book.
  • Now she addresses three criticisms that her listeners/readers might have:
  • (1) She doesn't go into whether men or women are better at writing, and whether one sex is better at writing a certain kind of book.
  • LOL, Woolf says. That's a really immature way to think about it. What's important is that women should be able to write exactly what they want.
  • (2) Mary is a material girl, putting too much emphasis on things like money and private rooms.
  • Well, Woolf throws down a (really long) quotation from a literary critic making the point that material things are important to writers.
  • She ties things up with "That's it. Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom" (6.14).
  • (3) Why should women even write books, if it's so difficult and unrewarding?
  • Woolf has a few responses to this question: that, selfishly, she likes to read lots of books and that lately there haven't been enough interesting ones; and also, she just has a "conviction" that good books are desirable (6.16).
  • She ends the essay with a "peroration" (look it up) that is also another answer to the question of why women ought to write books: because maybe, if enough women write for long enough, then they will eventually produce something worthy of Judith Shakespeare.

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