Quotations for Discussion:  A Room of One's Own

Updated July 8, 1997
Created July 8, 1997

   On Narrative Voice
1. " ‘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. . . .
   Here then was I (call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by 
   any name you please—it is not a matter of any importance) . . ."  
   (Chapter 1, 4-5)
    On Men and Women
 2. "I pondered why it was that Mrs. Seton had no money to leave us; and 
    what effect poverty has on the mind; and what effect wealth has on the 
    mind; . . . and I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of 
    the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to 
    be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked 
    in. . . ." (Chapter 1, 24).
3. [On men’s anger, "the one fact" retrieved from her morning’s work at 
   the British Museum]  
   "Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon 
   the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority 
   but with his own superiority. . . .  Women have served all these 
   centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power 
   of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.  Without 
   that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle." 
   (Chapter 2, 34-35)
    On Women and Literature
 4. "Indeed, if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, 
    one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; 
    heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous 
    in the extreme; as great as a man, some think even greater.  But this 
    is woman in fiction.  In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she 
    was locked up, beaten and flung about the room. A very queer, 
    composite being thus emerges.  Imaginatively she is of the highest 
    importance; practically she is completely insignificant.  She pervades 
    poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history."  
    (Chapter 3, p. 43)
5.  "When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman 
    possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very 
    remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a 
    lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane 
    Austen, some Emily Brontë who dashed her brains out on the moor or 
    mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her 
    gift had put her to.  Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who 
    wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman."  
    (Chapter 3, 49)
6. "For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the 
   outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of 
   the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single 
   voice."  (Chapter 4, 65; cf. T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual 
   Talent," 1919)
7. "Literature is open to everybody.  I refuse to allow you, Beadle though 
   you are, to turn me off the grass.  Lock up your libraries if you like; 
   but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the 
   freedom of my mind."  (Chapter 4, 75-76)
8. "For we think back through our mothers if we are women.  It is useless 
   to go to the great men writers for help, however much one may go to 
   them for pleasure.  Lamb, Browne, Thackeray, Newman, Sterne, Dickens, 
   De Quincey—whoever it may be—never helped a woman yet, though she may 
   have learnt a few tricks of them and adapted them to her use."  
   (Chapter 4, 76)


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