• CommentAuthorphilippa
    • CommentTimeNov 22nd 2008
    All the currently married women in the novel seem to me to be more stereotyped in their characters than anyone else. Mrs Boothby in Africa is depicted as a typical lower-middle-class white settler woman, focused on the domestic, uncritical of the racism and inequality around her, and extraordinarily ordinary. Mrs West (who we meet on page 169) uses phrases such as " you career girls," and has, we are told, no taste. Though our encounter with her is incredibly brief, the criticism of what Lessing calls "Mrs West's world" is lasting. Then there is the fictional Paul's wife, Muriel, who neither we nor Ella ever meet. Indeed at page 192 Lessing tells us that Ella "did not think of his wife at all. At least, not at the beginning." the only glimpse we get off her is when Paul takes her to his house while his wife and children are on holiday. Needless to say, we find out that it is an "ugly little house," and that Muriel is a depressingly ordinary woman. It's not a pretty trio, and the message does seem to be that getting married and staying married is a kind of death, at least of the soul. Anyone else think this is so?
    • CommentAuthorlaura
    • CommentTimeNov 24th 2008
    Which is so interesting in that Ella also fantasizes (187 UK)that Paul is about to ask her to marry him, which of course couldn't be further from the truth! A lot of AMBIVALENCE (in the fullest sense) toward marriage here--reminds me of Beauvoir's chapter on "The Married Woman" in The Second Sex, where it's an equally soul-killing enterprise.
    • CommentAuthorSusannah
    • CommentTimeNov 24th 2008
    It's curious to me that Lessing acknowledges "a female chivalry, women for woman, as strong as any other kind of loyalty"[p. 92/US edition], yet almost all the sexual passion thus far has occurred in the context of adultery. Whither sisterhood? Clearly this has to do with Lessing's own unhappy marriages and the diminutive role of the wife that Philippa refers to above.
    Perhaps I want Lessing's thinking to conform to my feminist ideals, but Lessing vigorously resisted being pigeonholed as a feminist writer. This from a 7/25/82 NYTimes article: "What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness. What they would really like me to say is, 'Ha, sisters, I stand with you side by side in your struggle toward the golden dawn where all those beastly men are no more.' Do they really want people to make oversimplified statements about men and women? In fact, they do. I've come with great regret to this conclusion."