From Pain to Freedom: The Use of Setting in Doris Lessing's "To Room 19"
Susan Rawling, the main character in Doris Lessing's short story "To Room 19", fights against her inner emptiness and the roles she is supposed to play as a mother, a wife, and a house manager. This painful battle leads her to an utterly denying attitude towards her "intelligent" marriage and domestic life. In order to express this psychological process, Lessing progressively describes the different views the character has of her surroundings - such as the starkness of her white house, the big and "wild" garden, and finally "Room 19" to demonstrate how these settings influence her troublesome emotional status.
At the onset of the story, Susan Rawling lives in a large, white, and gardened house. Although one may possibly infer her husband and she lead a wealthy life and that their house is likely to be comfortable, scarcely can the reader find any detailed description of both the house and the furniture this house is bound to have inside.
Along the story, many are the passages where the reader can clearly perceive that this is an intelligently organized structure managed mainly by her. Everything is perfect, "[t]hey had everything they had wanted and had planned for. And yet..." (p. 666). At a certain moment, Susan realizes that there is something wrong with her life. Despite the fact that apparently she leads a flawless life, "... why did Susan feel as if life had become a desert, and that nothing mattered, and that her children were not her own" (p. 668). Susan tries to draw herself back from this structure when she perceives she does not totally belong to that place, since there she is not really herself, but the mother, the wife and the...