The Golden Notebook
The Irony of “Free Women” in Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook College
Boyish haircuts and flat chests were trademarks of the 1920s flapper; as this style spread throughout America’s cities, it marked a dynamic change in women from their traditional appearance and lifestyle of the late 19th century and into the era of World War I. Raised skirts, flat chests, and boyish bobs became the trend for the female of the 1920s in an effort to demonstrate a step away from reliance on men towards independence. The flapper surrendered feminine qualities in exchange for a more masculine physique and look in order to demonstrate equality to men; however, their imitation of men only became another reliance and dependence on men. Lessing similarly explores this female response towards gender inequality in another time period: the sexual and women’s liberation movements of 1950s England. In The Golden Notebook, the “Free Women” of England similarly behave: instead of conservative skirts and dresses, women are seen wearing “slacks, loose shirts...a yellow scarf around her head” (13). Anna Wulf and her close friend Molly Jacobs are introduced preferring Scotch to a “nice cup of tea” (15) and making assertive and straight-forward, often brash, comments towards Molly’s ex-husband, Richard. In the same manner of the...
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