Going back to A Room of One’s Own, the image that stood out to me the most from the first time I read it was when the narrator tries to enter the library and is told that since she is woman she cannot enter alone. I think the first time I read this I was completely revolted by the idea because it seemed completely ridiculous. I, like the narrator, was angry. I was seduced by the narrator’s intense emotions into feeling the same way as the same way, being sympathetic. I don’t think it is the same type of seduction that Jane Marcus suggests in her article “Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own.” However I feel Woolf makes a strong rhetorical appeal to women’s emotions and reason. In “Modernism and Gender,” Marianne Dekoven says, “Woolf revised the association of Modernism with masculinity by associating it with the feminine” (187). I believe Woolf does this in A Room of One’s Own and her other fiction.
On the second reading, I noticed how the narrator, Mary, goes from an essentialist’s view of women to an anti-essentialist view of women. I believe that she must make this conversion or growth in order for the woman reader to relate to her. Most women would see themselves as inherently different from men, helping them accept their subjugation. They would need to see the problem through the differences of men and women to ultimately accept Mary’s conclusion that there should be no distinction between the two. Mary begins to hum a Tennyson poem and says, “What that what men hummed at luncheon parties before the war? And the women? [quotes another poem] . . . Was that what women hummed at luncheon parties before the war?” (Woolf 12). She separates the minds of women and men in this passage, adhering to the idea that there is something inherently different that would cause men and women to hum different tunes/poems. Mary also talks about the differences between the short and concise language that men use in their writing and women’s wordy and flowing sentences that was considered sentimental. She says of Jane Austin and Emily Bronte, “[t]hey wrote as women write, not as men write” (74). She makes it clear that there is something inherently feminine that is expressed when women write, possibly due to the circumstances that women face. It seems Mary believes by the end of the narration that the only reason that men and women are not equal, are not capable, or do not appear the same is because of the subjugation of women by men.
She says at the very end of her narration, “it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly” (102-103). She has come to the conclusion that sex should not be taken into account. There should be in some ways a bisexuality of each person. They should not identify with one sex or another but should be sexless, a combination of both sexes. If both men and women are a combination of both sexes, there is no sex identification, nothing inherently male or female.