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Authentic Representations of Self universal theme of transitional literature is the sacrifice of self. Many characters, within some of the greatest works of literature express longing as a main theme, as if they are living a life that is not quite what they had in mind. DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Beryl Bainbridge and Doris Lessing, all develop characters within their works that establish the idea of a denial of authenticity of self. The four works and the four characters which best describe this sort of sacrifice of self are: Lawrence's Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers, Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway, Lessing's Susan Rawlings in To Room Nineteen and Charlie from Bainbridge's Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie.
Even from the start Paul Morel from Sons and Lovers was different. More delicate than other children and the expression of grief through depression that brought on tears is a foreshadowing of his life to come.
Then the mother would find the boy of three or four crying on the sofa.
What's the matter?' she asked, and got no answer.
What's the matter?' she insisted,... 'I don't know,' sobbed the child.
So she tried to reason him out of it, or to amuse him, but without effect. It made her feel beside herself...These fits were not often, but they caused a shadow in Mrs. Morel's heart, and her treatment of Paul was different from that of the other children.
The longing that Paul showed for women and for love is a realization of the foreshadowing of his desire to live a life he was not allowed to live. The world into which he was born was not lavish. To many children to feed on a minor's salary and there was little real love between his parents. The only descriptive tool he had was from his brother who engaged in a kind of play at real love. Speaking of William, Paul's brother, "All the life that Bestwood offered he enjoyed, from the sixpenny-hops down Church Street, to sports and billiards.
Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions of all kinds of flower-like ladies, most of whom lived like cut blooms in William's heart for a brief fortnight.
Occasionally some flame would come in pursuit of her errant swain. Mrs. Morel would find a strange girl at the door, and immediately she sniffed the air.
When Paul has a love, that is approved of through, Miriam he feels compelled by longing to leave her for a married woman, Clara. Clara represents to him the transition between the old Victorian ideal woman and the newer more modern woman, complete with imperfections and vices. He tells here of their first meeting,
She [Mariam] was walking with a rather striking woman, blonde, with a sullen expression, and a defiant carriage. It was strange how Miriam, in her bowed, meditative bearing, looked dwarfed beside this woman with the handsome shoulders. Miriam watched Paul searchingly. His gaze was on the stranger, who ignored him. The girl saw his masculine spirit rear its head...He looked at her companion....she was nervous. 'Clara, do you know Paul?' think I've seen him before,' replied Mrs. Dawes indifferently, as she shook hands with him. She had scornful grey eyes, a skin like white honey, and a full mouth, with a slightly lifted upper lip that did not know whether it was raised in scorn of all men or out of eagerness to be kissed, but which believed the former. She carried her head back, as if she had drawn away in contempt, perhaps from men also. She wore a large, dowdy hat of black beaver, and a sort of slightly affected simple dress that made her look rather sack-like. She was evidently poor, and had not much taste
Within Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf tells the story of a woman living a life she would not have chosen for herself. Though she only realizes this through reflection. As a character she endeavors to become what everyone else would like her to be. She becomes the perfect hostess and then looks back upon her life as if she did little if anything truly for herself. Clarissa speaking of her own life describes her sense of feeling as if she is nothing and her station in life is her only defining characteristic,
She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway." (Woolf 11)
Clarissa Dalloway rejects her first love, Peter and in doing so dictates the banality of her life. The unfortunate and lifeless marriage she shares with her husband Richard, whom she marries after rejecting Peter is her downfall. Thinking in her youth that being the proper wife to the proper husband would make her happy she forsook being able to fully appreciate the real love she feels for life. Clarissa's daughter, Elizabeth is much more down to earth and it is through her real expression of dislike for her daughter that Clarissa realizes how much she really dislike who she has become.
Gloves and shoes; [Clarissa] had a passion for gloves; but her own daughter, her Elizabeth, cared not a straw for either of them.... Elizabeth really cared for her dog most of all.... Still, better poor Grizzle than Miss Kilman; better distemper and tar and all the rest of it than sitting mewed in a stuffy bedroom with a prayer book! (11)
In To Room Nineteen, once again a character is drawn as being outside of herself. Lessing's Susan Rawlings is lacking passion in her life. Though she is said to have a strong aptitude for her work in advertising she does not seem to have any passion for it. "She was humorous about the advertisements she was responsible for, but she did not feel strongly about them one way or the other." (Lessing 2027) Describing the marriage between Susan and Matthew, Lessing makes clear that there is something missing,
So everything was all right. Everything was in order. Yes things were under control. So what did it matter if they felt dry, flat? People like themselves, fed on a hundred books (psychological, anthropological, sociological), could scarcely be unprepared for the dry, controlled wistfulness which is the distinguishing mark of the intelligent marriage. (2029)
After doing all the right things the couple was strangely unsatisfied by their life together, their four children, their careers, their home, nothing was terribly emotive. "Often enough she was bored, since small children can be boring; she was often tired; but she regretted nothing. In another decade, she would turn herself back into being a woman with a life of her own." When Susan is in her mid forties she has an additional decade before she can have her life back. When all her children are finally in school she has this to say of her life,
Susan took them, dropped then, came back, and found herself reluctant to enter her big beautiful home because it was as if something was waiting for her there that she did not wish to confront...She was possessed by fever which drove her out again, There she sat on the bench and tried to calm herself...But she was filled with tension." (2033)
It was at this time that Susan came to the realization that her life was not as she would want it,
First, I spent twelve years of my adult life working, living my own life. Then I married, and from the moment I became pregnant for the first time I signed myself over, so to speak, to other people. To the children. Not for one moment in twelve years have I been alone, had time to myself." (2033)
Within the final work, is an example of a man who is living a life he is unhappy with. He feels he has sacrificed his entire life for his family, working hard to keep them happy and in the position they wish to be in and yet, he receives no real respect from them. His son Alec repeatedly calls him Charlie, goading him because he knows how disliked the nickname is. Alec, tells, "Charlie" to shut up as if there is nothing unusual about a boy speaking in this manner to his father. "Shut up, Charlie, " said Alec. His father hated to be called Charlie." (Bainbridge 81)
Charles lives in a high-rise apartment even though he would prefer to live in their older house with an outdoor toilet. Though there is some evidence within the text that the house is no longer there the longing for his choice of homes is still very evident. "They were stuck up in the air over Kirby...Their whole existence, once work was over for the day, was lived as though inside the cabin of an aeroplane.…[continue]
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