Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Mrs. Ramsay and A Room of One’s Own

As I was reading A Room of One’s Own, I was wondering how it would look like if each of Woolf’s female characters had a room of their own. Rachel Vinrace still would have probably killed herself, consumed with the books that she inhaled every day. Mrs. Dalloway would have probably used her room to plan parties, perhaps write letters to her loved ones. When I came upon Mrs. Ramsay, instead of imagining what she would have done with her room, I began to think why she could not have a room of her own. In the book, she is constantly under pressure trying to raise her children, being a gracious host, and appeasing her husband, Mr. Ramsay. You cannot feel that bad for Mrs. Ramsay, however, because she believes that men deserve her protection. Woolf writes:

“Indeed she had the whole of the other sex under her protection; for reasons she could not explain, for their chivalry and valour, for the fact that they negotiated treaties, ruled India, controlled finance; finally for an attitude towards herself which no woman could fail to feel or to find agreeable, something trustful, childlike, reverential; which an old woman could take from a young man without loss of dignity, and woe betide the girl—pray Heaven it was none of her daughters!—who did not feel the worth of it, and all that it implied, to the marrow of her bones” (Part 1. Chapter 1. Paragraph 7). 

Mrs. Ramsay believes that men deserve her protection because they rule the world and because of their attitude towards women. Her thoughts are translated in the way she serves men. In most of the interactions that Mrs. Ramsay has with men, she aims to bolster their sense of self. This can be seen with Paul Rayley, Charles Tansley, and with Mr. Ramsay throughout the novel.  When I was reading A Room of One’s Own and fell upon the section that described the function of the mirror, I instantly thought of Mrs. Ramsay. She serves men the way the looking glass in A Room of One’s Ownpossess[es] the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size" (Woolf 35). Mrs. Ramsay makes men feel twice their size because she belittles her own abilities to reaffirm to men like Mr. Ramsay that they are of importance. Though Mrs. Ramsay is performing her societal duty, is it not at her own expense?

I do not know what Mrs. Ramsay would do with her own room. I just hope that there would be a used desk with books, word filled pages, and a warm chair with a permanent dent of where she sits –not the unused desk with the cold wooden chair that I keep imagining in my head.  

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