Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Uncle Tom's Cabin: More Than a Room of One's Own

Calderon's picture

I am currently taking methods of literary studies and todaywe were discussing some interesting ideas that Virginia Wolf proposed. My understanding of the lecture theprofessor gave was that what Wolf meant by “a room of one’s own” was a spacewithin the world of men for women. In this case I think that what my professorsaid, taking the metaphor of a house, Wolf wanted to be part of the whole housebut also have her own room in that belonged to her (women) only. So lets see ifI can make sense here, by this she meant that she wanted to be part of theworld of men but at the same time have a little world of her to run to? If thatis the case I think that if we think about this idea in Uncle Tom’s cabin isnot what the characters wanted. I think they want to belong the house and tothe whole house not to one room. I will use Tom’s character to explain what Iam trying to say. Tom wants to be part of the white world but he knows that itis somewhat impossible for him because he is a slave and he does what his masterstell him to do, when he meets little Eva (the daughter of one of Tom’s masters)he finds a connection through Christianity and they both read the bibletogether, they both share thoughts of Christianity, they both pray but they arenot part of the same world that divides them. So, when Eva dies Tom hopes thathe meets her once again when he dies because they both believe in the afterlife. So how does this connect toWolf’s idea of “a room of one’s own” well I think it is not so much aconnection but rather a contradiction because while Wolf wishes to have a spacewithin the world of men she also wishes to have a space where men are not allowto be in. Its like she wants to have two worlds and Tom doesn’t tow world hewants to be part of one house, one world, one paradise he wishes that if it isnot in this life then according to his belief of God, having one house oneworld for all is possible in the after life. Tom is not looking for a room inthe world of white men, which he can come in an out but rather a membership toworld of all people. Also Eliza she fights to live in world in which she isallow to live with white people, she escapes because she wants to keep herchild and find her husband…she is hoping to get to Canada where there is not a roomfor them only but a house where all are together. Also little Eva she wantsblack people to be part of the entire house she doesn’t want to give them alittle room. I think that I am being too hard on Wolf too perhaps she wanted tobe part too of something at least a little space within the world she dint havebut I don’t think that a little room one’s own is the answer. I don’t know if Iunderstood this idea very well, but I thought that it was interesting to writeabout it for me. I think sometimes I want a room of my own, a world of my ownbut I think that after thinking of how I belong to the world many wish to bepart of, wishing to have an extra room is selfish from me. I don’t know if Iunderstood the lecture but if I did I think it made see Uncle Tom’s Cabindifferent. How these characters have other world (perhaps no world at all) andwish to belong to the “better” world is a way of thinking of how instead oftrying to create different worlds out of the one that we already have is notthe answer, maybe the answer is how can we give more memberships to the onesthat do not have one in the world we are part of. Sorry if this is too long of a post…or not a clearpost but I think I feel better now that I got it out and I am able to see UncleTom’s Cabin through one room in a house!!!



Anne Dalke's picture

More Than a Room of One's Own

I had never thought before, Calderon, to pair Woolf's "room of one's own" with Uncle Tom's Cabin; your doing so highlights a number of the limits of Woolf's concept of an ideal "outsider's society," of her refusal "to be separated from the four great teachers of the daughters of educated men--poverty, chastity, derision and freedom from unreal loyalties" (Three Guineas, p. 79). I see you saying that Stowe wanted for her characters more than Woolf asked for herself: a role in the larger world that refuses the second-class status of an outsider.

Nice, and useful, pairing.
Thank you!