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Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir Existentialism – “‘pertaining to existence’; or, in logic, ‘predicating existence’. Philosophically, it now applies to a vision of the condition and existence of man, his place and function in the world, and his relationship, or lack of one, with God” (Cuddon 294). See the entry on existentialism for more details! Immanent – “present within or throughout; inherent” (OED). In de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, it seems to imply (at least at times) an inability to transcend, to escape – the corporeal body, the social situation, the dominance of man to which woman is subjected. It’s also tied up with repetition. Woolf: “To pose Woman is to pose the absolute Other, without “One must strain off what was personal and accidental in reciprocity, denying against all experience that she is a all these impressions and so reach the pure fluid, the subject, a fellow human being” (95). essential oil of truth” (83) “[H]er body does not seem to her to be a clear expression “Men who have no apparent qualification save that they of herself; within it she feels herself a stranger” (98). are not women” (84) “To say that woman is mystery is to say, not that she is “And if I could not grasp the truth abut W (as for brevity’s silent, but that her language is not understood; she is sake I had come to call her) in the past, why bother about there, but hidden behind veils; she exists beyond the W in the future? It seemed pure waste of time to consult uncertain appearances” (98). all those gentlemen who specialize in woman and her effect on whatever it may be – politics, children, wages, “For a great many women the roads to transcendence are morality – numerous and learned as they are” (86) blocked: because they do nothing, they fail to make themselves anything. They wonder indefinitely what they “Yet it is our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged could have become, which sets them to asking about what truth sometimes comes to the top” (87) they are. It is a vain question. If man fails to discover that secret essence of femininity, it is imply because it does not “Possibly when the professor insisted a little too exist” (99). emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own “The taste for eternity at a bargain, for a pocket-­‐sized superiority” (88) absolute, which is shared by a majority of men, is satisfied by myths. The smallest emotion, a slight annoyance, “The news of my legacy reached me one night about the becomes the reflection of a timeless Idea – an illusion same time that the act was passed that gave votes to agreeably flattering to the vanity” (100). women… Of the two – the vote and the money – the money, I own, seemed infinitely the more important” (90). “The feminine body is asked to be flesh, but with discretion” (101). “Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot “The sole value that appertains to the inessential means is hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give utility; it is at the level of utility that the housekeeper lives, me. So imperceptibly I found myself adopting a new and she does not flatter herself that she is anything more attitude towards the other half of the human race” (90). than a person useful to her kindred” (107). “Is it better to be a coal-­‐heaver or a nursemaid; is the “There is a whole region of human experience which the charwoman who has brought up eight children of less male deliberately chooses to ignore because he fails to value to the world than the barrister who has made a think it: this experience woman lives” (112). hundred thousand pounds?” (91) “They must reject the limitations of their situation and De Beauvoir: seek to open the road of the future. Resignedness is only “[T]he Eternal Feminine, unique and changeless” (95). abdication and flight, there is no other way out for woman than to work for her liberation” (123).
Questions: 1. “This one, the myth of woman, sublimating an immutable aspect of the human condition – namely, the ‘division’ of humanity into two classes of individuals – is a static myth” (95). What myth(s) of women does de Beauvoir set up in “Myth and Reality” (Lodge 95 – 102). Can you find similarly ‘static’ myths in The Magic Toyshop? 2. “Of all these myths, none is more firmly anchored in masculine hearts than that of the feminine ‘mystery’” (97). What is the nature of the ‘feminine mystery’, as constructed by de Beauvoir? 3. “And similarly woman does not always ‘understand’ man; but there is no such thing as a masculine mystery” (99). Why is there no “masculine mystery”? Could there be such a thing? 4. Woolf states, “Women have served all these centuries as looking-­‐glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size (89). Does this imply that man’s treatment of woman reflects his deep insecurities? Can you relate it to The Magic Toyshop, particularly to Uncle Philip’s house? 5. De Beauvoir has asserted that ‘one is not born a woman’ – first outline what you think she means by this statement and then consider how Melanie’s environment and circumstances have shaped her femininity. 
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