“I” is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being. Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.

At the beginning of the essay, Woolf adopts this fictional persona in order to create a scenario where her audience doesn’t judge the merits of her argument on the basis of what they believe her prejudices to be like. This “I” is a shifting subject, able to take up multiple names throughout. While Woolf does create some backstory for her, the details are ones that could apply to many other women in her audience. By making the identity of the narrator less important, she believes she can more easily seek out truths in the problem of women and fiction.

A very elementary exercise in psychology, not to be dignified by the name of psycho-analysis, showed me, on looking at my notebook, that the sketch of the angry professor had been made in anger. Anger had snatched my pencil while I dreamt.

This quotation comes from Chapter 2, when the narrator doodles a sketch of Professor X as she takes notes on the work she reads at the public library. Unlike the academics whose work she reads in this chapter, this narrator is self-reflective, and able to scrutinize her own motives. She does not want to make her judgments defensively but rather try and find the kernels of truth beyond any emotional reaction or desire for something to be true.

But what still remains with me as a worse infliction than either was the poison of fear and bitterness which those days bred in me.

The narrator says this in Chapter 2 when remembering how she lived in poverty before she received an inheritance after her aunt’s death. For the narrator, the worst side effect of poverty is the anxiety and anger it left her with, which she finds detrimental to her ability to work. This observation goes toward her belief that money is essential for people to create in part because it gives artists a place of comfort and satisfaction to think from, undistracted by emotions like bitterness and fear.

It stood at the very end of the shelf, was called Life’s Adventure, or some such title, by Mary Carmichael, and was published in this very month of October.

The narrator states this in Chapter 5 as she turns her gaze on the contemporary state of women’s writing. Mary Carmichael, here presented as another person, is one of the multiple names Woolf suggests could be the narrators at the beginning of her storytelling. This sense that the narrator could be Mary Carmichael emphasizes the narrator’s role as a kind of archetypical woman intellectual as opposed to an individual. Her shifting selfhood is emblematic of how she uses subjectivity, that is, the multiplicity of truths, to reveal concrete answers about women and fiction.