A Study On Virginia Woolfs Feminism English Literature Essay


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Virginia Woolf is one of the most remarkable feminists and novelists. She describes, in her novels, women's deprived social status and role under the patriarchal system. Her feminism, affected by the gender discrimination in the 1970's, advocate of women's equal social rights. However, unlike other feminists, what Woolf ultimately pursues is a harmony and collaboration of two genders, accepting the differences between men and women - 'androgyny'.

This study will examine Virginia Woolf's perspective of a feminist on her representative novels, To The Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. Strict patriarchy of the contemporary times made women's life invisible, muted and it brought feminine issues. Woolf focuses on women's deprived life and satirized women's absence of status with fixed social ideas which were mostly from male-dominated society. Furthermore, she ultimately advocates 'androgyny' - which means a harmonious balance of men and women - for restoring women's liberty and identity. In her novel, Woolf manifests somewhat contradictory attitude as she not only pursues women's liberation which is largely focused on by modern feminist critics, but also insists the condition of "androgynous consciousness" for great creation of literary works.

Besides, this will also investigate Woolf's feminine description in her works as a female in the men-centered society and discuss the contemporary society - era of sexism, racism and imperialism - affecting her feministic essays with how Woolf was eager to thoroughly disclose what they and their lives really are and what she really wants to reform without any restraint of concept.

There was a main reason that contributed Woolf's feminism - patriarchy system. It was seen in her family as well. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an intellectual who was highly admired as a great one as well as a philosopher and literature critic. Delicate Woolf was interested in reading and he fairly supported this circumstance for her to meet intellectual world. But, Stephen was a man of patriarchy of Victorian, he was very strict and thoroughly with his authority. Regardless of those enthusiastic movements for women at that time, he not only ignored women's ability and their spiritual, but also emphasized traditional gender role which is subordinate to male. Thus, his male chauvinism and intolerance caused her intense antipathy and let her feel generation gap as well. Especially, since her mother died her reigning father constantly asked for obedience and understanding to his children and this is how Woolf's attitude reflects on her novel, To The Lighthouse with the character, Mr. Ramsay.

On the other side, her mother, Julia Stephen, influenced Woolf a lot. She helped Woolf to wake her up about the serious of women's deprived status. As Jane Marcus, who mainly studied Woolf's biography, says, "Woolf's mother, Julia was an anti-feminist and at the same time, she was also a 'Victorian princess to a patriarch' - which implies a female who is submissive and sacrificing herself for the family - she was just a typical Victorian woman." [13] Marcus also indicates that's why she named her daughters such as Stella, Vanessa and Virginia; she wanted them to possess manners and innocence as a woman. [14] (Marcus, p. xix) Although Woolf loved her 'emotional and thoughtful' mother so much, how her mother lived as what she was just supposed to under the coercive father made Woolf feel impotent.

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