“But Virginia Woolf wanted us to take a closer look than this at masculine power and control; to analyse with greater precision some tacit manifestations of sexual polarization and to examine their effects on young women in England in 1880. So we are moved into the Pargiter drawing room to find healthy young women sighing in boredom, peeping out of windows at unknown young men, fussing with tea kettles, sexually frustrated, and helplessly caged. But why? Why are these healthy young women not out free to explore, free to engage in some important work, free to earn their own livings and enjoy independence? Virginia Woolf’s answer is simple: the privilege of a university education was denied them; ad without that education, the professions were closed to them; and without a profession, there was no opportunity whereby a healthy young woman might earn her living and have the money and thus the independence to make choices, express vigorous opinions, contribute in significant ways to the society in which she presently found herself trapped. The only choice open to girls of the Pargiter social class—where well-to-do fathers looked after their material needs—was to become models of virtue; to repress any attraction to members of the opposite sex, until the day when a man slipped “a wedding ring on her finger, to canalize all her passion, for the rest of their married lives, solely upon him.” But sexual repression to this degree, Virginia Woolf wishes us to see, runs counter to the flow of nature, causes rivalry among sisters over an available male, forces them to conceal from one another thoughts which ought to be communicated, makes them lie, affects them mentally through onslaughts of guilt, and in the end creates such distortions in their human development as to make their behaviour as unnatural as their lives are manacled.”
From the Introduction by Mitchell Leaska to The Pargiters by Virginia Woolf–
We will be exploring this collection of essays on the construction of The Years– revealing Virginia Woolf as craftswoman, feminist and activist….