In Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the author argues that a woman needs money and a room of her own to have freedom to create. Woolf uses a variety of symbols throughout her essay that have literal meaning but also convey an underlying meaning to reinforce her idea that women are and have always been excluded from the creative, intellectual and political history and life of England. She uses a grassy path, books and a room with a lock as symbols of women’s inequality and subjugation. Her use of symbols is carefully constructed to show how women’s freedom and creativity has been suppressed as part of society’s natural order without thought or challenge.
Woolf puts her narrator on a grassy path from which she is banished because the gravel path is delineated for women, while the grassy path is set-aside for men. The grassy path represents nature as in the natural order of life. Grass grows naturally like thoughts, ideas and creativity and she argues that society sees this as meant for men. Unlike grass, gravel is man-made, much like the obstacles society puts up to impede women’s creative process and progress. As she is walking on the grass, a beadle gestures to her to move from the path and she begins to think, “He was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me” (6). In addition, grass is easier to walk on than gravel because it is softer. Gravel is harder and the pebbles can cause people to slip and fall. If a man falls on grass, he can pick himself up from a soft landing. If a woman falls on the gravel, she will endure cuts and bruises, symbolic of the cuts and bruises that society inflicts on her.
In a subsequent chapter, Woolf shows her narrator searching through books for evidence of women’s place in British history and creative life and she finds nothing. Books are usually thought of as symbols of knowledge, intellectual life and...