This was my first time reading A Room of One’s Own in its entirety – we read Shakespeare’s Sister in Literary Criticism last semester and I remember how amazed I was at what I was reading for some reason. At that time, the only work of Woolf’s I had read was Mrs. Dalloway and I think I found I liked her essay more than the novel, which I still think is the case now. What I found particularly interesting upon reading the whole of this speech/essay are the last parts in which Woolf looks out the window and begins to wonder about the unity, the harmony of the male and the female – the notion of the androgynous mind (as she quotes from Coleridge), examples of which she finds in Jane Austen and Shakespeare. As I read this, I began to wonder whether this notion of the androgynous mind, the perfect, impersonal mind of the ideal writer, was a notion relative to the time during which Woolf lived. Did she dream of this notion as ideal, because of the circumstances women suffered at this particular time, namely, the worry of patriarchy about the increasing demands of women and about the violence of the English feminists? Is it possible that now, in the 21st century, this mind should be sexless altogether, as opposed to the combination of male and female? Which again poses the question of whether the ideal writer is a product of his/her times and circumstances – a relative term? Would Woolf think this same way had she been living in today’s society?
That aside, I started to wonder whether this union of male and female, the androgynous mind, could somehow be exemplified in The Waves? Woolf herself said that she did not write any characters in this novel. We did talk about the possibility of this particular novel being about the many sides of one’s personality. After one class we also talked about the impossibility to pin one person down with just one character of this particular novel – I, for one, probably have some parts of all three: Jinny, Susan and Rhoda. The fact that all three are so specifically distinct, almost too distinct, could also point to this. What I found particularly interesting was that all three men share the drive to write in some way – does that mean that writing is primarily a male activity? The women in the novel, aside from perhaps Rhoda, who has no face, which almost negates her own body, somehow relate to their sexuality, their gender, their bodies, in one way or another – Susan through her traditional, natural tendencies and Jinny with her sensual, flirtatious self. Could the combination of all six consciousnesses from the novel create the one, androgynous mind Woolf muses on in A Room of One’s Own? Does the fact that the unanimity, unity, harmony between these six characters is temporary and dissolves eventually, except in the face of death, does any of this has to anything to do with Woolf’s interest in the continuity of the self, the will of continuity, disrupted by the event of death? The symmetry of the characters – three female and three male could also point to this notion of three different parts of both the female and the male counterparts of the androgynous mind. The fact that Waves came after Room could also point to the fact that Woolf was thinking about this notion and decided to carry it out in the form of a novel.