Angels Without Wings – The Feminine Ideal and its Consequences in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen” and Munro’s “Too Much Happiness”

University essay from Lunds universitet/Engelska

Abstract: In this essay, the feminine ideals in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Doris Lessing’s “To Room Nineteen” and Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness” are analysed and compared to the ideal of the Angel in the House – an ideal that originates from Coventry Patmore’s poem The Angel in the House and was popularised by Virginia Woolf’s paper “Professions for Women”. In addition, the consequences of this ideal for the characters of Mrs Ramsey, Susan and Sofia are discussed. The essay is based on a close reading of the three literary works, and concludes that Mrs Ramsey, Susan and Sofia all try to live up to the ideal of the Angel in the House. The consequences are that the women diminish and neglect their own needs in order to be able to prioritize the wishes of their husbands and children. The fact that literature incorporates women who struggle to conform to or break the ideal of the Angel in the House suggests that the ideal to some extent continues to exist even in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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