Alienation and Struggle of the “Happy Housemaker”


锦绣·上旬刊 2019年11期


Abstract:This paper reveals the alienation and struggle of the female protagonist in To Room Nineteen from the perspective of feminist then explores real social conditions of women.

Key word:To Room Nineteen;feminist;alienation;struggle


To Room Nineteen(1963)was written by Doris Lessing.Most of her works were influenced by the psychologist R.D.Laing’s theories of the divided self.The protagonist was regarded as a “happy housemaker”,however,at the back of this so called “happy housemaker”,there exists her alienation and struggle.

Ⅱ.Alienation--- Divided Self

Alienation means an individual's estrangement from his community,society or world.According to R.D.Laing’s theories of divided self.Psychotic patient is the one who has a divided self mainly represents as the separation of consciousness and body.The psychotic patient feels the body is an object of the whole world,not the core of individuality.Then the body becomes “the false self”,its “real self” is not involved in the action of the body directly.Then comes a separation of “real self” and “false self.” The inner world of the “real self” becomes empty and finally collapses.

At the beginning,the couple’s marriage was on the basis of intelligence.Everyone felt they were well matched.They married amid general rejoicing,and because of their foresight and their sense for what was probable,nothing was a surprise to them.They had fairly good jobs.Everything seemed intelligent.When Susan became pregnant,she gave up job and devoted in the family.People thought everything was right,appropriate,and these were everyone would wish for,if they could choose.She was regarded as a “happy housemaker”.They seemed to be harmonious and respected for each other.Actually,Susan was depressed and lost herself.It was her husband’s affair with a woman that left both of them irritable,strange,bad-tempered,annoyed.But as an “sensible” wife,she “forgave” him.She comforted herself that “the handsome,blond,attractive,manly man should be at times tempted by the attractive girls at parties.” Actually,Susan cared about it and feel unhappy,she felt more and more threatened by emptiness.She desired to free.She found a place only belongs to herself —The Number 19.In that room,she was no longer Susan,a mother,a wife,an employer with all relationships.She was Mrs.Jones with no past and no future.When she back home,she felt she was an impostor and imprisoned,this was her “false self”.The “real self” was in Fred’s hotel,waiting for the easing hours of solitude to begin and did not want to bear all these burdens:the sensible relationship,the house,even the children.However,“the false self” needs to face them.She could not get rid of burdens instantly.She needed to keep this sensible and fairly good life:middle-class,rich life,a successful husband,four children,a house with garden.“The false self” does not allow her to destroy what she owned or quarrel with her husband.So “the false self” put her into an abyss.At home,she became more and more emptiness.

Ⅲ.Struggle for Freedom

Susan was a model female,she had higher education,owned a “happy” family.But she felt lonely,empty,and frightened.Men are important in politics and economy.They have absolute power.Women are the appendages of them.There are two kinds of women:angel and devil.People think a good wife should be like Susan.However,the “happy housemakers” felt great burdens and pressures so that they can not find their own positions in society.They seems happy,but they feel painful.Like Susan,she can not find her values and existence so she doubts her marriage.Betty Friedani in her book,The Feminine Mystique,explores the truth of American Women’s annoys,pains and real reasons—the unequal positions in the society and family.They are treated unequally that they feel confused and lost.Susan began to retrospect herself and revived gradually.She employed an au pair girl who helped her to take care of her family in the daytime.She went to the Number 19 Room to gain freedom.Virginia Woolf once said,“a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Women need a room not only physically,but also mentally.In this room,Susan felt satisfied,peaceful,and free.Unfortunately,it was found by her husband.She suicided in the end


In the man-dominated society,women are treated unequally and regarded as the appendages of men,they must be perfect wives in family to keep everything well.After the 2nd wave of Feminist Movement,women became sober and wanted to get rid of these family things.They strived for themselves to find their values and freedom.They were not the alienation anymore,they began to voice for themselves.


[1]M “H” Abrams.To Room Nineteen,The Norton Anthology English Literature [M].London;W.W.Norton & Company,1993.

[2]Virgina Woolf.A Room of One’s Own,Grafton,London,1977



[1]Betty Friedan:


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