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The constraints of the internal quest

The masculine dismissal of a women's quest

A quest is a tale that celebrates how one can cleverly and resolutely rise

superior to all opposition. Yet as fresh prospectives on history now suggest, in this

search for freedom and order, the masculine craving for adventure, demanded

restrictions upon women, forcing her into deeper confinement, even within her

limited province. Thus the rights of a man are separated by the expectancies of a

woman. Each subsequent story deals with a search for truth that is hidden by the

facades of social convention. This search is often hampered by the conventions

that are part of the outside and inside domain. For a female's quest is best

displayed in the sphere of domestic life, which drastically diminishes her diversity of

action, compared to men who are expected to live public, successful lives.

The Homeric journey for males is a physical adventure in the external world.

Odysseus is a man who pursues his objective against all opposition. He absolutely

refuses to give in, whatever happens to him en route for home. Constantly, he

reinforces the principle that will guide him throughout his struggles:

"For if some god batters me far

out on the wine-blue water, I will endure it,

keeping a stubborn spirit inside of me,

for already I have suffered much and

done much hard work..." (The Odyssey 9. 12-16)

So the hero of The Odyssey displays the manifold ability to overcome beings of all

kinds, one after the other. Always he comes to fore as the master, and by his

extraordinary greatness, leaves all others behind him. From Odysseus, the readers

can learn to conquer life. But there is an issue of uncertainty within the Greek-value

system, for it places far greater emphasis upon successful performances in the

external world than of inner consciousness of right and wrong. The outside domain

thrusts the hero into countless situations that are difficult to endure. But Odysseus

"rich in ingenious ideas" and even richer "in devices to gain end" (9. 53-55) realizes

that he is no longer free, but must be eminently tactful when necessary. The male

journey is a struggle wholly different than the internal world, and the Odysseus learns

to respond flexibly if he is going to survive.

In contrast to the male quest of combat, is a women's voyage of domesticity.

Virginia Woolf discusses a world where women have been denied external

opportunities and consequently become internal. For if it was indeed possible for all

women to obtain A Room of One's Own, they too, would have the opportunity for

cultured, artistic, talent.

"For women have sat indoors,

all these million of years...for this creative

power differs greatly from the creative power

of men. And one must conclude that it would be

a thousand pities if it were hindered or wasted....

for there is nothing to take its place (87).

All of her life, Woolf struggles with this sadness that threatens to overwhelm and

annihilate her. In many ways, her thoughts are an attempt to challenge the

unearned privileges of men who are permitted to explore the outside world.

Moreover, in contrast to the world of nature, is another symbol of domesticity in the

cloistered and confined home for Louise Mallard. In her own room, she looks

through the open window. Mrs. Mallard indeed has what Woolf stresses is so

important, yet it is only a temporary and eventually insufficient refuge. She leaves it

as she must, to rejoin her sister downstairs, and in unlocking the door, she

paradoxically confines herself to the prison of her own home. Now death is her only

salvation. Instead of "soaring free like the birds" (The Story of An Hour 31), Louise

escapes the only way open to her. But this women, similar to so many of her time, is

an atypical heroine, and her adventures, are contrary to the typical male heroic.

Consequently, this era of repressive spirit provided material for female

authors to discuss the anger that has been sealed off by men. By the end of the 18th

century, the novel came to be seen as a powerful educational tool for young women.

Woven into the narrative of Virginia Woolf's internal experiences are the threads of

her comments on a women's external capabilities. "I thought about how unpleasant

it is to be locked out, and I thought about how worse it is worse perhaps to be locked

in (A Room of One's Own 25). In this crucial passage, Woolf emphasizes her

prescription for change: she prophecies that although men are the sources of power

in society, they are extremely threatened by the emergence of female writers in their

disciplines, for

only then will the truth surface. She looks forward to the golden age when women will

have what " long has been denied to them - leisure and money, and a room to

themselves" (27). Moreover, Woolf praises and admires Jane Austen, for her gift

of writing and her circumstances match eachother completely. But in particularly, if

Jane Austen suffered in any way, Woolf suggests that " was the narrowness of

life that was imposed upon her. It was impossible for a women to go about alone...

What genius, what integrity it mush have required in face of all that criticism, in the

midst of that purely patriarchal society, to hold fast to the thing as she saw it without

shrinking"(75). Jane did endure and shattered all the criticism that undermined her

writing. She looked at her judges and laughed at them, and continued to write.

Austen understood that it is only in the novel

" which the greatest powers of the mind

are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge

of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties,

the liveliest effusions of wit and humor, are conveyed to the

world in the best chosen language" (Northanger Abbey 502).

So although the preceding stories may be a battlecry, there is a great deal of

disguised autobiography of the author's own experiences in the internal realm.

Behind their protective masks of irony, Austen and Woolf are attempting to create a

spirit into the novel by altering the established values of what it means to be a

woman in patriarchal society. Their first source are their stories as outsiders,

females who have been taught from birth that women must struggle for their role as

outsiders. Their final source, one that has shaped future generations, is to

controvert the social myths embedded among society , and to escape the life in a

marginal province by writing literature and letting the truth be known.

These stories, like all good stories, are more than just sharing an

experience. Each one touches the audience, creating tiny epiphanies for the reader.

The Odyssey, A Room Of One's Own, and Northanger Abbey are novels of

education. Their classrooms are locales where the characters, who are the

inexperienced and easily misled, are put through the test of self-definition and

realization. Yet in some unspecified way, a women's segregation was presumed to

compensate for a man's expanding universes in the outside world. Thus the rights of

a man are separated by the expectancies of a women. A female's quest is best

displayed in the sphere of domestic life, which drastically diminishes her diversity of

action, compared to men who were expected to live public, successful lives. Hence

the real struggle, the most intensive of adventures, is to tear the guise of alien.

Thus we may learn a fresh respect for courage and why so much is necessary. Only

then can we appreciate how gallant, how witty and yet how compassionate that

quest was.

Source: Essay UK -

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