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Idyllic Women in Novels

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Essay title: Idyllic Women in Novels

The character of Mrs. Ramsay from To The Lighthouse, and Harriet of The Fifth Child failed in their many attempts of achieving womanly perfection. Both women strived and struggled to achieve a similar, yet false ideal of feminine perfection. Let’s take a look at failures that exposed their unsuccessful attempts of perfection.

Within To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Ramsay is the most ideal symbol of female perfection and excellence. Mrs. Ramsay’s composure and attitude seem almost faultless. She is viewed by many as influential and supreme. Many of the characters greatly admired and adored Mrs. Ramsay. For example, on page 41 of To The Lighthouse, Augustus Carmichael describes his admiration for Mrs. Ramsay. He believes that not only was she a beauty, but she was admired among everyone. He states, “the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered.” This statement implies that one would become aware of Mrs. Ramsay’s magnificence whenever she would enter a room (Woolf 41.) It is also apparent on page 47, Lily describes Mr. Bankes’s adoration for Mrs. Ramsay, “For him to gaze as Lily saw him gazing at Mrs. Ramsay was a rapture, equivalent, Lily felt to the loves of dozens of young men.” This statement implies that Mr. Bankes greatly worshipped and admired Mrs. Ramsay (Woolf 47.) Also, within pages 50 to 51, Lily is depicted as imagining herself in James’s position. Lily imagines that her head is leaning on Mrs. Ramsay’s lap. She imagines that this intimate moment of connection would help her achieve knowledge of intimacy. For example, on page 51, Lily has a thought, “Could loving as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? For it is not knowledge of unity that she desired… but intimacy itself, which is knowledge.” It is apparent that Lily had yearned for an intimacy and understanding between her and Mrs. Ramsay. Lily viewed Mrs. Ramsay as a mother figure. Lily believed that her own personality and being contained many faults and disappointments. Lily believed Mrs. Ramsay possessed many of the aspects and characteristics that she lacked. Lily considered many of these characteristics as being very vital and essential in achieving the grace and stature of a woman (Woolf 51.) Although Lily greatly admired and loved Mrs. Ramsay, she was also quite aware of Mrs. Ramsay’s several faults. Within pages 174 and 175, Lily feels triumph over Mrs. Ramsay because of the failed marriage between Minta and Paul. Lily describes Mrs. Ramsay as having a “mania” for marriages (Woolf 174.) Mrs. Ramsay continuously played matchmaker with different individuals, including Minta and Paul. It is apparent that Mrs. Ramsay’s views of a fulfilled life include marriage. Such views are very conservative. In some ways, such views are a bit sexist. Mrs. Ramsay believes that the only way for a woman to achieve happiness and fulfillment within life is to get married to a man. Mrs. Ramsay believes that life without marriage is meaningless. Mrs. Ramsay’s obsession over marriage is evident on page 58, where she has thoughts of marrying each of her children off. Lily also describes many of Mrs. Ramsay’s faults within pages 195 to 198. For example, at the bottom of page 195, Lily describes Mrs. Ramsay’s faults. She states that some people view Mrs. Ramsay as too confident and drastic. Lily also describes Mr. Carmichael’s dislike for Mrs. Ramsay, “One could not imagine Mrs. Ramsay standing painting, lying reading, a whole morning on the lawn.” Many saw her as too reserved and monotonous. Mrs. Ramsay continuously stayed on schedule, and never deterred (Woolf 195.) These repetitive actions could seem boring and dull to others. Also, on page 196, Lily describes Mrs. Ramsay’s annoyance of tardiness and lateness. Lily also mentions that Mrs. Ramsay was “weak” with her husband, and she let her husband make embarrassing “scenes.” Mrs. Ramsay’s weakness with her husband can be observed within page 39, where Mrs. Ramsay states that her husband drains her both emotionally and physically (Woolf 39.) In the essay “Woolf’s To the Lighthouse,” Reba Kochersperger states that the novel ultimately signifies, “that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces,” the two opposite forces being male and female. There is a constant give/take relationship between Mrs. Ramsay and Mr. Ramsay within To The Lighthouse. Reflecting on the above passages, it is quite obvious that Mrs. Ramsay strived to achieve the ideal of feminine perfection. Sadly, she did not succeed. Although Mrs. Ramsay was a good role model, in reality, she was far from perfect. Mrs. Ramsay possessed many notable faults. Her many faults and failures expose her imperfections. She is, indeed, human.

Within The Fifth Child by Dorris Lessing, Harriet is depicted as an ideal symbol of female perfection and superiority. Within

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