Thursday, May 2, 2013


I have just been rereading Doris lessing's 'To room nineteen' and i realize that it's power to disturb and haunt my imagination is as powerful as ever. Lessing captures amazingly the emptiness at the heart of Susan and the inability of marriage, kids, anything to ameliorate her sense of a vast gulf between what she sees as the live, throbbing world and how bottomless her despair feels like. Room nineteen becomes a symbol where she can actualize her existential crises by floating in a bubble of non being. She eventually takes her own life but her comatose nothingness and pure being ironically becomes a way of life. In lifelessness, inertia, lassitude she finds reasons to live. Yet her desire to engage in this colloquy of emptiness requires a blank space, a palimpsest under whose blurred interstices she absents herself into a state of unrelenting oblivion. When the consecrated space of 'being' is discovered she is unanchored. Too somnambulant to find another space, too bleak to look for an alternative she succumbs to her emptiness and kills herself. What assails susan is ontological incertitude. As a woman, unable to think of other possibilities, listless with empty stretches of time, circumscribed by her femininity she loses her core. She is putatively and ostensibly emancipated and seems to make choices for herself yet the manacles of patriarchy tie her into choosing conventional roles which serve to intensify and augment her loneliness. In one sense the psychiatric profession would diagnose susan as clinically depressed and attribute her sense of loss of herself as neurochemical. Yet lessing painstakingly points out that susan's madness is a cultural metonym for the lives of women. In the golden notebook Anna wulf goes campaigning for the communist party and sees housewives whose lives are totally bereft of meaning. Susan's tragedy lies in the fact that her being, which is her empty, passive non being and becoming, what she becomes coalesce. Unlike the existentials who lay the onus for becoming on the individual susan reverts to a tabula rasa state of blankness except that experience doesn't imbue her with variety but folds her back into the state of non being she began with. She is coiled in the foetus of her singular and social self absorption, ratified by patriarchy and authenticated by the nature of the times. Sylvia plath's depression in 'The bell jar' echoes the blankness of susan's life. At the crossroads of a burgeoning feminism of Betty freidan, Germaine greer in the 50's and 60's susan rawlings occupies an interstice, a daguerrotype of perspectivation that denies her agency. Contemporary thinkers would ask her stir herself up, do physical activity, take prozac, keep busy. Yet one senses that all this may momentarily buttress susan's tenuousness of existence but eventually in love with self obliteration as the only recompense from a life leached of purpose , her negation of existence would ultimately triumph

No comments:

Post a Comment