Literature Annotations


Lessing, Doris
To Room Nineteen


Genre Short Story
KeywordsDepression, Marital Discord, Mental Illness, Parenthood, Suffering, Suicide, Women's Health
Summary

Susan and Matthew Rawlings marry in their late twenties and raise four children. When the youngest child goes off to school Susan, who quit her job to mother, does not experience the sense of freedom that she expected. She feels simultaneously as if she has nothing to do worth doing and never has a spare moment to herself. Her day is taken up in waiting for the children to come home, consulting with the maid or worrying about dinner. She becomes anxious and distant, pulling away from her husband, who begins to have affairs.

Finally, in order to get some time alone, she rents a hotel room every afternoon where she just sits and thinks. Her husband assumes she is having an affair and tracks her down. Knowing that his rational world will not recognize her "irrational" feelings she tells him that she is indeed having an affair. The next day, she returns to the room and kills herself.

CommentaryLessing legitimizes the depression that besets many women who work at home. She is critical of Matthew's response to Susan. Like some medical professionals, he does not take the time to understand what she feels, and is unwilling to face anything outside of his experience. Hemmed in by rationality, Susan's emotions cannot be expressed, resulting in her suicide.
SourceStories
PublisherKnopf
Edition1978
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by Moore, Pamela
Date of Entry 05/20/94
Last Revised 10/17/96