Reflection: Mind and Woolf Essay

Submitted By jenkins3259357
Words: 850
Pages: 4

Relationship Between Highbrows Middlebrows and Lowbrows Virginia Woolf was an influential novelist of her time. Critics often described her work as being “highbrow.” In response to the criticism that she encountered, she wrote an essay to describe the differences between highbrows, middlebrows, and lowbrows. Woolf explains the relationship that each group has with one another throughout her essay. Due to the way individuals choose to live, they are categorized into three categories: highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow. Woolf begins her essay by describing highbrows as “the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea” (177). Woolf’s definition of highbrow is essentialist. Essentialist definitions are more of a theory instead of just defining or reciting facts. It is necessary to look further into the way Woolf describes each group instead of taking the literal meaning of her word choices. Woolf’s argument is that highbrows use their intelligence to seek an idea. Woolf describes particular highbrows as “[making a] mess of his life” and “she was the worst governess in the British Isles…[and] went bankrupt” (177). Education and career paths do not play a role in being a highbrow and neither does success. Woolf’s theory of highbrows proves this because she explained how highbrows have failed. Highbrows think of an idea but do little to seek that it is fulfilled. Woolf further explains her distinctions by stating “a lowbrow is meant…a man or a woman of thoroughbred vitality who rides his body in pursuit of a living at a gallop across life” (178). Lowbrows are very different from highbrows. Lowbrows seek their ideas by actually fulfilling them instead of just thinking about them. Once again, career paths do not determine if an individual is a lowbrow because lowbrows can be “a conductor…a woman with ten children and thirty-five shillings a week…a stockbroker… an admiral…a bank clerk…a dressmaker…a duchess…a miner…a cook…a prostitute” (178). Lowbrows can be anyone from a duchess to a prostitute and anywhere in between. Lowbrows put their minds toward what they want to achieve in their lives and put forth the necessary actions to complete these goals.
Although highbrows differ from lowbrows, they get along well with one another. “Lowbrows need highbrows and honour them just as much as highbrows need lowbrows and honour them” (179). The relationship that lowbrows and highbrows have is one where each group is learning from one another. “It is the prime necessities of life to them [lowbrows] to be shown what life looks like. And the highbrows…are the only people who can show them. Since they are the only people who do not do things, they are only people who can see things being done” (179). Woolf further explains how highbrows are the ones who watch and think instead of actually doing. Lowbrows are the ones who go out and do, so the highbrows and lowbrows can learn from one another. They balance each other when it comes to thinking and actually doing.
Not only do the highbrows and lowbrows balance one another, but they are also united in disliking middlebrows. “The true battle…lies not between highbrow and lowbrow, but between highbrows and lowbrows joined together in blood