Free Women 2

UK Edition
US Edition


Previous page
with comments


See all


Next page
with comments


‘No.’ He leaned back, relieved. But having rescued his father, so to speak, from Molly’s and Anna’s scorn, he now paid them their due: ‘But I said to him, that test wouldn’t rule you or my mother out, because both of you would go to that clinüc, wouldn’t you?’ It was important to him that she should say yes; but Anna insisted on honesty, for her own sake. ‘Yes, I would, but he’s right. That’s exactly how I’d feel.’

‘But you’d go?’


‘I wonder if you would? Because I don’t think I would. I mean, I’m not taking either of these jobs so that proves it. And I haven’t even been a communist — I’ve just seen you and my mother and your friends at it, and it’s influenced me. I’m suffering from a paralysis of the will.’

‘Richard used the words, paralysis of the will?’ said Anna, disbelieving.

‘No. It’s what he meant. I found the words in one of the madness books. What he actually said was, the result of the communist countries on Europe is that people can’t be bothered. Because everyone’s got used to the idea of whole countries changing completely in about three years — like China or Russia. And if they can’t see a complete change ahead, they can’t be bothered … do you think that’s true?’

‘It’s partly true. It’s true of the people who have been inside the communist myth.’

‘Not so long ago you were a communist and now you use words like communist myth.’

‘Sometimes I get the impression you blame me and your mother and the rest of us for not still being communists.’

Tommy lowered his head, sat frowning. ‘Well I remember when you used to be so active, rushing around doing things. You don’t now.’

‘Any activity being better than none?’

He raised his head and said sharply, accusing: ‘You know what I mean.’

‘Yes of course I do.’

‘Do you know what I said to my father? I said if I went out to do his dishonest welfare work I’d start organizing revolutionary groups among the workers. He wasn’t angry at all. He said revolutions were a primary risk of big business these days and he’d be careful to take out an insurance policy against the revolution I’d stir up.’ Anna said nothing and Tommy said: ‘It was a joke, do you see?’

‘Yes, I see.’

Free Women 2

UK Edition
US Edition


What is this?

You last read


You last bookmarked


Bookmark currentBookmarked!
Page 211



  1. Lenelle Moïse December 3rd, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    “‘Well I remember when you used to be so active, rushing around doing things. You don’t now.’
    ‘Any activity being better than none?’”

    This reminded me of UK p. 177 when Julia says to Anna, “But I don’t think any man is better than none.” Ella is to Paul as Anna is to Communism?

  2. Nona Willis Aronowitz December 6th, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I also forgot to comment on this section when I read it, but something further along the line compelled me to come back when I was contemplating the fundamental way Lessing sees women:

    “That’s how women see things. Everything in a sort of continuous creative stream–well, isn’t it natural we should?”

    To me this is Anna’s yearning to believe that people really do change, that *she* herself will get out of this…slump? depression? standstill is the word. She scoffs when her therapist encourages her art; she says that she will never write another novel and doesn’t want to. But here she is channeling hidden optimism, convincing herself that this is only an ebb. Perhaps this is a moment that Anna is internalizing the blinky-eyed, nostalgic way women are “expected” to be without even realizing it, considering her conscious intention to be cynical and surprised by nothing. Or maybe this is really Anna expressing that women are more inward than men, that they build on memory rather than charge head-on.

    Either way, this reveals to me another level of frustration that Anna endures about feeling stuck, about wanting to move forward. These feelings, as she explains in this passage, are all tied up in motherhood and how she sees her daughter, how her child is able to move effortlessly through the “phases.”