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Essay/Term paper: The contrast of virginia woolf and alice walker

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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After reading the four essays assigned to this sequence, it

becomes interesting to contrast two author's points of view

on the same subject. Reading one professional writer's

rewriting of a portion of another professional writer's essay

brings out many of each of their characteristics and views.

Also, the difference in writing styles could be drastic, or

slight. Nevertheless, the writers display how versatile the

English language can be.

Alice Walker was born in 1944 as a farm girl in Georgia.

Virginia Woolf was born in London in1882. They have both

come to be highly recognized writers of their time, and they

both have rather large portfolios of work. The scenes the

might have grown up seeing and living through may have

greatly influenced their views of subjects which they both

seem to write about. In her essay "In Search of Our

Mothers' Gardens," Alice Walker speaks first about the

untouchable faith of the black women of the

post-Reconstruction South. She speaks highly of the faith

and undying hope of these women and their families. She

even comes to recognize them as saints as she describes

their faith as "so intense, deep, unconscious, the they

themselves were unaware of the richness they held" (Walker


In a passage in which she speaks about the treatment and

social status of the women of the sixteenth century, Woolf

explains that a woman who might have had a truly great gift

in this time "would have surely gone crazy, shot herself, or

ended up in some lonely cottage on the outside of town, half

witch, half wizard, feared and mocked" (Woolf 749). Her

use of some of these powerful nominative shows that she

feels strongly about what she is writing. Also for her, life

growing up and stories she may have heard may have

influenced this passage greatly. In her passage she imagines

what it may have been like had William Shakespeare had a

sister. She notices how difficult it would be even given the

same talents as Shakespeare himself, to follow throughout

and utilize them in her life.

It is clear after reading further into Woolf's passage that

obviously she lived in a different time period, only about fifty

years apart though. The way she relates and tells a very

similar story with an entirely different setting shows without

the reader even knowing that she was born in London as

opposed to Walker who was born in the United States. This

is evident in her vocabulary alone. Words such as the verb

"agog" or nouns like "stew" or "stockings" are not as

culturally accepted and used here in the United States. This

plays a key role in the way they use contexts to tell stories

and get the morals across. Walker, being born a farm girl in

Georgia, uses the context of the racial deep South, and its

affects on the lives of black women. Woolf, who was born in

London, uses the context of William Shakespeare most

likely because he is a native legend all over the United


Also, what is interesting is the similarities of their grammatical

writing styles. As Walker describes the women of the

post-Reconstruction South, she uses many literary devices.

One abnormally short paragraph, "Our mothers and

grandmothers, some of them moving to music not yet

written. And they waited" (Walker 695), which seems very

incorrect as far as grammar is concerned, leaves me as a

reader puzzled at why she writes this paragraph so isolated.

It has some meaning to it without a doubt. "Moving to music

not yet written" is a powerful way to stress how ahead of

their time some of these women were. Although, I do not

believe that this is a well-written paragraph, my perspective

of grammar is far inferior to the writers so I really cannot

judge anything but my opinion. Moreover, at the beginning of

her essay, Walker begins with what I would most likely call

some sort of a journal entry by a man named Jean Toomer.

He describes the attitudes and actions he would witness as

he walked through the South in this time. She builds much of

her argument and ideas of the women from many of the

statements Toomer makes. Toomer thinks he is realizing the

beginning of such strong black spirituality and all the arts

which will spawn from it. Walker uses many metaphoric

ideas such as statements like these, in which she describes

the women and their lifestyles: "These crazy Saints stared out

at the world, wildly, like lunatics -- or quietly, like suicides;

and the 'God' that was in their gaze was as mute as a great

stone" (Walker 695). She used powerful similes like "mute

as a great stone," or "stared wildly, like lunatics -- or quietly,

like suicides." These characteristics of Walker's writing can

be compared to Woolf's rewriting of the same idea in "A

Room of One's Own."

In chapter three of her essay, which is not fully entered into

the text, Woolf carries the same principles into her own

context and setting. The fictional story of Shakespeare's

sister is interesting, inquisitive, and emotional. The struggles

of women of this time are the focus of the story. In Woolf's

story, it is said that had William Shakespeare had a sister,

she perhaps would have been just as gifted, but far from just

as accomplished. The struggles she would have been up

against would have easily held her down to a point of a

depressing stalemate. Woolf's writing style is similar but also

different from that of Walker. She describes the sister as just

as imaginative, adventurous, and agog to see the would as

her brother was. She has a strong vocabulary and can grip

the reader with strong emotions. Woolf lacks this perfected

ability of description the Walker possesses. Alice Walker

uses these literary devices ingeniously. Woolf also uses some

of what would be called improper writing as she will cut off

thoughts and continue them without proper grammar. For

example, notice the jump of thoughts in this sentence. "She

picked up a book now and then.... But then her parents

came in and told her to mind the stew and not moon about

with books and papers." (Woolf 749). This pause of periods

cuts the thought off and then picks it up again for no

apparent reason I can notice. Another broken sentence such

as the following does not hide flaws very well. "What is

true...., so it seemed to me reviewing the story of

Shakespeare's sister as I had made it, is that any woman

born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly

have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some

lonely cottage outside the village." (Woolf 749) This

statement also seems to have an unnecessary pause also.

Whether this style that Virginia Woolf uses is correct or not,

it is powerful and it pauses the reader and , most

importantly, helps the reader think in exactly the same

manner as she was when she wrote it. The pauses she

experienced in her thoughts when she wrote the story about

the story about the writer's sister are simulated and relived

when the reader crosses them.

Both writers do a fine job of stressing the morals in their

writing. The reader can, in Walker's essay, put himself in the

first person and imagine the South very easily because of

how descriptive she is in her narration. The reader of

Woolf's essay clearly can understand and come to realize the

unfairness and downright cruelty of the pure neglect of

hidden talent among many women throughout time. She does

this through simply telling a good story. This perhaps show

that Virginia Woolf may have been fond of Walker's work.

Woolf chooses to clearly state and agree with the same

points Walker makes and shows the ideas in a different light

because indeed she is a different person with different

attributes. This shows up dominantly in her rewriting of

Walker's "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens."


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