This is one of the first times I have felt
the need to complete reading a book
simply to have completed it...
just because I made a commitment
to myself to do so!
I reached my goal!
|Before...in the idealistic stage.|
|After the idealist vision proved |
inadequate and flawed...
|Comes the disillusionment...|
There was a like disillusionment with feminist ideals. Lessing shows the dichotomy of the archetypal woman who engages in casual uncommitted sexual relationships, believing herself to be "free" and acting like a "typical" male, when in 1962, most women were not at all psychologically prepared for this lifestyle as a lifelong behavior, and still found themselves desiring typically traditional relationships, including marriage, children, and commitment.
"And what about us? Free, we say, yet the truth is they get erections when they're with a woman
they don't give a damn about, but we don't have an orgasm unless we love him. What's free
about that?" page 439
So although females had gained some sexual "freedom" at that point in time, they were not necessarily happy with the outcome. I believe this demonstrates the fact that social change requires much time; behaviors may change, but the psychological ramifications take much longer to incorporate into the human psyche overall. Unfortunately, societal expectations can require many decades to achieve much of a shift within the populace...
This reminded me of the time required for U.S. society to change its attitude toward women working outside the home full-time. I was a recent high school graduate in 1974 and although this concept was becoming a bit more acceptable, e.g. there was an expectation that females would "attend" college, (interestingly, not necessarily to "complete" or "graduate" from college) just as a "back-up," in case they were unable to obtain the expected "M-R-S" degree, or if they (Shock!) ended up d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d! It was a rather perplexing situation, and since I was in the Midwest, local society/culture was even more "backward" and much less progressive, and therefore, even more confusing for many of us females entering adulthood!
A third recurrent theme (definitely related to that listed above regarding feminist ideals), repeated consistently throughout the second half of this book (to ad nauseum, in my opinion) is the idea of sexual attraction to those who have been "unfaithful." Men are portrayed as enjoying the fact they can have sex with another woman and then return to the one woman with whom they are supposedly "in a relationship" to have more sex. However, as Lessing depicts, a woman does not have this same sense of enjoyment:
"I went over to him, and he gripped my wrist and brought me down
beside him. I remember lying there and hating him and wondering
why the only time I could remember him making love to me with
any conviction was when he knew I had just made love to someone
else." page 143
Virtually all of this information was obtained from reading the first half of this book. The second half simply repeated (over and over and over again) these same themes, adding the process of Anna's slide into insanity. For me, it was a very depressing read, however, as I kept telling myself, it was probably a much more enlightening, ground-breaking, even shocking read back in 1962 or even 1974!!
Have you read this classic? What was your take on it? Whew! I'm just glad it's over and done! I was glad I took a break and read other books I enjoyed much more before returning to it and reading the last half--that break seemed to invigorate me enough to push on!