Virginia Woolf was grown in a patriarchal society, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, when gender oppression was at its full bloom. Virginia was oppressed and treated badly rather roughly by society and she reacted equally to it. She expresses that to be a writer is risky and full of perils as she implies, “The obstacles against her are still immensely powerful..and yet they are very difficult to define.” The question arises in her mind that what is simpler than writing a book yet, “she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome.” And to talk of other professions, these are not free of dangers. Though the road to select a profession as a lawyer, doctor or civil engineer is smoother than before but there are “many phantoms and obstacles” to hinder the way to acceptance and success.
In an exclusive style of her own, Woolf extends her ideas saying that ” My profession is literature” but if literature and writing are prone to such obstacles then what is the value of other professions. Woolf is deeply concerned about writing where the writer cannot sit down “to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against” even when writing is considered as “the freest of all professions for women,” then how the women would enter in the new profession which was yet to explore. At that time, most of the women writers used to write under male pen names. And if a woman had to write the review of a novel or book by any man, the Angel of House had whispered in her ears, ” Be sympathetic, be tender; flatter: deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. above all, be pure.” Woolf instead of listening to this vice killed The angel of the House as “Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing.” The truths about morality, relations, and sex should be dealt with in the way the writer wants to be rather than according to the norms of society.
Commenting on writing as a profession, Woolf puts forth the argument that “Writing was a reputable and harmless occupation” which was not disturbing family’s peace and cheap writing paper also supported them and uplifted them financially. These were the reasons that the women “succeeded as writers” before they decided on other professions.
Woolf being a female writer faced and encountered male writers during her professional career. She felt that the path of writing was more difficult and bumpy than a man when she expressed in the essay, “Outwardly, what obstacles are there for a woman rather than for a man?” Men could overpower the world, could handle the situation in a very different way than it was allowed to be done by women. Even when her way was seeming smoother in seeking her profession as a doctor or lawyer yet there were “many phantoms and obstacles” entangling her feet and stopping her from moving freely. Virginia Woolf is of the view that these obstacles and problems should be discussed and solved. The “ends and aims” to tackle these obstacles were the necessary part that must be recognized. Furthermore, these aims could not be taken for granted, they must be thoroughly and equally questioned, reviewed, and answered.
The last lines show a better relationship strengthening day by day when the women had “won a place in the house which was hitherto exclusively owned by men”. While thriving as writers and in other professions, women became mentally and financially strong. Still “this freedom is only a beginning” when the room is one’s own “yet it is still bare” which needs to be “decorated” and “furnished” and “shared.” The question that arose were that how to furnish and decorate and upon what terms it was shared. “These, I think, are questions of utmost importance and interest.” Woolf, most frankly, would have discussed and answered these questions but her time was up and she “must cease.”
In today’s scenario, the women are at an equal pace with the men both professionally and mentally. Both are playing their part profitably and successfully. Society is accepting the women playing their role in strengthening society. If Virginia were alive today, she would not have committed suicide.