In the case of ‘A Room of Our Own’, the essay that concerns us, the relationship between the author and the feminist cause has offered no doubt from the beginning. Some people consider that it is an artificial identification; not false or wrong, but built a posteriori, considering that the text, from a certain point of view, you can read it retroactively and allows us to identify the author’s feelings, her way of conceiving the world, through a non-verbalized thought or theorized, at the moment when the author left the text written. Some have considered that it has been the feminism that has investigated the work of Virginia Woolf and not vice versa.
This appropriation of ‘A Room for One’s Own’ by the feminist theory has been produced thanks to a reading in the Woolfian text where have been pointed enough arguments to identify it with the struggle and action of women during the twentieth century in to improve their situation, their status as an integral part of society in all senses and at all levels.
This interpretive reading has begun, naturally, by the beginning, by the title of the text. Moreover, perhaps the greatest success of the work of Virginia Woolf, what is known worldwide is, very much above its content, its title. Few literary images have made so much fortune among the reading public in the whole world, as the happy metaphor of the ‘A Room for One’s Own’ thought by Woolf. Proof of these multiple and varied readings that have been made of the work, even within feminism itself, is the variety of interpretations that have been offered of this nominal syntagma and what it means. As a brief review, here there are a few mentions of some of them.
According to Sally Alexander, the title of the essay would respond to the desire of Virginia Woolf to have a place of her own to reflect and write, a personal and individual space that refers to the ‘longing for an individual utopia, for momentarily fleeing from human relationships, an intense new egocentricity for women ‘(Alexander, 1998: 135). The idea that according to this author underlies the Woolfian metaphor is not, or not only, to consolidate a social space for women as a whole, but rather, to surround a territory dreamed by each woman: a utopia feminist, valid for all women, but also, and above all, for each individual woman. In this sense, Alexander (1998) claims that this longing was less far from the concrete and pragmatic demands of women’s movements than what one might think at first sight.
One of the major issues addressed by Woolf in her essay is: the need for economic independence for women. Those ‘five hundred pounds a year’ that Woolf considered vital for any woman in the Victorian England to preserve her independence and think of better thing than just pure survival. Virginia Woolf consider that without economic independence, it is impossible to develop the intellectual and artistic capacity of women.
At the highest point of the primum vivere, deinde philosophare recovers, in the words of Woolf, all its meaning, when the protagonist of the story of ‘A Room for One’s Own’ affirms that of the two news that she received at the same time, the approval of the law that granted the vote to women and the inheritance of ‘five hundred pounds a year’ for the death of her aunt, money seemed the most important because, besides being able to buy food and clothing, it did allowed her to live without having to hate any man because he could not hurt her and without having to flatter anyone for fear of what he could stop giving her.
Another of the main reasons of the success of ‘A Room of Our Own’ among the reading public, feminist or not, has been the recognized literary beauty and its peculiar narrative style, far from the conventional one. As many critics have agreed, Woolf’s essay combines the richness of the plot, with the freshness and pleasure of an entertaining and entertaining writing that is, accordingly to Barret (1993) both: eloquent and elegant, biting and witty, vehement but fun.
Woolf’s personal way of arguing is to spin one story after another one, one anecdote after another one; that is perhaps what attracts most of a reading that captures the reader by its evocative capacity and the power of a visual and textual metaphors (the image of the woman as a mirror that reflects to the man the double of great that its normal size, or the history of the supposed sister of Shakespeare) that remain in the memory long time after its reading. The reasoning of this essay by Woolf, her plot and his argument, advance through anecdotal series and seemingly random observations according to Shiach (1998).
However, it is clear that in ‘A Room of Our Own’ nothing is random, and everything has its end; behind each one of these anecdotes of each story, there is a concrete idea and the attack of Woolf against a prejudice. So, this essay, without being a deliberately feminist text, preconceived and written for political purposes, in the background of Virginia Woolf’s essay and in its metaphors, there is hidden a revolutionary charge, a content of political theory (made by and for women). Considering all of this, ‘A Room of Our Own’ can be considered as a feminist text; not as a sample of Virginia Woolf’s feminism, but as a proof that feminism has found in it an inspiration and a source for reflection and theoretical elaboration.