Study Guide

A Room of One's Own Warfare

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Chapter 1

Was that what men hummed at luncheon parties before the war? And the women? [...] Was that what women hummed at luncheon parties before the war? (1.9)

We left out the poetry Woolf quotes here, by the way. Do you hum poetry at luncheon parties? No? Blame World War I.

If things had been a little different from what they were, one would not have seen, presumably, a cat without a tail [...] something seemed lacking, something seemed different. (1.7)

A cat without a tail as an image for the world after World War I. Quite a choice. Does Woolf ever manage to tell us what the "something" might be that's different after the war? And does it twitch right before it pounces?

Mary Beton

When the guns fired in August 1914, did the faces of men and women show so plain in each other's eyes that romance was killed? (1.22)

Is romance an illusion? Can truth kill it? Is Woolf saying that we need romance in order to write well? And is part of "romance" the idea that men and women are fundamentally different?

Chapter 2

Without that power [to magnify men] probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. The glories of all our wars would be unknown. (2.12)

Is Woolf being sarcastic here about the "glories of all our wars"? It seems to take both men and women to make a civilization and wage war.

Walk through the Admiralty Arch (I had reached that monument), or any other avenue given up to trophies and cannon, and reflect upon the kind of glory celebrated there. (2.14)

Why do we have monuments to wars, anyway? London is pretty important in A Room of One's Own, so it's interesting that it's filled with monuments to violent men and the wars waged by them.

Chapter 4

This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battlefield is more important than a scene in a shop. (4.31)

Woolf thinks that people value books about war more than books about people sitting around talking. Is this still true? (Hint: check out this list of all the movies that have won an Oscar for best picture.)

At the same time, on the other side of Europe, there was a young man living freely with this gipsy or with that great lady; going to the wars; picking up unhindered and uncensored all that varied experience of human life which served him so splendidly when he came to write his books. (4.28)

Here, war is just another kind of experience. We're seeing that writers don't just need their own rooms to work in—they've got to get out of them once in a while, too. So if women are barred from huge chunks of human experience, how can they ever write well?

Chapter 5

If one asked what her life has meant to her, she would say that she remembered the streets lit for the battle of Balaclava [...] And if one asked her [...] but what were you doing on the fifth of April 1868 [...], she would look vague and remember nothing. For all the dinners are cooked [...] Nothing remains of it all. All has vanished. No biography or history has a word to say about it. (5.13)

Warfare is documented; dinners are not. Woolf wants a kind of literature that documents things like dinners and fleeting feelings. But would anyone want to read it?

Chapter 6

There seemed to be some obstacle, some impediment of Mr. A's mind which blocked the fountain of creative energy and shored it within narrow limits. And remembering the lunch party at Oxbridge, and the cigarette ash and the Manx cat and Tennyson and Christina Rossetti all in a bunch, it seemed possible that the impediment lay there. (6.4)

To the list of all the horrors of war we can add: bad novels.

Virginia Woolf

Thanks, curiously enough, to two wars, the Crimean which let Florence Nightingale out of her drawing-room, and the European war which opened the doors to the average woman some sixty years later, these evils are in the way to be bettered. (6.14)

This complicates Woolf's discussion of war a little, since war also opens doors for women. But it's super-frustrating that terrible violence is also one of the only ways for women to get more power in the world.

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