Feminism is a concept which entails defining, establishing and fighting for gender equality in political, economic and social platforms. Feminism believes that men are an integral part of the movement for gender equality. They believe that for women to gain equality, men should be liberated from their old school of thought in terms of superiority complex. Feminists are feminine activists who belief and follow the principles of feminism.
Virginia Woolf’s novel “ToThe Lighthouse” explores feminism’s challenge. The text in the novel is purely feminine although the author does not actually use the term feminism. The novel shows the treatment of women and the relationship between men and women in terms of their social standing. The main women characters in this novel are Lily Briscoe and Mrs. Ramsay. In her own monologue, Mrs. Ramsay believes that women are there to serve others and bring harmony among people. She also believes that the role of women is to protect and care for men. In this novel, the question of the woman’s position in the society is given emphasis. Mrs. Ramsay in the narrative is the angel of the house while the Woolf’s ideal woman is Lily. The death of Mrs. Ramsay is symbolic to the death of the angel of the house. The angel of the house is depicted in terms of the feminine delicateness. In the text, Woolf passively puts a sense of romance in the character of Mrs. Ramsay.
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The theme of modernism comes out clearly in the novel. The characters like Mrs. Ramsay depict a modern school of thought. They show Victorian ideologies and the question of existence of a supreme God crops up in the narrative. In this Woolf’s narrative, there is the believe of nature, human transience, eternity and an omnipresent force that is going to consume humanity.
In the essay, a "Women and Fiction", Woolf shares her thoughts about the issues of women and fiction. She explores the question whether women can produce an excellent piece of work, just like Shakespeare did. In this essay, Woolf explores women and the fiction they write; what is written about them, and the way women are portrayed in the fiction. Woolf has an idea that women must be independent for their choice to write. A woman must have some money and her own room to write at.
She says, that women were not able to write as creative as Shakespeare did because of the patriarchal nature of the society that could not allow a woman to creatively express herself or gain the access to education. Only women from the rich backgrounds could have the access to education and money making opportunities.
Woolf examines the limitations that prevented women from producing a piece of writing similar to that of William Shakespeare’s using a fictional character as Judith Shakespeare, the sister of Shakespeare. Woolf illustrates how Judith Shakespeare was prevented from utilizing her capabilities and gifts because the society had closed all the doors to women. Judith Shakespeare’s father couldn’t allow her to attend school because she was a woman, unlike the case with her brother. .Judith Shakespeare’s father could not understand the importance of sending his daughter to school even when she showed the interest in learning. After a while, Judith got betrothed and when she refused to get married to groom, she was beaten and shamed by her family. Eventually, Judith killed herself but Shakespeare lived on to fulfill her dream.
Woolf uses Judith Shakespeare as an example of the way the society denies for women the chance for education and achieving some great things in life because of the patriarchal nature of the society. The way society denies for women the chance for advancing in their lives economically and intellectually contributes to the poor status of women in this society. Woolf portrays the modernity in Women and Fiction by fighting for the liberalization of women and equality for the rights of them to advance their lives not just in education but also in other spheres of their lives.
Modernity stands for the female empowerment through elimination of all the barriers that prevent women from attaining their full potential in life the society places on their ways. The modern woman is fighting for becoming more financially independent, and Woolf manages to portray the modernity in this piece of fiction. In the piece of writing the ToThe Lighthouse, Woolf also portrays the modernity through examining flaws of some writers, such as: Arnold Bennett, Wells H., and John Galsworthy.
Woolf has the view that the narrow focus on materialism and the low regard for spiritual matters and realism makes their piece of writings lack the literary sense and, therefore, not good candidates are classified as the pieces of modern fiction. Woolf also makes the reader consider the possibilities beyond this material world by focusing on matters spiritually, by urging readers to examine their lives daily for the moment through an ordinary mind since the mind receives a variety of expressions.
Woolf also manages to portray the modernity by her changed perceptions on what the marriage bed symbolizes. Woolf believes that the marriage bed is no longer a symbol of fertility since the marriage bed is no longer something that enhances the status of woman due to the fact that women are judged nowadays by how learned or economically empowered they are.
Woolf also uses the theme of connecting reality with the spiritual realm in an attempt to explain her theme of modernity in the modern fiction. For the fiction to be worth reading, it must also explore the matter being above the material world. Woolf places spirituality and realism as some of the factors making a piece of literature worth reading. Woolf asserts the fact that modern fiction must be concerned with the reality of life and spirituality. Modern fiction is, therefore, a piece of writing that signifies the modernity in some literature forms because it incorporates the aspects of reality and spirituality.
The story in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love is developed from a story of two pairs who are in love. Ursula falls in love with Birkin while Gudrun was in love with Gerald. This builds the theme of the story. Women in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love are just like the women described by Woolf in her two pieces of writing, the ToThe Lighthouse and the Women and Fiction. Woolf has the view that values of a woman in her life and in art are always different from those of men’s. Woolf believes that a woman perpetuates the course of altering the established values making trivial what is being important to men, while making serious what appears significant to males. This is what makes women to be criticized for there is always a notion that aims at being hostile concerning the idea of altering the established values in life on the opposite sex. Any view contrary to the agreed opinion is treated as either trivial or sentimental because it differs from those of others’.
The modern woman in Woolf’s pieces of writing Modern Fiction and in Women and Fiction is also portrayed like being too independent of anyone’s opinion and having her own sense of values. The modern woman in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love is very real and aware of herself .Women, in Women in Love, are expressing themselves in their relationships just like the today’s modern woman.
The woman portrayed in Woolf pieces of writings comes on the stage as courageous and independent, both socially and financially, as well as a responsible money earner. Women in Woolf’s pieces of writing enter into relationships and are more assertive in their relationships, just like the modern woman is. The novel also doesn’t condone the old style of the woman being condemned to see things through the eyes and the interests of men.
This is very true in modern times that the course has changed and now the modern woman has to act independently herself and not necessarily to be a person who must see her actions through the actions of men. The modern woman does not only take leading in relationships but also acts herself in other spheres of life like politics and careers.
The woman in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love conforms to Woolf’s manifesto of modernism because the women in Lawrence’s novel are also portrayed as liberal and undergoing the sexual revolution. Lawrence’s novel has also such women in the love focus with the social and cultural radicalism in the society. The novel presents the clash of the liberal ideology and conservatism that made women more liberal and independent.
Woolf would, of course, condone some qualities of women in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love as well as disapprove some of the qualities of women in the novel. Woolf fights for the empowerment of women for the greater access to education and opportunities in life. Women represented in Woolf’s novel of modern fiction are independent and strive to achieve the financial independence.
However, Woolf can oppose to the sexual attitudes of women in Women in Love because women are undergoing the sexual revolution portrayed in the novel Women in Love. This novelcenters on the courtships of two women with their men; this depicts the strong connection between the two sisters and the close friendship between the two men, both relationships heading in the opposite directions. All the four main characters in Women in Love are concerned about politics, social issues, and their relationships with men. The sexual revolution portrayed in Women in Love can be opposed by Woolf.
The form of modernity portrayed in Woolf’s modern fiction and women in fiction are somehow similar to the form of modernity in Lawrence’s novel Women in Love. Both novels present the society in transition of both under the influences of liberalism. Woolf’s portrayal of modernism in modern fiction presents the society fighting with ideals of liberalizing and empowering women in the society to achieve their goals and the need of maintaining the status quo of making sure that women remain behind in the society Lawrence’s novel that portrays the society struggling with liberalism but more concerned with sexual liberalism occurring here.