Silent Subversion in a Woman on a Roof

Topics: Gender, Woman, Female Pages: 6 (2195 words) Published: May 17, 2013
Silent Subversion in A Woman On A Roof


This paper centers on the unnamed woman sunbathing on the roof of her own, using her indifference and silence as rebellion toward the three men's provocation working on another roof, trying to explore women's subversion toward the gender bias and their self-consciousness raising in the society. Key words: silence;indifference;rebellion;subversion

1. Introduction

Doris Lessing, the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, is described by the award committee as" that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny". Her novel A Woman on A Roof depicts the life and culture of modern European life and is regarded as one of the twentieth century's pivotal works of fiction speaking for women. A Woman on A Roof is a short story set in the early 1960’s in London. While repairing a roof during a scorching heat wave, three workmen spot an attractive woman sunbathing on a neighboring roof: Tom is 17 years old, shy, and impressionable; Stanley has recently married and is both shocked and attracted by the woman's nakedness; Harry, who is married and has a son about Tom's age, is 45 years old, tolerant and practical-minded. They take advantage of her privacy and start to blow wolf whistles to her though she appears indifferent to their harassment. The harassment goes on for the next seven days and during this time we see the men’s hatred for her increase due to her indifferent yet they are still excited at seeing her naked body day in day out. In the novel, the unnamed woman represents the new modern liberating women having fortune, leisure and taste to enjoy themselves at any time anywhere, which is quite against the traditional opinion many men always think of. Meanwhile, the three men working hard under the same sunshine belong to the low class. By comparing with their different living status, Doris Lessing presents us a very vivid picture between men and women, high class and low class, which delivers her intention that women are not expelled to enjoy the high quality life as men usually do and new women have the courage to defy the creed vocally or silently.

2 Traditional Female Image and Gender Bias
When talking about the female images, there is a variety of overt and subtle ways in it. They may be posited as ideal, whose angel wings scarcely touch the earth. Wealth may allow them enjoy poetic leisure, youth and extra grace if necessary; They may be posited as the material, whose whole-life mission is how to survive herself and her family in the earthly world. In A Women on A Roof, the traditional female images are just like the material: stay at home, obedient toward their husbands and keep the family hard. However, the unnamed women representing the new image of woman between the ideal and material and truly be herself all the time. "She lying prone, brought her two hands up behind her shoulders with the end if a scarf in them, tied it behind her back", then" sat smoking, and did not look up when Stanley let out a wolf whistle". When she is bothered, she" blinked and stared, then dropped her head again" with" this gestures of indifference" to ignore turbulence. How does the image come? Mostly by men! And it is because of the long-time existed gender bias. Women are generally and routinely casted to be inferior and their main responsibility is only to breed next generation. Women are not allowed to work outside and those encouraged working women still rarely receive equal pay respects and supports they deserved. Maybe there are some exceptions; the general situation is more or less the same. Julia Swindells has commented:"It seems to me that the construction of gender difference and hierarchy is created at work as well as at home--and that the effect on women(less physical and technical capacity,...
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