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Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf
Transcript of Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf
Shift in Tone
Throughout the passage, the tone evolves and shifts as Woolf assumes a specific persona, and then develops a description of the overall tone.
The overall tone is both
passionate yet analytical
reflective but forceful.
Afra, Sydney, Katie, Chloe, Haley, Ariel, Zakyah
"Professions for Women" by Virginia Woolf
Overview of "Professions for Women"
Virginia Woolf is addressing a group of women seeking employment in a workforce predominated by men. She speaks of the struggle present for all women writers, and that is to break out of the conventions society has for women- being pure, conservative, and sycophantic towards men without a mind of their own. This is a mental barrier that she was able to break, with great difficulty, in order to incorporate her own voice into her writing. She was able to do so thanks to her financial independence, which allowed her to not depend on writing for a livelihood and allowed her to break conventions. Now that women will join the workforce, Woolf says that it is important to ask questions regarding what all of this implies, and how women are to behave once they are professionals, and to explore the individual voice that women will need to bring to their jobs.
Examples of Anaphora
In paragraph 3, "She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily."
In the three short simple sentences, the author lists three important qualities of a Victorian woman. Short as they are, all the three sentences are effective and powerful. The adverbs in the first three sentences, each emphasize the wholeheartedness of the trait; for example, not just “charming” but “immensely charming.”
Examples of Anecdote
Paragraph 2, "But to tell you my story - it is a simple one..."
By painting a portrait of her younger self; she invites her audience to think of their younger, and perhaps more idealistic selves. Describing herself in the third person makes it easier for the audience to imagine themselves in her place. The anecdote above appeals to ethos, establishing Woolf's credibility. It gives her an opportunity to create a trusting relationship with her readers.
Examples of Antithesis
In paragraph 6, "Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for a woman rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different; she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome."
More Rhetorical Strategies
Examples of Irony
In paragraph 1, "The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded as writers before they have succeeded in other professions."
This sentence has a sarcastic tone. The implied meaning is that in the patriarchal society women have been forced into a lower financial status than men.
In paragraph 5, "For it is a very strange thing that people will give you a motor car if you will them a story."
Examples of Personification
In paragraph 5, "Her imagination could no longer work."
In paragraph 5, "The imagination had dashed itself against something hard."
Examples of Understatement
In paragraph 1, "It is true, I am a woman."
The audience understands that Virginia Woolf is female, but its purpose is to describe everyday situations that she faces.
Woolf’s use of detail gives off an understatement when viewing her own accomplishments. She said her profession was literature, but that the “road was cut many years ago” making her “path smooth, and regulating [her] steps,” which helped her career build. In doing so she created a sense of serenity among humble women too tentative to start a profession.
Furnishing the Room...
In paragraph 7, "You have won rooms of your own in the house hitherto exclusively owned by men...But this freedom is only a beginning; the room is your own, but it is still bare. It has to be furnished; it has to be decorated."
Woolf extends her metaphor of “a Room of One’s Own” by pointing out that at this stage, women have the means to secure their own rooms and pay the rent, but those rooms remain “bare.” Now it is time to determine how the rooms should be “furnished,” “decorated,” and—most important— “With whom are you going to share [them], and upon what terms?” through fighting against the Angel in the House, through great labor and effort, some women have gained a position or certain freedom in a society which has been up to now dominated by men.
"Angel of the House"
One of the main motifs in the speech is that of the Angel in the House. The Angel in the House symbolizes the suppression of women and their perpetual oppression by men. The angel comes to life in Woolf's speech, as she describes, "she slipped behind me and whispered: 'My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. 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 symbolically kills the Angel in the House and tells her audience that all women must take responsibility for killing her too. "Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing." Saying this empowers her audience, and Woolf achieves one of her foremost goals of the speech in informing women that they have the power to extricate themselves from patriarchy. Men are not going to consider women as human beings until women are willing to fearlessly assert themselves.
In "Professions for Women," there is a Victorian image of an ideal woman who is devoted and submissive to her husband. She was passive, powerless, sympathetic, self-sacrificing, and pure. Women during this time were measured in beauty, not knowledge. They were only a means of social strata, not intellect.
Virginia Woolf’s extroverted dignity shows she is considered a role model for many. Woolf’s extroverted dignity reveals that while women of her time did not question the authority of society, she did. She inspired many women to think beyond their imagination into deeper depths, to not let man’s judgment taint their thoughts. In doing so, she hopes to have cracked the glass ceiling that holds women from their natural rights.
The Angel in the House
Furnishing the Room
From parallelism to anaphora, and simple to complex sentences, the author uses a wide variety of syntax. Throughout the opening paragraph, Woolf displays a use of parallelism. She frequently uses language parallels such as: ""It is true I am a woman; it is true I am employed." As her speech continues, Woolf includes the use of short, simple sentences to describe the “Angel in the House.” She does this to mirror women as being simplistic, rather than thinking broad, complex thoughts. To conclude her speech, Woolf uses anaphora. By repeating the word “you,” she puts weight on the women in her audience. She indicates that only they can make change for themselves, that they can only one day find equality with men, and they they can only be the ones “to decide for [themselves] what the answers should be.”
Example of Metonymy
(1) "scratching of a pen": Refers to the sound made by an old fashioned ink pen when it moves on paper.
(2) "No demand was made upon the family purse.": There was no need for a writer to spend much of the family money in order to write.
Woolf draws an analogy between the girl with pen in hand to “a fisherman lying sunk in dreams on the verge of a deep lake with a rod held out over the water.” What’s important is the dreams, not the rod (or pen) of her unconscious (the lake). “And then there was a smash”: the imagination had hit the hard rock of sexism, hindering any further production This analogy between the girl and the fisherman gives Woolf the opportunity to paint a vivid picture for readers.
About Virginia Woolf
Virginia Adeline Woolf (1882 - 1941) was an English novelist and essayist, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.
She was one of the leaders in the literary movement of modernism.