Cherubic Demons

Virginia Woolf was a professional writer who made many important contributions to the progress of women and

women’s rights. She was born in 1882 during a time -- the middle of the Victorian era -- in which the feminine ideal

that she struggled against so much was very prevalent; the ideal women was thought to be passive, pretty, and

proper. “The Angel in the House” was Woolf’s term for the internalized ideal against which she strove to overcome.

Her father was a writer too; he was an editor and a critic both in profession and parenthood. Woolf suffered

continual loss and tragedy in the course of her childhood and adult life. While still a young girl, she was abused

sexually by her half-brothers, and when she tried to tell people about the trauma she endured, no one believed her.

Her mother, who continually neglected Woolf while she was alive, died when Woolf was only thirteen years old. As

she grew older, Woolf valiantly tried to overcome all of the pain she had endur!

ed and the internal fear that seemed to pervade her every thought and action. Whether she eventually did overcome

these practically insurmountable obstacles is uncertain; Virginia Woolf killed herself by drowning at the age of 57.

Regardless of how her life circumstances affected or even benefited her writing, Woolf offered women in general

some very important truths, and challenged women for generations to come with her honesty, frankness, and

courage. Virginia Woolf is a prime example of how, throughout the ages, women are constantly faced with living up

to not only men’s opinion of them, but women’s as well, and must overcome their lofty expectations in addition to

their own life experiences.

One the many ghost’s that haunted Woolf throughout her life was “The Angel in the House”. Woolf describes this

disturbing phantom in her essay, “Professions for Woman”. The Angel in the House is a spiritual being that resides

in every woman. Whether she obeys it or not is up to her, but that does not change that fact that the spirit is there,

admonishing them to act in a way that pleases not only the Angel, but also the people around her. The Angel

represents all that the woman is expected by society -- or men -- to be. In Woolf’s generation, the Angel symbolizes

what the Victorian epitome of womanhood is. She can please, she can flatter, she can soothe, she is self-less, she is

beautiful, she is “above all, pure”. In the time that Woolf lives, the standards that the Angel in the House expects

women to adhere to are rigid. Women are to be quiet, demure, they have to cook and clean, they need to be

attractive, and they are required to be feminine at all times. Why? !

To catch a man of course. This is a woman’s chief objective. All personal desires are secondary to this central

prerogative, for what type of woman would not make a man her greatest desire? Such a woman would be considered

unacceptable. But Woolf’s greatest desire is not a husband; it is the truth. Being truthful in her writing, being

truthful to herself, being truthful to the world -- that is her wish. Whenever Woolf sits down to write (in this case a

review of a novel by a famous man), the Angel in the House appears, wanting to color every sentence, every word,

every mark that Woolf’s pen makes. Woolf hates her. Woolf is an independent woman, and a very truthful one. She

wants to be true to herself, not this spirit, this other person. But how can she express her true self and still listen to

the Angel? She cannot.

So Woolf, being the observant and courageous woman that she is, decides that she must murder this ever-present

obstacle. “She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her,” Woolf declares. Of course she is

difficult to kill; no one believes she even existed in the first place. But does Woolf succeed in killing her? Does she

truly just disappear when Woolf thinks she is finally dead? Maybe, and maybe not, because if she really is gone,

then Woolf would be free to say