A Room of One's Own
We hear you: A Room of One's Own isn't about war at all, right? It's about women sitting around and writing in private rooms. And you'd be right: war is not the main subject of Woolf's work. But she was writing just after World War I, and she does carefully examine how war touches her topic of women and fiction. People were still figuring out what World War I—one of the bloodiest wars in history—might mean about human nature itself. And by 1928, people could see the conflict of World War II on the horizon. Little did Woolf know that World War II would change the role of women forever. Dun dun dun!
Questions About Warfare
- How in the world is a disfigured cat an image for the world after World War I?
- Is there something kind of uncool in Woolf's idea that wars help men by providing them with experiences they can use in their fiction?
- Why don't we document the details of women's daily lives as thoroughly as war?
Chew on This
Woolf's position on warfare is muddled: on the one hand, men have convinced everyone that it's really important and needs to be documented in literature, to the detriment of books about the more female realm of domestic life. On the other hand, she wishes that women could participate in wars in order to gain the kind of experience needed to write interesting fiction.
Woolf's association of World War I with a Manx cat is an illustration of her philosophy that the most mundane things need to be documented because they are how you get at "reality" (6.16).