Three Guineas Themes

Three Guineas Themes

Not Great Men

Woolf argues that war remains an inevitability when the greatness of men is based upon the exploits of the warrior. Literature and history has served to conflate masculinity with heroism on the battlefield to the extent that while such warriors attain a certain kind of immortality, those who have sought diplomatic solutions to avoid war have been forgotten. This conflation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of predetermination. On the other hand, of course, women have not been so glorified and thus are naturally more resistant to war-like solutions.

Critique of Patriarchy

For neither the first nor last time, Woolf’s writing is attack against the corrosive legacy of the patriarchy. In this sense, the patriarchy extends well beyond the military; the military is merely the most recognizable symbol of patriarchy and so in its extreme form it becomes the ultimate symbol of the patriarchy: fascism. Woolf carefully delineates her argument to include domestic relationships, the church and politics as all essential elements working together within the patriarchal system to carry out an agenda devoted to oppression women and maintaining its authority.

The Country of Womanhood

At its most polemical, Woolf’s essay explicitly urges women to reject insinuations that they owe loyalty to a school, to a church or even to a country. Since the patriarchal system colludes through institutional means to deny women the same benefits offered to men, there should likewise be no expectation of allegiance on the part of women to these institutions. The consequence of this rejection for women is being freed from all sociological and psychological expectations that such devotion engenders. The consequence for the world is all-encompassing loss on the part of half its population to the nationalistic pride which has been the underlying foundation of almost all wars throughout recorded history.

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