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Living in the Rational Cage

Author: CaoAiXian
Tutor: WangLiLi
School: Fujian Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: existentialism predicaments reason individual another "To Room Nineteen"
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 70
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To Room Nineteen is considered as one of the most outstanding English short stories. It is also a favorite of Doris Lessing’s among her works. She once said that it is a story about well-off people who feel empty and are fed up with dull life. The story with traditional plots truly reveals the modern people’s living confusion—"What do we live for? " It is exactly the primary focus in existentialism, which emphasizes the central role of human beings, individual emotions, subjectivity, personal free choices and the ability to take actions etc. Thus the thesis attempts to analyze Susan’s and Matthew’s existential consciousness and conditions from the existentialist perspective. Their tragedy vividly reflects the western mid-class living dilemmas and confusion in the mid-20th century. The essay first analyzes Susan’s living consciousness and conditions from the following aspects:loss of self-individuality, awakening of consciousness and incapacity to transcend herself. The process from loss to awakening reflects the gradual return of Susan’s authentic self. Susan’s death contains two meanings:on the one hand, her death reflects the fact that she is trapped in the pursuit of absolute freedom, so she is unable to transcend herself and establish a new faith as well; but on the other hand, Susan’s death can not be completely denied because it’s simply through her death that we can discover a positive woman who can introspect herself, strive for freedom and attempt to obtain her authentic identity. In fact, Matthew is another victim trapped in living plight and finally falls into the lifestyle of "bad faith". He takes refuge in his office which symbolizes another "Room Nineteen". Hence his strong image in patriarchal social system is collapsed.It is found that the story challenges the lifestyles completely based on reason and individual needs as well, because excessive stress on rational thinking would lead to the loss of people’s subjectivity, whereas over-emphasis on individuals also would result in the lack of living foundation. Therefore, only by combining an individual’s condition with human universal condition could one get the real meaning of his or her existence.

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