A feminist reading of Doris Lessing’s ‘To Room Nineteen’ and ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson using ideas discussed in ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir

2446 Words May 13th, 2014 10 Pages
A feminist reading of Doris Lessing’s ‘To Room Nineteen’ and ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson using ideas discussed in ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir.

The concept of Simone de Beauvoir’s myth of women discussed in ‘The Second Sex’ was still very much prevalent in the 1960s when ‘To Room nineteen’ was set and certainly at the time of ‘Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. In the 1960s, in accordance with the second wave of feminism, women were thought to be more conscious and aware of their rights as a woman because of the media (Hanisch)1 and this is what we, as a reader could easily deduce from the beginning of Doris Lessing’s ‘To room nineteen’. This new- found consciousness however
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She relies on Matthew for comfort when she isn’t feeling herself and she eventually relies on him to give her the money so that she can rent out a room in a hotel; room nineteen. ‘She only had to run across and fling herself into them, onto his hard, warm chest, and melt into herself, into Susan’. This shows how Susan relies on Matthew to feel herself, without him she feels like a stranger: soulless, nothing. ‘She cannot think of herself without man” (de Beauvoir, 1949 p.16). At this point however she feels too distant from him that that place in his arms isn’t hers any longer and she eventually feels like ‘[…] an imposter’.

In addition, although being dependant on Matthew, Susan is given the freedom to essentially do what she wants. Matthew gives her the money for the room, allows them to have an au pair girl and is even accepting of Susan’s fabricated lover. This would, at the surface go against de Beauvoir’s view of the ‘Other’ being a person who is not free. On closer examination however this statement seems to be fundamentally flawed. To Susan, even when alone in the house with Mrs. Parkes, she still feels a certain restraint and unavoidable attachment to her life and worries. When she first rents room nineteen, the texts quotes ‘She was alone. She was alone. She was alone.’ The repetition of this highlights how unhappy she is