"Even though Virginia Woolf?s A Room of One's Own is based on lectures and essays, she manages to involve just enough ?drama? to make her point, and make it interesting. It all begins with her initial metaphor. The ?room? is representative of a woman?s independence. In this work, Woolf makes her illustrative statement: ""A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.""
Women?s roles in literature, both in ?starring? in it, and creating it, have not evolved nearly as rapidly as women?s changing roles in society. While these changes are reflected somewhat in what is written, female characters in most classic literature written by both men and women seem to adhere to the classic stereotypes. When Woolf states ?Fiction?is likely to contain more truth than fact? (p. 4) she is illustrating the inability of authors to completely separate fiction from reality. Ultimately, an author?s true perceptions of reality will shine through, even in works of fiction. Virginia Woolf wrote during an era in which impersonal criticism was virtually the only way for a woman to maintain objectivity and authority. The late twenties were, after all, a time in which women?s voices were not always adequately acknowledged. However, Woolf?s imaginative use of drama and character development to get her point across can be evidenced in numerous areas of this essentially non-fiction work.
The two most prominent areas that spring to mind are: The battle against authority and master discourse, and the refusal of the ""father"" and the anxiety of his influence, both of which provide very illustrative support for Woolf?s criticisms. Unfortunately, because of its numerous personal references, many critics have claimed that A Room of One?s Own, is somehow self-centered or egotistical rather than objective or critical. Yet in my opinion, Woolf is not using her personal experiences as a means with which to reflect upon her own self-image, but rather as a way to more vibrantly illustrate her external perceptions.
Woolf addresses her thoughts on women and fiction while trying to answer the question as to whether women can produce works as meaningful as those created by men. To achieve this, she examines women's historical experience along with the unique struggle of the female artist over time. Woolf further categorizes this question by dividing it into three parts: 1) what are women really like? 2) why do they write the type of fiction they write? and 3) what is written about women? Unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions boils down to one thing: most of what is read and written, by men and women, perpetuates the sexist myths that pervade our society.
Few female writers have ever garnered the praise nor the popularity of male authors such as Shakespeare. If in fact fiction is a literary mirror of reality, then the evolving roles of women over time, including their social, political and emotional evolution, should past, present and future, be reflected with more insight and accuracy. These are points that Woolf manages to make in a non-fictional medium, but her assessments tell a story as well.
Although few would claim that women portrayed in stereotypical roles is a constructive achievement, it does in fact contain certain positive aspects. Ideally, learning about stereotypes by viewing them through the art of dramatic literature, will encourage people to understand the nonsensicality of restricting women to narrow roles, both in literary forms and in real life. It was Woolf?s hope that through the exposure to these sexist themes and forms in literature, that society?s sensibilities would be awakened to more enlightened ways of viewing women?s roles both on the page and in society. "