The Breaking Point: Woolf’s Views On Stael

1490 words - 6 pages

No person is capable of perfectly articulating Virginia Woolf’s opinions on certain matters. However, through the observation of her works one might be able to gather her thoughts and form a more accurate description of her ideals. A Room of One’s Own contains Woolf’s ideals dealing with women in the arts, especially those associated with liberal arts. In this piece Woolf always describes a lack of strong women writers for her research but does name a few she deems worthy. It seems odd that Woolf would overlook Germaine de Stael while researching women with literary talent. The reasons for why Stael was disregarded could range from a language barrier at the time, Stael’s ideals on how a woman should behave within society, political propaganda, or Stael’s works might have simply gone unnoticed at the time. If Woolf had read Stael’s, On Women Writers, surely she would have mentioned it somewhere in her novel. Why would it be required that Woolf write about Stael? To simply answer this question, Stael was an intelligent woman in her time and many of Woolf’s main arguments coincide with Stael’s. Gender Inequality is one of these major themes where Stael shares similar views. They would both agree that this inequality feeds the other motifs described in their own works, such as: the individuality of truth, the importance of monetary means, or the hatred and ridicule that society directs at women writers. Woolf might not have agreed with all of Stael’s beliefs, but she would find Stael’s views on gender inequality and the causes of these inequalities to contain the essential oil of truth she was desperately searching for.
Gender Inequality was what Woolf emphasized as the major downfall of women writers and Stael shared those views on this subject. “The existence of women in society is still uncertain in many ways. A desire to please excites their minds; reason recommends obscurity; and their triumphs and failures are equally and completely arbitrary” (Stael 55). Stael states that this obscurity of women’s place in society is the reason for their lack of support. Are women meant to be something more than just a domestic item? Regardless of her outcome, if a woman is to succeed or fail as a distinguished figure she will receive no support. One of Woolf’s main arguments against this inequality thrives on this statement. It’s because of the repetition of inequality over time that women have created insignificant literary works compared to men. To prove this point Woolf points to her imaginative example of Shakespeare’s sister. “But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers” (Woolf 47). In this example Woolf has shown that women are never given the...

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