Symbolism In A Woman On The Roof

Topics: Gender role, Gender, Woman, Role / Pages: 4 (1323 words) / Published: Dec 2nd, 2001
A Woman 's Power Struggle Of the symbolism in Doris Lessing 's short story, "A Woman on the Roof", the most obvious symbols are the women, her roof and the three workmen. This story is about a woman 's power struggle. In a time period such as the one this story takes place in, it may sound a bit ironic and historically speaking, we would not mention the words woman and power in the same sentence. Lessing uses symbolism to show the power struggles woman went through to gain freedom from an unequal, sexist, and male dominating society.

The woman sunbather is the most influential symbol in Lessing 's story. She presents the conflict of power between men and women. "Stanley let out a whistle. She lifted her head, startled, as if she 'd been asleep, and looked straight over at them. The sun was in her eyes, she blinked and stared, then she dropped her head again" (806). By not responding to the whistle, the sunbather has begun to have power over the men. Throughout the story we see how the sunbather begins to gain more and more power by using her nonverbal communication: "She wore a red scarf around her breast and brief red bikini pant" (pg 805). By wearing the color red and being half naked, the woman sunbather is symbolically representing she has confidence in her sexuality. In addition, the color red symbolizes that she is a woman of power. Other examples of her ability to gain more power are: "She sat smoking, and did not look up, when Stanley let out a wolf whistle" (805), and "the woman stayed on her blanket, turning herself over and over. She ignored them, no matter what they did" (806). Clearly, she is a woman who is breaking the barrier of power between men and women. The three workmen men are furious, they yell, scream, whistle and stomp, not because they are upset that she is on the roof sunbathing, but rather, because she refused to give them the power they desperately wanted by acknowledging any of their obnoxious behaviors. To each workman, the woman in

Cited: Lessing, Doris. "A Woman on the a Roof." Fictions. Ed. Joseph F. Trimmer and C. Wade Jennings. 4th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1998. 805-811.

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