A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN
The use of the window as symbol for lesbian sexual desire is a theme I have recently developed in my study of Katherine Mansfield. I have been especially vigilant for the "window" in A Room of One's Own and was not disappointed. Initially the idea of windows came to mind when imagining a room. Woolf does not suggest having a house of one's own, but a single room. This could be because women were rarely in possession of their own real estate in these days, but it could also be because in a room all the focus is contained within a small area. All the passion is trapped within a limited amount of space, just as a woman's homosexual desire would have been limited at this time. Also, when imaging a room (and in my experience) the room Woolf describes is likely a smaller room, with one door - perhaps a bedroom or an office. This room is certainly not a main thoroughfare in the house like the living room or the dining room where the woman's writing would be disturbed. In my experience, smaller rooms usually have a single window. To me this single window symbolizes the same repressed and singularly focused energy that the room does.
In Susan Gubar's introduction she describes the "solitary female figure gazing out a window or working at a desk, or simply an interior of window giving out to a view of the sky" (XLIX) This imagery alone might be overlooked except for it's TWO references to windows within the same sentence. The woman looks out the window to get a view of the world - she has no choice. Her only option for a view would be this singular window. (Reminding me of the book A Room With a View!) Just as woman has no option but to look from this one window, so woman has no option but to be a woman and to write from a woman’s perspective. She can only look through the window of her femininity - it is her only option. In her introduction Gubar also describes a "window into Woolf's own struggles as a writer" (XL). An interesting choice of symbols considering the subject matter.
Woolf herself is very cautious of windows in A Room of One's Own. Her description of how "purples and golds burn in window-panes like the beat of an excitable heart" (16) really personifies windows for the reader as a way to see the soul. Windows are mentioned again and again in A Room of One's Own, making their significance difficult to dismiss.
In her essay "Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own" Jane Marcus notes the "conspiracy" which Woolf seemed to have with those who attended her "girl talk" lectures. She says "literary women gathered in a room together to discuss writing are, at least symbolically, Lesbians, and the law is the enemy" (166). Over all, the theme of the room and the window prevails over even the lectures of Virginia Woolf. She and her "Lesbians" are closed off from the world in their room full of women, with only one window to look out upon the outside world. She has constructed a very closed society for herself as a woman, with the window being the focal point - the only point which let's in light.
I couldn't help but connect with Woolf while reading this book. She has drawn me in as a woman. I have no choice but to identify with her.