London during the 1960’s had conservative social ideals, especially of gender roles. Post
World War II, women were expected to leave the jobs they were allowed to have during the war
and resume their place in the home (“The Woman Question” 1607). The children of these
women had hopes that they could aspire to have dreams that went beyond motherhood (Ireland
3). Guidelines for the female’s place in society and in the home were prominent even throughout
the 1960’s. In To Room Nineteen, Lessing challenges the conservative social ideals of the
1960’s by telling Susan’s story of lost identity. Susan has everything she should to want
according to societal ideals. She has a husband who has a good job, a house in the suburbs of
To answer the question of whether she was forced to fit a role in society, one may
consider what caused the rigid expectations for women. Ireland states in her article
“Reconceiving Women” that dating back to mythology of many cultures, there is a pattern of
qualities that make women intimidating and feared, and many were uncertain of the impact
someone who is feminine but powerful, self-serving, unmarried, or childless could have on the
community (Ireland 7). There is an obvious negative connotation that these women are rejecting
the role society demands they fill, and this kind of “othering” makes it so unnatural for a woman
to not identify as part of her husband, home, or children.
After hearing about Matthew’s affair, Susan begins to stop identifying with her children.
On page ___, she claims that she feels life is a “desert” (CITE) and her life and children are “not
her own” (CITE). This is a dissociation between her and the people she dedicates every day of
her life to. The text refers to the time before the twins went to school as “years when her...
She describes herself as the mother of four,
wife of Matthew, employer of Mrs. Parkes and Sophie, as well as having relationships with
friends, teachers, and trademen, and even describes her as a mistress to her house, garden, and
activities (CITE). The syntax of these relations is important; it uses a descriptive noun, “mother,”
followed by the word “of” and then some other noun. This syntax indicates that Susan belongs to
these people and things, and not the other way around. This is important because without the
realization that these relational identities are her only identities, she would not feel the emptiness
that she feels at the end of the passage.
The story of Matthew and Susan Rawlings’ failed marriage is clear. However, losing her
husband’s commitment became a catalyst to the realization that he can escape to work and
affairs, the children have school, and she has nothing. Through the story of Susan Rawlings,
Lessing calls attention to misplaced identity which stems from external pressures. Their story
begins describing social expectations and ends with the physical death of Susan, whom fell
victim to the overwhelming sense that she does not know who she...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document