“A very queer and composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
There is a strange tension in the course of female affairs: on the one account, they are embraced in the field of art and literature. Yet, on a competing account, they are left out of positions relating to power. To resolve this tension, the crucial similarity is the presence of power-relations. Even when “glorified” in poetry, women are always the subjects, never the producers. Women are to be controlled, framed, and written about by men. In effect, there is a loss of agency. This is seen, perhaps more obviously, in history. As an attempt to secure power, men ensured that women could not access the “bastions” of civil-society.
“But there could be no doubt that greatness was seated within; greatness was passing, hidden, down Bond Street, removed only by a hand’s-breadth from ordinary people who might now, for the first and last time, be within speaking distance of the majesty of England, of the enduring symbol of the state which will be known to curious antiquaries, sifting the ruins of time, when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth. The face in the motor car will then be known.”
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2005), 16.
Woolf uses this way of language to show a piece of social order. It is like the voice of the author and main character work together to express a pathway of thoughts that leads to this one point, which is the importance of this figure of “greatness. It is an image of variance between the commoner and those who are “great” in England.