Today we deal with the tragic life and the brilliant work of one of the most important authors of the 20th century and one of the great renovators of the modern novel. The name of this magnificent writer is at the level of other greats such as: James Joyce, Franz Kafka or Thomas Mann. He innovated in his works with the use of the depth of the inner monologue, a literary device that managed to perfection and that delves us into the most intimate thoughts of his characters. We talked about the fascinating Virginia Woolf.
Her life is a reflection of the harmful silences that have tried to cover, almost to our days, the horror and devastating consequences of sexual abuse in children. Her terrible story was tarnished in an absurd haze. It was maintained that Virginia Woolf had inherited a mental illness.
It has been said that he was too sensitive to the normal shocks of life. Even today, the idea that the incestuous sexual abuse of which she was a victim since she was a child was not the origin of the psychoses suffered during her life. And that was not the reason why he ended up committing suicide. Fortunately, today we can say that all this was false. The origin of the disease of Virginia Woolf was the sexual and psychological abuse suffered from very tender age.
Join us to discover the life and work of a revolutionary woman, of a woman who managed to put a man in the shoes of a woman with Orlando and who dared to claim her right to have a room of her own.
Little Virginia Woolf was born in London on January 25, 1882, the result of a complicated marriage, but well connected. When she arrived in the world, her parents already had several older children from previous marriages. Her father was a famous publisher, critic and biographer.
Virginia would not remember a single day when her mother would pay attention to her or keep a moment alone together. Her father was an intimidating figure to her. His childhood home, despite being a meeting place for the best of current literature, was, for Virginia, a cage.
The early death of her mother, one of her sisters and, later, her father’s would mark Virginia deeply. The loss of loved ones is always traumatic, but in this case, her father had prohibited family members from naming under any circumstances those who had died. It began, thus, to forge a terrible gag for the young Virginia, who was forced from her early years to not be able to express any emotion.
Your adult age
Upon the death of his father, she moved to live with his brothers and sisters; At this moment, she begins to suffer complex psychotic outbreaks, which she momentarily overcomes to fall back into them.
Her new residence in Bloomsbury became the meeting place of old university colleagues of her older brother. Among them were intellectuals of the stature of Bertrand Russell. All of them formed a group of eccentric novelists, poets and painters that would be known as the Bloomsbury circle. There, she met the one who, later, would become her husband: Leonard Woolf.
Virginia Woolf got married at thirty years of age. It had already happened at that time by several nervous breakdowns that were followed by deep depressive states. Her husband kept a diary of his emotional states. Virginia found in literature a refuge to give life to their horrible experiences and their repressed emotions.
The relationship with her husband was very solid, together they created in 1917 the Horgarth Press publishing house, which would successfully publish the works of Virginia Woolf and other great authors such as: Katherine Mansfield, T. S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud or Laurens van der Post.
Sexual abuse and suicide
Virginia Woolf began to be a victim of sexual and incestuous abuse at the age of seven, at the hands of her two stepbrothers, both of whom were almost twenty years older than her. It happened already when her parents were still alive and, although it has been said that Virginia never recounted the atrocious crime she was suffering, it is possible that they were aware of Virginia’s suffering.
She spoke and wrote openly about it since she was ten years old. It was a tremendously traumatic type of abuse, with and without negation, which lasted until he was twenty-four years old. An open secret that all his surroundings ignored.
Virginia Woolf developed a mental illness known today as bipolar disorder. After finishing the manuscript of a final novel, Woolf fell into a depression similar to those he had suffered in the past. The outbreak of World War II and the destruction of her house in London worsened his condition, and she felt unable to work.
On March 28, 1941, Woolf put on her coat, filled her pockets with stones and threw herself into the river Ouse near her house, ending her suffering and silencing herself forever. She wrote a last letter to her husband that said:
“I feel like I’m going to go crazy again. I think we can not go through one of those terrible times again. And I can not recover this time. I start to hear voices, and I can not concentrate. So I do what I think is the best I can do. I can not fight anymore. You see I can not even write this properly. I can not read. I have lost everything except the certainty of your kindness. I can not continue ruining your life any longer. I do not think two people could be happier than what you and I have been.”
The mental illness of Virginia Woolf
Today, psychologists, psychiatrists and educators know and understand the serious psychological consequences suffered by children and adolescents victims of sexual abuse. Fortunately, many academic studies endorse and confirm, finally, that it was the abuse suffered at the hands of her two stepbrothers, with the tacit consent of the people who should have protected her, the real cause of Virginia Woolf’s mental disorders, and not the inheritance of a mental illness or its pusillanimous character.
Today, finally, we can talk clearly about what sexual abuse has been in children. It is necessary to end once and for all with the dangerous attempts to minimize behaviors and situations that are totally intolerable and unjustifiable.
There is no compelling reason to assume that Virginia Woolf inherited a mental illness. It is much more plausible to assume that responsibility for their emotional problems should be assumed by those who abused it, sexually and incestuously, and by those who allowed it to happen.
Virginia Woolf’s history of sexual victimization has been reviewed in a case study format in light of current literature on the impact of child sexual abuse on human development. Many of the mental health symptoms experienced by Woolf are consistent with the clinical literature of child sexual abuse. Understanding the clinical case of Virginia Woolf is important for clinicians and researchers interested in the dynamics of child sexual abuse.
Despite the tragic nature of her life, Virginia Woolf left an important imprint in literature and in the struggle of women to obtain equality with men. With his famous essay A Room of his own, Woolf made clear the problem of women: there was no economic independence. Women needed their independence in order to have their own space and, in the case of Virginia, their own place to write novels with tranquility.
With Orlando, she dared to put a man in the skin of a woman to show the world how the same person could have an easier way being a man than being a woman. She dared to speak of taboos such as homosexuality and sexuality. Other notable works are: The waves or Mrs. Dalloway.