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Department of English Language and Literature

The Degree of Emancipation of Female Protagonists in Virginia Woolf’s Major Novels

Bachelor Thesis

Brno 2011

Supervisor: Author:
Mgr. Jaroslav Izavčuk Radka Lhotská

Bibliografický záznam

Lhotská, Radka. The Degree of Emancipation of Female Protagonists in Virginia Woolf’s Major Novels: bakalářská práce. Brno: Masarykova univerzita, Fakulta pedagogická, Katedra anglického jazyka a literatury, 2011. 54 s. Vedoucí bakalářské práce Mgr. Jaroslav Izavčuk.


LHOTSKÁ, Radka. The Degree of Emancipation of Female Protagonists in Virginia Woolf’s Major Novels: bachelor thesis. Brno: Masaryk University, Faculty of Education, Department of English Language and Literature. 2011. 54 pages. The supervisor of the bachelor thesis Mgr. Jaroslav Izavčuk.


Bakalářská práce „Míra emancipace hlavních hrdinek ve stěžejních románech Virginie Woolfové“ se v první části zaměřuje na pojem emancipace žen a její rozvoj v historii. Dále se zabývá Virginií Woolfovou, jejím přínosem pro literární tvorbu, jejím vztahem ke Skupině Bloomsbury a její tvorbou, která zachycuje emoce postav. Druhá část se zabývá zejména mírou emancipace jejích ženských hrdinek a poskytuje jejich podrobnější charakteristiku a porovnání.


The bachelor thesis “The Degree of Emancipation of Female Protagonists in Virginia Woolf`s Major Novels” is in the first part focused on the term emancipation of women and its development through the history. It deals with Virginia Woolf, her contribution to the literary world, her connection to the Bloomsbury Group along with her style of writing, in which she provides the emotions of the characters. The second part is mainly concentrated on the degree of emancipation of her main female characters and provides their detailed characteristics and comparison.

Klíčová slova

emancipace, Virginia Woolfová, Skupina Bloomsbury, modernismus, viktoriánství


Emancipation, Virginia Woolf, Bloomsbury Group, modernism, Victorianism


I declare that I have written this bachelor thesis independently and that I have used only the sources I have listed.

I agree with placing this bachelor thesis in the library of Faculty of Education, Masaryk University Brno, and with making it accessible for study purposes.

.......................................................... Brno, 19th April 2011 Radka Lhotská


I would like to express my thanks to Mgr. Jaroslav Izavčuk, for his support, patience and valuable advice that he gave me as the supervisor of my bachelor thesis.


Introduction 9

The sense of emancipation 10

Virginia Woolf and Emancipation 14

A Room of One’s Own 24

Mrs. Dalloway’s choice 34

Sacrifice in To the Lighthouse 39

Conclusion 45

Notes 46

Works Cited 49

Appendices 53

As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.

Virginia Woolf

Why are women . . . so much more interesting to men than men are to women?

Virginia Woolf

The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.

Virginia Woolf

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.

Virginia Woolf


The date 28th March 2011 marks the seventieth anniversary of the death of Virginia Woolf, an author of numerous novels, in which she fully concentrated to the feelings, emotions and state of mind of the characters. By doing so, she opened a new field of literary technique. Moreover, her novels and essays provide us her strong disagreement with the inferior position of women and the superior position of men in the society.

This thesis outlines the contribution of Virginia Woolf to the emancipation of women and the history of emancipation along with its meaning. To understand Woolf’s opposition to the role of women we must get to know her life, which is also vastly reflected in her novels. She transformed some of her feelings and intentions to the qualities of her major female characters such as Mrs. Dalloway and Mrs. Ramsay. One of her greatest legacy to the literary world and to the female authors is her essay A Room of One’ s Own in which she on one hand encourages women not to be afraid of becoming writers and on the other hand explains the hard position of women in society.

Virginia Woolf, her life and her novel was the inspiration for a recent novel and film adaptation The Hours, which is the proof that she is definitely not forgotten and the interest in her writing outlasts even many years after her death. Especially the film gained popularity among the audience; in 2003 it was nominated in nine categories for Academy Awards, such as Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and of course Best Actress in a Leading Role in which it won the Oscar.

The aim of this work is the explanation of the term emancipation, its placement and meaning in the history and its illustration in Virginia Woolf’s major writings by reflecting the different degree of emancipation on her main female characters in her major novels.

The sense of emancipation

Webster’s Dictionary, defines the term emancipation as “The act of setting free from the power of another, from slavery, subjection, dependence, or controlling influence; also, the state of being thus set free; the act or process of emancipation, or the state thereby achieved; liberation; as, the emancipation of slaves; the emancipation of minors; the emancipation of a person from prejudices; the emancipation of the mind from superstition; the emancipation of a nation from tyranny or subjection” (Webster Dictionary).

Another definition is provided by Cambridge Dictionary, where emancipation is “the process of giving people social or political freedom and rights” (Cambridge Dictionary).

According to Oxford Dictionary, the term emancipation is explained as “the fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restriction; liberation” (Oxford Dictionaries).

And finally Legal Dictionary defines emancipation as “an act by which a person, who was once in the power of another, is rendered free” (Webster Dictionary).

Emancipation as such is a broad conception and for use of this work I would define emancipation of women as giving freedom to women; freeing them from the power, influence and dependence of men. To understand the process of emancipation completely, the status of women in the history must be mentioned.

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