Social Inequality and Money

Throughout the first chapter of Virginia Woolf’s novel, we can clearly see the prevalence of social inequality. In early 20th Century Europe, Men were afforded many more privileges than women. This can be seen many times throughout chapter one. First the narrator is told by a Beadle, that she cannot be relaxing on the grass. This is only allowed for university scholars who were all men. Additionally, the narrator is not allowed to enter the university library without being accompanied by a man. This inequality is paired with the concept of hampering women’s creativity in writing fiction. As they are constantly told by men what to do. Later in the chapter, the narrator mentions Mary Seton, and how learning “the great art of making money” (Woolf 21), could have allowed them to live a much more comfortable life. Money would emulate the lifestyle of Oxbridge University, the school only for males. Additionally, money is required for physical infrastructure, and it is mentioned that women require “a room of one’s own” (Woolf 5) for creativity. Is money the ultimate equalizer in a world of social stratification?

One Reply to “Social Inequality and Money”

  1. In the first section of Woolf’s essay, it is obvious that wealth and power play a significant role in the social inequity between men and women. Something that is partially related that I found extremely interesting is Woolf’s take on how a 16th century woman would drive herself crazy with her own genius because she had no social standing or money to facilitate her work. Another similarity I found was in Woolf’s description of how women make money to further support the ideas and prosperity of men; eliminating the incentive for women to progress societally. Overall, money creates a power dynamic not only between the rich and the poor, but between men and women as Woolf lays out in her essay. By describing women as poor, not only does she mean monetarily, but also in social standing based on the resources that women are allotted by the men who withhold them. Though I don’t think money is the pinnacle in terms of social stratification, I do believe when paired with the right power dynamic and incentives, it deepens the divide within an already skewed social system.

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