A Room of One’s Own

by: Virginia Woolf

Themes

The Importance of Money

For the narrator of A Room of One’s Own, money is the primary element that prevents women from having a room of their own, and thus, having money is of the utmost importance. Because women do not have power, their creativity has been systematically stifled throughout the ages. The narrator writes, “Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time . . .” She uses this quotation to explain why so few women have written successful poetry. She believes that the writing of novels lends itself more easily to frequent starts and stops, so women are more likely to write novels than poetry: women must contend with frequent interruptions because they are so often deprived of a room of their own in which to write. Without money, the narrator implies, women will remain in second place to their creative male counterparts. The financial discrepancy between men and women at the time of Woolf’s writing perpetuated the myth that women were less successful writers.

The Subjectivity of Truth

In A Room of One’s Own, the narrator argues that even history is subjective. What she seeks is nothing less than “the essential oil of truth,” but this eludes her, and she eventually concludes that no such thing exists. The narrator later writes, “When a subject is highly controversial, one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.” To demonstrate the idea that opinion is the only thing that a person can actually “prove,” she fictionalizes her lecture, claiming, “Fiction is likely to contain more truth than fact.” Reality is not objective: rather, it is contingent upon the circumstances of one’s world. This argument complicates her narrative: Woolf forces her reader to question the veracity of everything she has presented as truth so far, and yet she also tells them that the fictional parts of any story contain more essential truth than the factual parts. With this observation she recasts the accepted truths and opinions of countless literary works.