A Room of One's Own
by Virginia Woolf
A Room of One's Own Theme of Freedom and Confinement
Isn't it ironic: in A Room of One's Own, Woolf tells us a woman needs a room of her own, with a lock on the door, in order to have the freedom to write (6.10). That is, she needs the freedom to confine herself in a room in order to have the mental freedom she needs to create art. Confusing, right? Woolf plays with what those ideas might mean: she goes over the difference between being locked out and locked in and explains that physical freedom influences mental freedom. All of this in order to perform what sounds like a freaky occult ritual: to allow dead Judith Shakespeare to inhabit a new body.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- Why couldn't an Elizabethan woman write poetry in a "dark, cramped room"? What kind of room does Woolf envision?
- Why does Mary make such a big deal about not being able to walk on the grass at Oxbridge?
- Do all men have absolute freedom of mind and body?
- "Confinement" is also an old-fashioned word for childbirth. Could that possibly be relevant to Woolf's argument?
Chew on This
For Woolf, the problem with contemporary men's writing isn't that they don't have the freedom they need to write, it's that they need another group (women) to be unfree.
The "common sitting room" is a confined space, even though it's probably bigger and nicer than any little room a woman might have to herself. This is because writing in the "common sitting room" confines women to writing only certain kinds of texts.