Introduction: Victorian Women, Hearth, Home and Other Irrelevant Things
The world has been ruled by men for quite an impressive amount of time – as a matter of fact, it was only in the early XX century when a woman was finally recognized by most of the men’s population a three feet of a person; therefore, the idea of the role which a woman was supposed to perform was quite humble. Mostly because of the peculiarities which her social functions presupposed, a woman was to be a role model and the “angel” who took care of the house and relied completely on the man who protected her from the evil of the outside world.
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That is why, when women for the first time finally started taking the jobs which were considered as the prerogative of men, they had to face a number of difficulties in their workplace. The ideal feminine role, according to Wolfe, was a woman devoting herself to the household chores and completely unwilling to participate in any sort of social activities, which created a great obstacle for women’s further personal and professional development.
Maintaining the Family Harmony: The Goddess of Heart and Home
To start with, a Victorian woman as Wolfe portrays her was supposed to be literally the Angel of the house, to be more precise, the guardian angel, keeping the cozy atmosphere and making sure that all the members of the family live in peace. As Wolfe explains, she resorted to writing as her first step towards her personal independence mainly because it was the least disturbing way to start the feminist revolution – and by far the easiest one:
The family peace was not broken by the scratching of a pen. No demand was made upon the family purse. For ten and sixpence one can buy paper enough to write all the plays of Shakespeare–if one has a mind that way. (Wolfe 1)
Making a woman highly dependable on the family life, the title of the keeper of the hearth was not easy to get rid of. On the one hand, the title presupposed a considerable amount of=responsibility; on the other hand, the given responsibility concerned strictly the household issues, while the rest of the fields where a woman could use her intelligence and skills were closed tight. Pointing out the absurdity of this policy, Wolfe blazed the trail for women’s development and independence.
Charming in Her Unselfishness: Altruism at Its Extreme
The second asset of a Victorian woman as the society wanted her to be, complete unselfishness was another stumbling block on the way to independence. Indeed, a Victorian Angel was supposed to care the least about herself: “She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish.”
Thus, the Victorian epoch made a woman forget about her personal development and contribute to what is best for society. The issue is quite controversial, since being egotistic was not a solution for the problem, yet giving everything to the others and not demanding anything in return was a wrong thing to do either, for it shaped the idea of a woman as a weak-willed and undetermined human being.
Purity as the Greatest Asset: The Saving Grace of Virtue
The idea of women’s purity in Victorian epoch deserves an honorable mentioning. As Wolfe explains, being absolutely innocent and pure was the element without which a woman could not be accepted into the Victorian society and was doomed to live the life of a social outcast, shunned for her freedom of thinking.
As Wolfe pouts it, “Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty – her blushes, her great grace” (Wolfe 1). It is necessary to admit that the whole idea of purity is not that bad; it is just that, driven to its complete extreme, it makes people lose the remnants of humanity and shun the women who make the slightest step towards becoming liberated. Although it is clear that the borderline between purity and depravity must be drawn, the details of people’s personal life must not be made public.
Conclusion: When the Victorian Image Has Worn out Its Welcome
Therefore, it is obvious that a Victorian woman was not allowed to do anything that was valued as more significant than charity. Being the second fiddle in her home-made symphony, a Victorian woman, According to Virginia Wolfe, was a damsel, a pretty face that could substitute for a home decoration.
Being one of the first people to raise their voice against the deplorable state which women were trapped in, Virginia Wolfe made a breakthrough in the world culture. Indeed, despite the fact that women have had relatively little time to establish something grand and make their contribution to the society development, a lot has been made. And Virginia Wolfe is one of those people whom the honor for making it possible goes to.
Wolfe, Virginia. Professions for Women. 1931. PDF file.