To Room Nineteen is a book by Lessing, it explores the idea of quest of freedom for human beings, women are particularly viewed to be from patriarchal societies and are denied their freedom due to the many responsibilities they have at home. Basically this story represents emptiness, repression of the spirit as well as personal alienation which is created by cultural and social divisions. The story is characterized by the aforementioned traits and the aspect of freedom is not considered. Personal alienation is a prominent trait that is featured in this story for all human beings; nevertheless, the story shows how women are discriminated and alienated from the society. The paper also explores the war between instinct and intellect, heart and mind, against the London environment during the early 1960. This is when women socially conserve the past and are not able to future promise that would promote fulfillment, personal freedom and choice. Lessing also focuses on the restrictions that women are placed on during that era, as well as the distressing consequences of these restriction (Peter Verdonk 1995).
In the book, To Room Nineteen, the title room represents Susan’s quest for freedom from the various family responsibilities to the extent of buying demons for freedom. However, the freedom eventually turns to provide a room for her suicide. This story explores the psychological introspection of an English woman who is middle aged. Her world during the mid 20th century London community, revolved around her four children, husband and home. However, even after she became physically liberated when her children went to school, she finds out that her husband had been engaging in an extramarital affair. This makes Susan embark on a journey of self rediscovery, which eventually leads to madness and suicide.
The story captures Susan as an excellent example of a victim of emptiness, repression of the spirit as well as personal alienation and an individual who needs comfort, freedom and love at the same time in order to avoid suicide and madness cases. The story reflects a very perfect beginning for Susan’s family which is later characterized by sorrow. Susan’s family was a perfect example of a virtuous and happy family since she had everything such as, home, children, husband, job and education. These are material things that consider a relationship and a family successful. In Susan’s family, it appears that what people see from outside differs with the inside. They had all things they wished for, but the family lacked happiness. The emptiness brings sorrow in this family and pushes Susan to the idea of committing suicide to escape from the alienation she has experienced (Maunder 2007).
It is in the mind of everyone in the society to feel appreciated and to have a sense of belonging. Everyone has time whereby one needs to be alone in order to think about themselves, life and how to free themselves from daily stress. This implies that alienation from the world is necessary to human beings since it helps rebuild one self. This is in contrast to the kind of alienation experienced in this story. In the story, To Room Nineteen, Susan desires for sense of belonging and appreciation from the repression of responsibilities in her home. This is because she played various roles in her family such as a mistress, wife and a mother of her family, roles that are extremely demanding. Therefore, Susan believes she requires freedom that will allow her to be alone and identify herself.
Individuals will have different desires at different stages of life. From the story, it is evident that the quest for freedom pushed for by Susan is accelerated by the fact that she acquired more responsibilities. As a mother of four, Susan has added responsibilities in her life since her children become a priority. Therefore, she has limited, or no time to look at her eccentricity. Additionally, her economic freedom is taken away since she has to look after the children. This reduces Susan to minor and husband-dependent being, something that makes her husband do whatever he pleases even when it is something wrong, such as having an extramarital affair. In Mathew’s case it is evident that some of these occurrences are agitated by cultural and social disparities. With Matthew’s economic power, he gets an opportunity to have enjoyable times with another girl whereas Susan, his wife, barely gets freedom to enjoy due to the many responsibilities in the family. However, the society does not allow the wife to enjoy freedom since the socio-cultural forms and norms are controlled and constructed by patriarchy whereby the husband is superior in the family.
Susan’s marriage derives a lot of pain and endurance for the cultural and social disparities. Patriarchal norms and virtues that have for the longest time been vetted on women are the main causes of the suffering and pain that Susan had to endure in her marriage. She would have done anything to protect her marriage, in turn; it is obvious that she endured a lot just to save face in the society. It is compounded by all her time she on her hands after she sent her twins to school. Suddenly she discovers that she is free, and her work was to sit and wait for her children to return from school. Susan is by then at a place where she has no support from her husband. This makes her feel the emptiness that creeps in her life (Magill 1996).
Emptiness in many marriages derives many women in the society to engaging in the wrong activities. A number of women in the society grapple with the pain they endure in their marriages in silence. This is because they want all people to see their life as being picturesque. The restrictions imposed on women on social and societal levels eventually lead to terrible results. This is the case for Susan who ends up being in too much pain and suffering in silence until the feeling of emptiness drives her to commit suicide. It is unfortunate that the man that she had devoted all her life to have not even taken a cue to what his wife was going through. Her children also were not aware that their mother had become an emotional wreck right before their eyes.
The social divisions are to be blamed for all the happenings which followed after Susan’s inability to contain the situation any more. Susan’s social experiences and her personal pressure push her to work and conform to what the culture has dictated. The social classes that she is in, as well as her gender, have the effect of setting certain social restrictions on her life. She belongs to the middle class and lives in suburbia this two have some certain boundaries that she cannot overstep culturally. She is expected to own a lovely and large house which should also be expensive and live in a good suburb like suburbia. The house should be well maintained this means a lot of time also money being used in maintaining the house. This forces her to spend a lot of resources on the house and due to her position in Suburbia; she is forced to live a life that is slow and does not interact with the active city life. She is not able to build a career as a woman but creates relations with the women in the surrounding (Lessing 2002).
For Susan the hotel room left her puzzled and was overwhelmed by the feeling of alienation and imprisonment. While, in the hotel room, she is also possessed by spirits, at times when she returns to the room and looks at her image in the mirror that was in the hotel room, all she could see was nothing but emptiness. This feeling was so strong for her and her efforts to overcome it were at times beyond her reach. She is restless and has the hunger to move around as well as her self-consciousness is affected by her life. To Susan, she is not aware that the spirit she possesses is crucial to her life and that it is equal to the life issues that affect her. However, instead she runs away from reality and is unable to achieve her goal of happiness. Though, she runs away to a hotel room seeking a world that has no men, she fails. This makes her life have no meaning as well as with no purpose.
Susan had the mindset that by escaping to room nineteen she would encounter psychological healing, as well as physical freedom, but later learns that it does not assist. She attempts to test her husband faith in her, especially in regards to fidelity. Therefore, she lies to Matthew that she had an extramarital affair, but, the husband proposes something worse that they should engage in a ‘foursome”. This hurts Susan because was not in her expectation, and it was absurd too. She felt her husband was no longer a respectable man and was a different person. She had remained faithful and decided to disagree with the idea of foursome, which she believed was an evil affair. The response from Matthew leaves Susan worse than she was (Lessing 1976).
The strong feeling of emptiness drives Susan into leaving her lovely, large and beautiful house that she had spent her marriage life. However, her main worry was what people will say about her after leaving her husband and commit suicide. She is also disturbed by what the patriarchal society that she had lived in all along will think of her. She was afraid that people may think that he committed suicide because of her husband. She saw this as a huge humiliation for people to think of her that way. A sense of life having no meaning and nothingness and meaninglessness tormented her and saw that she had no future. Therefore, she finally decides to commit suicide as to be free (Fleenor 1993).
In the story it is obvious that women have been sidelined in many areas for the longest time. Their duties had been well cut out in the society, and as such, they were expected to fulfill all these duties to be termed as successful women. The work of the woman was to take care of her family. They had also the responsibility over the wellbeing of the family members. There was nothing more that was expected of a woman and making many women underutilized. Many women had talents and other ideas that they could have assisted many developments of the society, but all these remained repressed (MacCormick 1991).
The feeling that a woman is inferior to man and the cultural rigidities on them drives them to remaining with their problems just to engage in activities that are very serious and unbelievable. The quest for women to emancipate themselves from male domination and gain their personal freedom drove many to their deaths. As in the case of Susan, death was her only solution to free herself out of repression from the suffocating grip of her home and marriage after testing several options. After taking a thorough assessment of her life, Susan realized that she had nothing to live for and thus suicide seemed to be her way of getting her freedom. However, Suicide is not the best solution to freedom gain, but end of discrimination is the only way that women can get their freedom. The bare fact that Susan was female and that she belonged to a middle social standing in the society contributed to the overall pressure that drive Susan to her ultimate end (Magill & Charles 1986).
In a nutshell, it is evident that Lessing uses Susan to depict the plight of the traditional housewife in a society that is trapped in patriarchal dictates. It is worth noting that these are the things that happen in the world today. Women strive to seek for the peaceful and a quiet environment where they can enjoy a carefree lifestyle away from the stipulated gender roles. It is unfortunate that women did feel underutilized, and many chose to play along with the societal expectations at the expense of their liberation. Susan finds out though too late that her life could never be what it was before she got married and that she was not free to her own home. Her years of role playing as being Matthew’s wife rob her of her identity. In Room Nineteen, Susan discovers she is depersonalized and suffers from identity crisis. In Fred’s Hotel room nineteen, Susan finally finds her no environment where she becomes the pilot of her own destiny. Susan’s end is tragic and unwarranted though to some extent she can be said to have dug her own grave since she makes the subjective decision to commit suicide by herself. Proper steps are recommended to ensure that the case experienced through Susan is not repeated and women enjoy their life equal to men.