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Trivia quiz on Virginia Woolf, “To the Lighthouse” and “A Room of One’s Own”

Trivia Quiz for To the Lighthouse (1927) and A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf

with the answers below

For WSEA “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 5/22/22

I. To the Lighthouse

A. On Frustrated Yearning     

1. The book begins with a scene of a young boy’s yearning, which opens the reader’s horizon to a long-awaited sea voyage. In a few lines, however, the dream of travel is dashed. Who is the first person to announce the trip’s impossibility, and why?

a. the protagonist’s nurse, because the boy is sickly and too weak for travel at present.

b. the child’s mother, who reminds him that he has schoolwork to do.

c. the child’s father, who announces that the weather “won’t be fine.”

d. a houseguest, who feels a west wind blowing.

2. On Comfort.

Among other things, words provide comfort to the child and it is usually his mother who speaks comforting words. Which of the following refrains is not spoken by the mother, Mrs. Ramsey?

a. “But it may be fine—I expect it will be fine.”          

b. “Let’s find another picture to cut out.”                   

c. “Oh, how beautiful!”

d. “Well then, we will cover it up.”                 

e. “Think of a kitchen table, when you’re not there.”

3. Ordinary Misogyny. Quotes that we may find objectionable run through the narrative. Which is not from To the Lighthouse?

a. “They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilisation impossible with all their ‘charm,’ all their silliness.”

b. “Treat ‘em like chickens, son. Throw ‘em a little corn and they’ll run after you, but don’t give ‘em too much. If you do, they’ll stop layin’ and expect you to wait on ‘em.”

c. “She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings.”

d. “There was Mr. X whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write…’”

e. “She guessed what he was thinking—he would have written better books if he had not married.”

4. Extraordinary Restraint. Women react to men’s comments in ways that feel uncomfortably familiar—with silence, resentment, and smoldering rage. Which is not in To the Lighthouse?

a. “She had done the usual trick—been nice.”  

b. “’Odious little man,’ thought Mrs. Ramsey, ‘why go on saying that?’”

c. “She would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties or slur over duties.”

d. “She bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.”

e. “If she had said half of what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.”

f. All are in To the Lighthouse.

5. How long does it take before the Ramseys take the trip mentioned on page one?

a. two months             

b. ten years                 

c. twenty years            

d. one week

II. A Room of One’s Own and themes found in both books

6. Why does Woolf declare that “the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction” must remain unsolved in her work?  Which reason is not in the book?

a. because there are too many great women novelists to synthesize into one conclusion

b. because until the 17th century, most women were too poor and uneducated to write anything

c. because throughout history, women have lacked the time, money and solitude necessary to discover their genius

7. Acc. to Woolf, what emotion dominates the books (by men) explaining women and their works?

a. delight                     

b. anger                       

c. awe              

d. jealousy  

8. Creativity: How to explain it? Woolf attempts variously to describe what it feels like to conceive ideas and create things. Which quote is not by Virginia Woolf in these two books?

a. “It is fatal for anyone who writes to ignore their sex. The mind must be focused on one’s sexual identity, for its limitations and biological demands matter more than anything.”

b. “She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight … that made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as down a dark passage for a child.”

c. “Thought … had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute by minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked.”

d. “The androgynous mind is resonant and porous … it transmits emotion without impediment … it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”

9. Woolf’s reality. Which of the following is not in A Room?

a. “If she begins to tell the truth, the [man’s] figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished.”

b. “It is remarkable … what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”

c. “The Suffrage campaign has done the unthinkable! Finally, it has roused in men an extraordinary desire to help women achieve their potential.”

d.  “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.”

e. “Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at.”

10. What’s wrong with women’s writing of the nineteenth century? Which reason is not cited?

a. Ignorance and emotion. “Anger was tampering with the integrity of Charlotte Brontë the novelist. … Her imagination swerved from indignation and we feel it swerve.”

b. Lack of natural ability. “No woman has ever written as well as Dickens or Proust.”

c.  Pressure of convention. “She was thinking of something other than the thing itself. … She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.”

d. Lack of female community and heritage. “They had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers … it is useless to go to the great men writers for help.”

11. What advice does Woolf not proffer to young women? 

a. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

b. There must be a lock on that door, the door to your room.

c.  “Adopt the name of a man for your writing; anonymity runs in our blood.”

d. “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn.”

ANSWERS

1. c.

2. e. (Son Andrew makes that observation, describing his father’s philosophical writings.)

3. b.  That quote is from Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes.

4. f. All are in To the Lighthouse.

5. b.

6. a.

7. b.

8. a.

9. c.

10. b.

11. c.

To all women: please write! write simply, write sadly, write with your heart or your anger…

Write about your lives, about your thoughts, about your past, present, or future, but write, and let the world know you were here!

For what it is worth, I’ve pasted below a photo of the books I’ve created during my time on this earth, inspired partly at least by my reading of Woolf’s essay during my time as an undergraduate….

Woolf makes me proud to be a writer. To exist. To forgive us all, and to hope… for more great writers will come! Please write!

And, of course, thank you for reading.