Prior to reading Three Guineas, I really enjoyed most of Woolf’s non-fiction a little more than her fiction. However, I believe Three Guineas is an exception to that preference. While Woolf does make very valid arguments in each of the three sections, I found the essay to be somewhat tedious and repetitive. I felt like a tight and more compact essay would have been more appealing to readers.
With that being said, there are still many things that can be taken away from the essay. In dispersing the three guineas, Woolf displays her thoughts on how a guinea should be used. In the first chapter, she believes the guinea can be most beneficially used by building women’s colleges on the model of men’s and in the second chapter, she states that the guinea should be used to help women obtain positions in the professions. In the third chapter she gives the guinea to a person who wanted it to protect culture and intellectual liberty. In dispersing these three guineas, Woolf is sure to highlight the reasons for doing so. She constantly references the importance of compromise. In each section it is as if she is speaking directly to a person and arguing for the elevation of the woman’s status in exchange for a guinea. She also successfully ties women’s liberation to the anti-war cause and maps out a relationship between gender and war, thus raising awareness for both controversial subjects.
Woolf should be credited for the extent and depth of information included in the essay. It is clear from the salaries and statistics quoted that Woolf had done her research concerning a woman’s status in the 1930’s. Her arguments and points resonate far beyond the scope of this work though. Although not as extreme, many of her main points can be taken into a modern context to address the role of women in the professions today. I also particularly enjoyed the clear and distinct nature of the essay. With Woolf, readers are often left guessing about her thoughts, but this essay lays them out in a simple, yet powerful way.
One portion of the essay I found particularly interesting was in the third section when Woolf discusses ‘the adultery of the brain’ (Woolf 112). She describes the process as writing what one does not want to write for the sake of money, which I thought was particularly interesting. I liked the reference to writing as a form of chastity and thought it was a clever analysis on behalf of Woolf. I can definitely say that now anytime I am forced to write a paper that I don’t want to for a class I will only be thinking of ‘the adultery of the brain,’ Three Guineas, and Virginia Woolf.
Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas. 1938. Ed. Mark Hussey. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 2006.