“To Room Nineteen” by Doris Lessing is the story of a woman who cycles through depression rooted in her marriage, which leads to her calmly committing suicide as she reasoned that it would be in everyone’s best interest. The protagonist in the story, Susan Rawlings, appears to shift between moods of neutrality, relief, and deep unsettlement. With this said, by analyzing her mood swings, each with it’s own unique social setting and physical environment we can begin to see the stages of her character’s unraveling leading to her eventual demise. In this way, Susan’s high and low points are drastically influenced by her social and physical situations.
Susan’s life is sprinkled with a series of high points all centered on her level of independence at that particular time. For example, her happiest moments in life transpire when she leads a semi-separate life from Mathew, she has a separate job, friends, and apartment; her social and physical situations overlapped but were not dependent on Mathew’s at this time. Susan’s next moment of relief ensues when she comes across Mrs. Townsend’s motel, although the room itself was, “ordinary and anonymous” (Lessing 878) it’s the social environment here that Susan craves; feeling detached from herself and almost reinvented gives her the temporary relief she needs to go home and be content with her life with Mathew and the children. Like a drug addict looking for her next fix Mrs. Townsend’s motel will no longer feed Susan’s crave for solitude anymore, so she instead looks for a new relief and finds it in Fred’s motel. Fred’s motel is frequented by hookers and is a much worse establishment than Mrs. Townsend’s, but here Fred lets her be and gives her the feeling that, “she was alone and no one knew where she was” (Lessing 883), which satisfies the social privacy she desires. Susan’s final moment of relief occurs when she decides to take her life away in Fred’s motel; in this way she leaves...
Cited: Lessing, Doris. “To Room Nineteen.” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed.
Peter Simon. New York: Bausch and Cassill, 2006. 867-890. Print.
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