Lujain Ali Karaki
What is the specific argument in the extract from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own?
In Virginia Woolf’s essay composed of lectures, A Room of One’s Own, she mainly discusses women as writers. This makes her text a feminist one, considering her interest and her arguments on the nature of women writers or lack thereof.
The extract starts with her telling us what she had once heard from a Bishop who thinks that there could have never been a woman who can write the plays of Shakespeare (p. 39). Woolf is at a point of contradiction with herself and her beliefs. She wants to prove him wrong, because she does not want what he is saying to be truthfully the case, but nonetheless, she knows he is right “I could not help thinking, as I looked at the works of Shakespeare on the shelf, that the bishop was right” (p. 39) and therefore she starts her attempt at trying to justify and understand what he has said.
To make her point, she gives the reader an imaginary situation: Shakespeare having a sister, Judith, who is as equally gifted as himself. Through this situation Woolf attempts to give the reader a legitimate reason to why the bishop’s argument was right. She gradually starts explaining how since birth “Judith” would be oppressed by her parents and her society. She would be denied education, and wouldn’t be allowed to pick up a book and reads it, unlike her brother William. She would be forced to get married by her father and shamed into it by him. Still hopeful, she would run away to London like her brother in order to pursue and her dream and unleash her gift unto the world (p. 40). She would reach the theatre, her passion, and there she would be rejected. Suddenly, because of her gender and her age, she would find herself with child by the actor-manager and in despair, because she has a poet’s heart and its feelings in a woman’s body, she would kill herself (p. 40). At first I thought Woolf might have been sarcastic, but after reading, I understood that she is, in fact, presenting a very logical argument.
Therefore, we comprehend from her words that a woman in Shakespeare’s time in possession of his genius would have had limited chances in life: either get married and forget your gift, which would only be used again in entertaining your children, or run away, pursue your dreams, and eventually kill yourself because you would never be able to retain your sanity because of your very own gift (p. 41).
However, we must pay attention to a very intricate detail in her argument; she is essentially saying that Shakespeare’s genius was not from within, it was rather a result of his education (p. 41).
She then goes on to talk about another reason which could be playing a huge role in this: chastity (p. 42). She explains how chastity, religious or not, and this obsession with women to keep themselves hidden plays a huge role in their not wanting to go out there and grab life by the lapels. And that for a woman to break out of that chastity at those times she would have to possess great courage. She then talks about how female writers who used to publish under male pseudonyms were the very cause of this convention, and of this shame put to women’s names if they were to be publicized (p. 42).
That being said, I believe the argument in the extract from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is that women through their own wrong doings, and through their hopelessness are the cause of their failure and their inability to use their gift like men, rather than it being society’s fault.
The Wife of His Youth
The Wife of His Youth is written by the esteemed author Charles Waddell Chesnutt. Chesnutt was also an essayist, lawyer, and political activist. His political activism can be seen through his stories where he sheds light on issues such as identity and race that his characters struggle with. Chesnutt was also the first African American fiction writer “to be taken seriously in the white press” (p. 458). In The Wife of His Youth, the reader follows the journey of a biracial man who, after straying away from his roots, finally goes back to being who he truly is. Mr. Ryder, the protagonist, is brought back to his reality by the help of Liza Jane, his wife, that the reader realizes he has a mixed attitude towards, throughout the story.
The story begins with an introduction to Mr. Ryder. One can analyze that he is wealthy, since he “was going to give a ball” (p. 465). He was also “the dean of the Blue Veins” (p. 465), which is a community of mostly biracial people or people who acted “more white than black” (p. 466) that came together after the war. By being the dean of such a club, the reader explores Mr. Ryder’s attitude towards the part of him that is black. Additionally, a statement made by Mr. Ryder about being biracial, where he explains “people of mixed blood are ground between the upper and the nether millstone” (p. 467) shows the reader his mentality. Mr. Ryder, one could assume, was ashamed of his black side. He hated being black and wanted nothing more than to be white. This understanding of Mr. Ryder’s mentality helps the reader understand his upcoming attitude towards his wife.
Liza Jane, which the reader soon discovers to be Mr. Ryder’s wife, enters his home in pursuit of finding her lost husband. The narrator describes her as “quite old” (p. 468), “very black” (p. 469), and that “she looked like a bit of the old plantation life, summoned up from the past by the wave of a magicians wand” (p. 469). Furthermore, Liza Jane and Mr. Ryder have a conversation where she asks him about her husband and tells him the story of how they got married. Throughout their conversation, the reader can see that Mr. Ryder does not welcome Liza Jane as his wife immediately, rather he bombards her with statements about her husband such as “he may have married another woman” (p. 470) and “perhaps he’s outgrown you” (p. 470) but nonetheless, he shows her enough care and takes her address in order to help her find her husband. After their encounter, one can see that it left Mr. Ryder thinking, especially when he “stood for a long time before the mirror of his dressing-case, gazing thoughtfully at the reflection of his own face” (p. 471).
The time for the ball has come and Mr. Ryder is giving his speech. The introduction of his speech sheds light on how he feels towards Liza Jane. He states “the quality which most distinguishes woman is her fidelity and devotion to those she loves” (p. 472). Here one can see that Mr. Ryder was taken aback by the amount of love Liza Jane has for her husband. Moreover, the reader realizes that Mr. Ryder, before meeting his wife, had left her behind him and moved on. This leaves Mr. Ryder questioning what he should do, if he should confess that he was the husband Liza Jane was looking for. Finally, Mr. Ryder admits to the audience, and to himself, that Liza Jane is the wife of his youth.
All in all, Mr. Ryder’s attitude towards Liza Jane, his wife, changes drastically from when he first meets her until the ending of the story. At first, he treats her like a stranger, questioning her belief in her husband’s loyalty. During his speech, he appreciates her and her faithfulness but also states that he had moved on from her. Yet in the end, he finally confesses who he truly is and that he is Liza Jane’s husband.
Monday 17, September 2018
A sense of identity develops a sense of presence in this world. Our existence would feel deeply pointless if we did not know who we are and where we are from. Acknowledging who we are is the first step to living. This human right has been deprived from slaves by their white masters. Slave owners raped slaves identities and meaning of existence. Slaves ignorance is something their masters were determined to ensure and keep. Slave owners had multiple ways to remove slaves sense of identity.
Firstly, slaves had no clue of their birthdays and who their parents were, which made them feel clueless and lost. Especially when they observe the white children speaking of their age, which is something slaves do not have. “He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence of a restless spirit,” (p. 1) Secondly, when slaves ask their masters about their ages or personal information, they would reply that such questions are not proper and is evidence of a ‘restless spirit.’ This psychological trick makes slaves believe that they are wrong and perhaps are not believing in god for asking such questions when in fact it is the least human right. This reminds of uncle Tom from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where uncle Tom would turn the other cheek after being slapped because he believed in his religion by which fighting back would be wrong.
This also brings the notion of forcing Christianity upon slaves, making them believe that it is all meant to be and is right, “God cursed Ham, and therefore American slavery is right,” (p. 4). This is another way slave owners made slaves settle in their position, brainwashing them to believe they didn’t need a sense of identity or purpose other than working for them. Fourthly, slave women’s children were separated from each other at a very early age, destroying natural affection and creating a void in slaves making them feel empty and breaking their hearts.
“I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger,” (p. 3) This demonstrates the results of forced detachment. I personally believe, there is nothing stronger than emotions and especially feelings between families. Slave owners separated slaves from their children because they wanted to kill their emotions, the feelings of heartburning anger and vanquish. This works for their benefit because just like when Douglas’ mother died, instead of going mad, he simply felt nothing.
Slave owners not only took slave’s sense of identity, they also took their emotions and heart. It is like they are not their own person even within, their hearts and minds were also enslaved. The first chapter truly broke my heart because simply imagining being somewhere where people were tortured and their bloods spilled over their faces and clothes and on to the floor and not knowing Why? Not knowing what you could have done wrong to be in that position, not knowing how to feel, who you are, and who’s your mother? It’s heartbreaking and no one ever deserves to go through the unbearable pain of no self identity.
12 December 2018
The Woman Thing
“Coal” is a well-known poem by an American writer, Audre Lorde. There are three stanzas in the poem. The poem itself does not rhyme but the writer uses expressive words to explain her feelings. First of all, the title “Coal” symbolizes the black color of African Americans. In this poem, Lorde explains how she faces racism and sexism in her society. The speaker says, “I, is the total black, being spoken from the earth’s inside” (Line. 1). In other words, she tells the reader that black people must have their right to say their opinion in public. I believe that human beings should be treated equally because skin color cannot measure the creativity of someone. The speaker starts the poem with “I”, and this means she used to be ignored by society, which put her in a really hard situation. There is imagery in “being spoken from the earth’s inside” (Line. 2); she creates a picture of her weakness so the reader can imagine her. Black people must listen to what other people say and be obedient and silent even if they have something to say.
As I continue reading the poem, she says, “there are many kinds of open” (Line. 3) In other words, no one can be in a high position without some struggles and difficulties. Also she means it does not matter how someone begins because people observe what she ends up as. In my opinion, the third line is vague because it has several meanings. It could be how she starts her life and she used to be passion, quiet and quite. Also, it could be that she can change her life and take her own decision instead of following others blindly. Then, she says, “How a diamond comes into a knot of flame” (Line. 4). Here the speaker explains how she transforms an ugly coal into a beautiful bright diamond. There is a motivation and hope in this line. She gives the reader a graphic idea about herself. For example, the “Coal” personifies herself when she was a slave. Then, it changes into a “Diamond” which is a very different because coal is weak but diamond is one of the strongest stones. The theme of the poem is self-love. The tone in “Coal” is strong and pride.