Comparison and Contrast “To Room Nineteen” by Doris Lessing and “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” by D.H. Lawrence
Throughout this essay, I will be comparing/contrasting the two romantic relationships displayed in the short stories “To Room Nineteen” by Doris Lessing and “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” by D.H. Lawrence. Both stories explore the notion of losing yourself, and the inability to handle change and loss. I will compare these stories to determine how this inability manifests depression and the fight for love within the characters.
Doris Lessing’s story shows the struggle for individuality within the world of Susan, a woman who loses herself through the sacrifices she makes for her family. This story begins optimistically, showing a couple that “[Their friends] felt they were well-matched” (Lessing 864). Unlike Lessing’s story, D.H. Lawrence’s story does not begin in a place of happiness. Instead, it focuses on Mabel, a woman suffering the loss of everything she knows following the death of her father. Without her wealth and prospects Mabel finds herself uncertain of who she is “But as long as there was money. The girl felt herself established, and brutally proud, reserved” (Lawrence 839).
Susan is an intelligent woman who uses logic to rationalize the choices she makes. Her marriage to her husband was one of logic, not passion, as they had known each other for some time, and it made sense to wed. Susan believes her life to be adequate though unfulfilling and draining. Mabel is immediately presented differently. She is sullen, distant, viewed by her brothers as “The sulkiest bitch that ever trod” (Lawrence 838). While the progression of Susan’s depression is slow and gradual, Mabel’s depression is obvious from the beginning.
Susan’s depression grows as she enters motherhood and gives up more of herself for her family. As she faces the prospect of an empty nest where she will no longer be needed, she feels the weight of the sacrifices she has made. She feels the loss of giving up her career and her life for her family. “…for both knew of the hidden resentment and deprivations of the woman who has lived her own life-[and] has earned her own living-and is now dependent on a husband for outside interests and money.” (Lessing 865). Struggling with feelings of worthlessness she faces her husband’s adultery, acknowledging the end of her marriage saying “This was life, that two people, no matter how carefully chosen, could not be everything to each other” (Lessing 866). Her mundane life takes its toll, and Susan tries to distance herself from her reality.
In both stories there is an obvious point where their depression manifests into suicidal thoughts. For Mabel her numbness was present throughout “This was at an end. She thought of nobody, not even of herself” (Lawrence 839). Whereas Susan gradually feels “...as if life had become a desert, and nothing mattered” (Lessing 867). To escape her reality, Susan rents a hotel room to provide isolation. Her family now a burden to her “feeling the pressure of these people-four lively children and her husband -were a painful pressure on the surface of her skin, a hard pressing on her brain” (Lessing 871) She takes her own life in the place she tried to find solace.
Though Susan’s suicide is ultimately the end of her story, Mabel’s attempted suicide provides a new beginning. Though she attempts, she is saved at the last second by a doctor, who also nearly dies attempting to save her. The high emotions in this situation trauma bonds them, causing confusing and conflicting emotions to emerge aided by a flush sexual tension (due to the intensity of the situation and the fact she is naked).
When Mabel regains consciousness, she latches on to her savior immediately believing him to love her. The doctor is uncomfortable and fights against these claims, but eventually believes them to be true and they decide to wed the next day, a choice made through adrenaline and intensity. It is obvious this is an unwanted and ungenuine love, and both do not feel right about it with Mabel’s last words of the story being “I feel awful. I feel awful. I feel I am horrible to you” (Lawrence 846).
Through the progression of both romantic relationships, the struggle to find individuality and purpose emerges. Susan and Mabel cling to love and use it as a crutch. Mabel clings to the idea of love for self-perseverance and Susan clings to the idea of love because logic tells her that she should, and her whole purpose was dependent on her marriage. Though presented differently, both stories show that neither woman is fulfilled or satisfied within their romantic relationships, unable to handle the change thrown at them.