In Virginia Woolf's literary essay "A Room of One's Own," the author explores themes of feminism through the viewpoints of a narrator who has a unique and principled view of how women are represented in the world. Throughout the text itself, Woolf denotes many things that have held women back from holding positions of power and wealth, as well as granting them agency in society. This point then extends to the limited and restricted body of work that women are allowed to have, seemingly due to the inequalities presented by a patriarchal society. This text sheds some light on feminist attitudes toward literature and society as a whole, and provides a basis for feminist criticism of literary works.
The phrase "a room of one's own" is derived from the idea that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" (Woolf, 1929). In essence, Woolf states that women are not granted the agency and freedom to write, mainly because they must spend so much time focusing on other more basic needs, like food and shelter. Money is what accomplishes these goals, and women have fewer opportunities to make as much money as men are typically entitled to. Because of these basic deficiencies in social freedom, women are often at a disadvantage for writing. The room itself is representative of the basic rights and privileges that are so often denied women, while men take them for granted. A room would allow a woman writer to write uninterrupted, without want or need for basic necessities. Since she does not have it, she cannot devote the same amount of time to writing, and therefore her writing is often lacking.
The potential of women to write is indicated in the fictional character of Judith Shakespeare - "she was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as [William Shakespeare] was. But she was not sent to school" (Woolf, 1929). While Judith is not allowed to attend school, she also does not accept the societal trappings that she is sent into, as she does not really want to be stuck doing household chores, or marry someone she does not want to. Societal attitudes such as these are part of what prevents Judith and other women from reaching their potential - if she benefited from money and an education as well, she could produce incredible works just as he did. This theory expands more on what exactly women are deprived of, and how this lack of education is one of the biggest cornerstones in the gender inequalities present in society.
Woolf's essay presents a very strong, basic point: women are smart, women are driven, and they wish to be able to be strong writers. However, the patriarchal society in which we live does not give them a chance to, which is what has led to the dearth of women writers to this point in history. By understanding the female perspective on this kind of discrimination and disadvantage, as evidenced by the metaphor of the 'room of one's own,' it is easier to know just how frustrating being a woman in a man's world can be. In the end, Judith Shakespeare kills herself, and Woolf makes us understand why; in the word she lives in, she has no means by which to express herself or come into her own.
Woolf, Virginia. "A Room of One's Own." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd Ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: WW Norton, 2010. Print.