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Themes

Pick a random page of A Room of One's Own and you're nearly guaranteed to find some reference to women. This isn't exactly surprising, since Woolf's essay is a long, hard look at how to be a woman writer in a man's world. And she's thorough about it: she takes a gander at how traditional roles like wife and mother are filled with irritating interruptions that make it so a woman can't get a thought down on paper. She cracks the history books to look at how men have written about women. She points her eye inward to look at tiny differences between how men and women read and write. In the end? Well, we can't say much for the past—but we are starting to feel a little better about the future of women.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. How in the world can we understand women if they are portrayed so differently in fiction than they are in real life? Can we learn anything at all about women from fiction? What about reality in general? And what about The Real Housewives?
  2. Do men and women see the world completely differently? Is there any overlap?
  3. When it comes to stuff like politics and war, Woolf makes the point that women aren't invited to the party. This causes a "sudden splitting of consciousness" that Woolf implies hurts women's ability to write. But couldn't it actually help women writers to have their noses pressed up against the glass (6.3)?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Men couldn't ever give us a good idea of women's experiences, because women's experiences are too different from men.

Woolf doesn't think that it makes sense to give out gold stars to authors and works of literature. But if women could be "measured" publicly the way that men are, they might make more of a splash.

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