One of the most influential writers of the 20th century was Virginia Woolf, a modernist writer and a pioneer in the narrative device of stream of consciousness.
It’s no surprise that Woolf was much appreciated by the feminist critics of the 1970’s. She is now considered to be a feminist. Her novels often reflected her opinions or thoughts on the society back then and the role a woman played in that society. This was during a time when women were very restricted and did not have the same privileges as men did. Even before other women began to recognize that they should have the right to vote, Virginia Woolf had already been questioning the position of women in a male dominated world.
Woolf would write essays, books and deliver lectures on the disempowerment of women that has occurred in spaces like education, finance and other social spheres since ancient times. Her most popular piece of feminist work is A Room of One’s Own. It is an essay-book on women writing fiction. Writing was also a male dominated space but the essay discussed how women should be more empowered in this field. It was in this essay that her famous quote “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”, was written. She believed that women failed in this field due to the lack of resources and opportunities that were predominantly offered to men.
Most of Woolf’s writing involves feminist inclinations and stringent gender roles that depict the norms of the patriarchy in the Victorian Society. To the Light House is another such book whose style of writing – stream of consciousness, helps the audience get into the mind of characters and experience what it feels like to be a man or a woman. By examining the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, both sexes experience the rigidity of the gender roles that they have to conform to because it was mandatory of the Victorian society to do so.
Mrs. Ramsay, plays the typical housewife whose sole purpose in life is to look after her children and her household, always in the shadow of her well-educated, sole bread-winner husband. Mrs Ramsay’s voice and choices were silenced by her husband. Most of the decisions that were made dictated by the man of the house and Mrs. Ramsay’s were decided by someone else. Mr. Ramsay, on the other hand, who may not experience the same pressures as a woman but is always expected to be a manly man at all times. He is always under the pressure of trying to live up to the expectations of society and also of his family.
The feminist movement was set in motion during the later part of the 19th century, the first wave of the feminist movement. This was characterized by efforts to change the legal inequalities that had women at the disadvantage. The second wave of feminism was characterized by an attack on the existing cultural inequalities, gender norms and the role of women in the society. This was during the 1960’s – 1970’s but Virginia Woolf had already started deliberations on the same way back in the 1920’s which is why she is considered to be an avant-garde writer of her time.