Private Brother, Public World

  • Sara Ruddick


We have recently become sensitive to daughter-mother and sister relationships. We have always welcomed attention to the powerful effect fathers have on their daughters’ lives. But a girl’s relation to her brothers is relatively uncharted. For Virginia Woolf that relation was profoundly important. When in A Room of One’s Own she asks us to imagine the life of Shakespeare’s sister she asks us to reflect upon a sexual, domestic and political opposition which the very term sister-brother connotes. When, in Three Guineas, she identifies herself as the daughter of an educated man, she is speaking to one of the sons of that privileged class, to a brother and man of power whom a sister has reason both to suspect and to admire. In Night and Day, To the Lighthouse, Flush, The Years and Between the Acts actual and surrogate brother-sister relationships are explored. Woolf herself acknowledged the importance of her brother Thoby for Jacob’s Room and The Waves, the two novels inspired by and often taken to be a tribute to him.


Public World Male Power Sexual Autonomy Dark Pool Male Hero 
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    Virginia Woolf, ‘The Introduction’, in Mrs Dalloway’s Party, ed. Stella McNichol (London: Hogarth Press, 1973).Google Scholar
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© Jane Marcus 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Ruddick

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