Study Guide

A Room of One's Own Chapter 4

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Chapter 4

  • Still standing in front of her bookshelf, Mary considers several woman writers over time, and how their gift was perverted by anger and bitterness.
  • You'll notice that Mary has a very complete bookshelf.
  • Lady Winchilsea and Margaret of Newcastle were "lad[ies] of title" who were too angry at their condition to write the beautiful texts they were capable of (4.1).
  • Then we turn to Aphra Behn, the first woman to make money by writing.
  • Not that she was wearing furs and sipping Cristal, mind you. Her life was very hard.
  • So why is it that so many of these works by women were novels? Surely someone would have wanted to write a poem or a play or something.
  • Here's an idea: women couldn't just run off to their rooms to scribble verses in their locked diaries.
  • Family duties meant that they had to write in the living room, and a novel is about public relationships between people, like the kind you might see in the living room.
  • Plus, you can write a novel even if your family is asking you to wipe their noses and cook them dinner every five minutes.
  • If you like Jane Austen now, imagine how much you would have liked her if she'd had her own space.
  • Mary gets fancy, linking the literal interruptions that plague women writers to the figurative interruptions she talked about before, where a woman's bitterness and anger might interrupt the flow of her text.
  • Another reason women have a hard time writing is that they don't have a long tradition, the way that male writers do.
  • So women have to figure out a way to write that fits their perspectives.
  • Woolf compares this to finding clothes that fit your body (4.34), the way that you have to try on a bunch of dresses before you find the one that fits just right.
  • One thing is for sure: whatever kind of writing women do in the future, it's going to have to be able to withstand constant, annoying interruptions.

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