Gender identity and Virginia Woolf

How do you define the angel in Woolf’s essay? Do women still have to deal with the angel today? Do you agree that a woman must kill the angel to survive both personally and professionally?



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25 responses to “Gender identity and Virginia Woolf

  1. Lewis

    The Angel in Woolf’s essay is the persona Virginia has put on herself. A mask she puts on when the need arises. Always putting everyone and everything else first before her own needs are met. The phantom she calls it. And it’s so strong it almost always takes over. Virginia is not nieve. She knows to be truely good at writing reviews she has to be free of all the distractions. Quoting from page 327; “She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg”. And also quoting from the same page a little further down Virginia is telling herself; “For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own…” To me, I understand this as saying writting a novel would be a great accomplishment, we know this. But to review a novel, which would be less difficult, you still have to have a mind of your own and can’t fake it just for the sake of flattering the writer himself or the readers. Do women still have to deal with the Angel today? Maybe, our world is made up of many many different cultures and beliefs. There are probably women out there today who put eveyones needs and wants before their own. If we are talking about a modern society like ours today, not as much so I wouldn’t think. Let’s keep something in mind here. This essay was written 80 years ago. 80 YEARS. I think it safe to say we’ve come a long way since then.

    • Raphael

      Hey Lewis, I’m old enough to remember when cigarette companies glomorized their product on TV and billboards. Seems I recall Virginia Slims tag line as ” You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”

      • Lewis

        Excellent memory there Raphael. Shows our age I wonder if they had Virginia Woolf in mind when they made that commercial? Does anyone else remember this commercial? The sleek slender sexy looking woman puffing on one those cigarettes that was as long as her arm??

      • feministcupcake

        Obviously, I do – but I’m not sure that these are images that clash in the face of Woolf – I think they affirm what she is saying

      • feministcupcake

        Do you remember the maidenform bra ads? I dreamed I went to …. Or the ads for the “Maidenform woman?” These were both in that Virginia Slims format – But do those ads really imply that the angel is dead? Those women are still performin “female” beauty standards that reinforce all kinds of body issues for other women – so how far have they come?

  2. Stephanie Radu

    I define the angel as being pure hearted, she was a family orientated, she was very kind to others. She was an all around good person to be around. She was indeed Virgina like a double person, who wore a mask. As Woolf states on pg.327 “She was intensely sympathetic, she was immensely charming,she was utterly unselfish”. Each time these women want nothing to do with this angel they kill the angel out of there head, but the angel always reappears.I do agree with that, I believe she must kill the angel in order to be more professionally and personally, because the angel inside of her is pulling her into different directions. On pg.329 Virgina states ” My time is up I must cease”. That is a strong statement and I believe there is an angel inside all of us, we just have to reach deep down inside and find that beautiful angel or person inside of us!!!!

  3. Raphael

    Well, as a white male of European heritage, I would say that the angel in Woolf’s essay is the wind beneath my wings. She is the, “Behind every great man there is a woman”. She is what song writers write songs about. Woolf describes the “The Angel in the House” on Pg. 327 as utterly unselfish, as one who excels in the difficult arts of family life. Further on pg. 327 Virginia writes “In short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own but preferred to sympathize always with the mind or wishes of others”.
    The glass ceiling still exists today and no amount of education or legislation will ever erase this prejudice completely; because humankind is not pure and unselfish as is the phantom “Angel in the House”. We can only make strides and inroads and chip away at the shackles.
    As for whether or not or not a woman must kill the angel to survive both personally and professionally. I would say that it depends on the woman. My wife is paid oodles more than I will ever make, she is not a domesticated and does not excel in, ‘the difficult art of family life”, learned men with greater education answer to her and yet she can be charming and seductive. She is the angel in the house. She is loved and respected for her strength and femininity.
    My question to you guys is, are you prepared to change diapers and cook dinner? I’m expert at both of these skills and last I checked I still have one.

  4. Quita

    Woolf says on page 327, I took my pen in hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: “My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a man book that has been written by a man. I define the angel in Woolf’s essay it is to be her conscience. I think there are some women today that are still dealing with angel’s because of there rituals and there history background. Yes, I agree that woman must kill the angel to survive personally and professionally because she can stay focus and maintaining in reviewing more books without distractions.

  5. Thomas Radu,

    On page.327 Woolf states that killing the Angel in he house was park of the occupation of a women writer.I dont fully understand what this means i feel that she was trying to say that people tried to stop the women writers from doing there thing. I agree at times the women must kill the Angel to keep them selfs going, if somone is telling them they cannot do somthing then yes kill the Angel but no otherwise.

    Stephanie how was the Angel Pure Hearted imo it was cold only there to put the women writers down

  6. Ketelin Thelemaque

    If many consider women as an Angel who need protection. For Virginia Woolf, that is different. She believes women should stibes to be more active proffesionally, beacuse the Angel is the adversary that keep women to advance their intellectual knowledge. Women need to step up to overcome many obstacles that prevent them to advacne in various fields. That why Virginia (327) states “killing the Angel in the house was part of the accupation of a women writer”. That means woman need to developed her intellectual culture,and To break down barriers that’s preventing them to developed their talents. Even today that women should continue to perform the household tasks, they must necessarily maintain the real goals in the intellectual field for a fair occupation between them and man. I do not agree that a woman must kill the Angel to survive both personally and proffesionallly, because we are living an a society certain tasks are required to perform by both gender. To answer Raphael’s question, many men have to be ready to share the spot because society is composed of two kind of people,men and women and it should not be some sorts superiority betwen them . We are all equal before god and the law.
    I have a question for everyone: What is the best way women can overcome many obstacles that prevent them to develop their knowledge?

  7. Raidel Martinez

    Perhaps this “angel” in Woolf’s essays was symbolizing women without men, as in rebelling against them in literature. “My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex” (Woolf, ‘Proffessions for Women’, p.327). I define her as a thought or emotion, that rebels against men, to prove that women can also be as good as men. I believe women do have to deal with this angel today, because some believe that they can be as strong and/or intelligent as men. I believe women may have to “kill” this angel to survive both professionally and personally, because having these rebelious thoughts against men can affect them personally in an emotional way, and also affect them in their professions if they only believe in the “angel”, having those thoughts. Do you guys agree with this? Do you disagree in any way? Explain

  8. Stephanie Garcia

    The Angel that Wolf is speaking about in her story is a part of her, a part of all woman. As she describes her on pg.327 “She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrafied herself daily”. All that comes to my mind is a mother.That softer side that all woman have we always tend to be that way. And in order to express our true feelings and thoughts the “Angel” must die, not entirely but at least for that moment. In this day and age we do dont have to deal with conflict with the “Angel” as much but it is still there.

    • Stephanie Garcia

      & my qusetion is what does Wolf mean by a state of “perpetual lethargy”???

      • Christina L

        I believe when Woolf used the terms perpetual lethargy, she was describing the focus of an author when writing a novel. She was saying that the author had to be so focused on the piece that its almost like being in a deep long lasting sleep. Some what like a trance with no distractions to interrupt.

  9. Christina L

    I see the angel in Woolf’s story to be the good angel that sits upon one’s shoulder as you may have seen portrayed in old cartoons. The good angel is always there to keep you walking a fine line. Woolf states on pg. 327 “You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her—you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House”. And we all know as youngsters there wasn’t much thought put into what we did. We did what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it, and didn’t think much of the consequences that were to follow. In today’s society I think women still do have to do with this angel, but the angel today would be more modernized, she wouldn’t take the backseat for a man. But then again that all depends on her culture and up-bringing. I don’t think the angel has to be killed for a woman to succeed professionally or personally, because honestly, I don’t think the Angel in the House could ever really be killed. You may try and suppress the angel at times, but the angel is always there lurking in the back of your mind poking at you. If everyone could really kill the Angel in the House what would this come to?

    • stephan

      I think every body would really be into there work so much it would be all about there professionally and there status in life an less about there personally. but I don’t think ever one could kill the angle because some people can only rely on the angel just to function.

  10. stephan

    The angel is apart of ever women. Which I would think to call it there inner being or there consciousness. Because every time when she would start to think about writing the review angel comes along. Woolf’s says “ be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the art and wiles or our sex“(327). To me I think she try to use what you have as a lady to move forward and just play the lady roll by the man who is doing all the work. An you just be the house wife and let him take care of the thing you want, that’s what the angle in her trying to tell her. Yes I believe you have to enhance your personal life, so that you can know were you really stand. But by “killing the angel in the house was part of the occpation of a women writter” as woolf says on(327). To me this mean with out the angle she can make it or be even better than a male writer and so she can prolong her carrier, so you can be looked upon more professionally.

    • stephan

      my question is since we meaning man an women are equal does the same apply with the angel when it concering with writters?

  11. Tai

    The angel in Woolf’s essay is the image of women years ago. When their rights were limited and they were expected to act the way society wanted them to be. I dont feel women deal with the angel today as far as right’s and being able to express themselves freely, at least in our country. Yes, i agree that women must kill the angel to survive both personally and professionally. Agreeing with Woolf, “…you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex” (327). Women are not mindless, we are always going to have an opinon and it should be expected that we express ourselves. And when she was describing the angel she said, “She was INTENSELY sympathetic. She was IMMENSELY charming. She was UTTERLY unselfish” (327). I think her purpose of using the adjutives was to express that these traits are of women naturally but it is not natural to be perfect.
    @Stepanie’s question, you don’t need the angel. The angel doesn’t want you to think for yourself. You can carry her qualities, though, and still be yourself. If everyone was able to kill their angel we would have a world full of people that were honest and real.
    My question is, why is it so easy for people, in general, to be fake and untrue to themself? Is it not easier to be happy and be yourself?

  12. Eliachide Louis

    As I read through the text ,I first thought of the Angel in the House as a motherly voice that is sometimes always in my heads and in my hearts specially in the text where she described her as” Utterly unselfish.she excelled in the difficult arts of family life,she sacrificed herself daily”p327.These are the characteristics of a mother to me.But as I move forward into the essays don’t quote if I am wrong ,I realize the angel she is describing is fear.Fear of having a voice in men dominate society as a women .”Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own”p327.And yes a woman should definitely kill that angel in order to live successfully both personally and professionally

  13. Raul Vazquez

    I define the Angel as a woman’s mental struggle against the so called woman’s role created by society. I believe women still have to deal with this angel in today’s world. I also agree that women still have to kill this angel today to survive both personally and professionally, the difference today is that women are more accepted in today’s society. Women still have obstacles in their way but these are new obstacles, ones that have not yet been overcomed by any woman. Virgina Woolf states,”For the road was cut many years ago- by Fanny Burney, by Aphra Behn, by Harriet Martineau, by Jane Austen, George Eliot- many famous women, and many more unknown and forgotten, have been before me, making the path smooth, and regulating my steps. Thus, when I came to write, there were very few materials obstacles in my way” (pg.326). This quote from her essay supports my belief of modern day women’s angel. My question is What are today’s angel for women? How does it relate to those of men? ……………. In response to Tai’s question, I believe people are fake because they are scared of society’s rejection since all their lives they been told to try and fit society’s ideal way of being when in fact if they were to be themselves they can discover their inner beauty and true identity. This would result in happiness.

  14. Diego Gonzales

    The Angel in the story refers to women’s understanding of how women should behave in a society ran by man. Like Woolf says,”killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a women writer”(pg.327). Meaning everything that she was taught about how women should behave had to be left behind or forgotten about in order to succeed as a women writer. I believe that women today still have to deal with the angel because even thou society has come a long way since Woolfs time there are still jobs out there that men are more likely to be chosen than women. I think that women should kill the angel in order to survive personally and professionally because women have to be able to overcome obstacles in to succeed in what they want. Do you guys think that women’s role in society has changed since Woolfs time?

  15. Ana Rojas

    The Angel in Wolfe’s essay to me is defined as weak, because the writer is willing to overcome any obstacle to reach the dream of being big in the world and being self sufficient. Wolfe says: “I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defense. Had I not killed her she would have killed me” (Pg. 327) with this line I believe that Wolfe was determined to push everything aside, including her insecurities and fears, to be a successful woman. Today’s obstacles that we have as woman are mostly gone. The past couple of generations were raised to be strong, if not stronger, than men. Why do we still have to prove ourselves among men? After all these years we have accomplished being accepted in society as equals, but there are still people that think we should stay home and raise children. Why?

  16. Marta Almora

    Marta Almora
    There are people who still think that way because they have not realized that woman can work as hard as them and be more succesfull as well. I agree that we should stay home the first months after a baby is born because the baby will need your attention the most, they still so as they grow but im sure we can handle being a mother and a hard worker! 🙂

  17. Marta Almora

    Marta Almora
    I define the angel in Woolf’s essay as the obstacles woman encounter to succeed in life. As Woolf says on this essay ” it is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality” page 327 i belive she meant by this that there is nothing worth than to have negatives thoughts about something you want to do or accomplish or the feeling that no matter what you do you wont be able to reach any higher!!. And YES woman have to oversome their personal fear in order to survive both personal and professionally.
    My question is; Why does people lie to themselves?

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