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To Room Nineteen

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The story begins with a description of the history of Susan and Matthew Rawlings's marriage, which has been a very practical union. They married in their late twenties after having known each other for some time and after having experienced other relationships. They, and their friends, consider them to be "well matched."

Before their children came, Susan worked in an advertising firm while Matthew was a sub-editor for a London newspaper. They began their family in a house in Richmond, a suburb of London, and they eventually had four children. Their life together was happy but rather flat. They privately began to wonder about the central point of all of the work they did -- Matthew outside the home and Susan inside. They did, however, love each other and were determined to have a successful marriage. As a result then, they convinced themselves that "things were under control."

One night Matthew comes home late and admits that he has been with another woman. Both he and Susan determine that the event was not important and would not damage their relationship. Yet, they both become irritable. Susan begins to wonder about her importance to Matthew and thinks about the ten years of her fidelity. Eventually, they determine that the sensible thing to do is to forget the entire incident. Matthew continues his infidelities, however, prompting Susan to consider the emptiness of her life and her lack of freedom.

By the time they are in their early forties, Susan begins to think about what she would do when all of her children go to school. On the day that she drops the twins, her youngest, off for their first day of school, Susan returns home and spends a restless morning, not knowing quite what to do with herself. The restlessness evolves into a state of panic until she convinces herself that her feelings are quite normal and that it would take time to discover her own needs after caring so long for others' needs. Yet, she spends the day helping their maid take care of the house.

This pattern continues until the school holiday, when she feels resentment that she will no longer have any freedom, even though she has carefully avoided freeing herself from her domestic duties. She experiences a growing sense of restlessness and emptiness but hides her feelings from Matthew, because they are not "sensible."

On the fourth day of the holiday, her irritation grows to the point that she snaps at her children. Matthew's understanding and comfort help her regain control of herself, but the sense of restlessness returns when the children go back to school. In an effort to find a place where she can be alone and gain some measure of freedom, which has become increasingly important to her, Susan takes a spare room in the house for her own where she can enjoy some privacy. Matthew and the children respect her time there and determine not to take her for granted in the future.

Susan's restlessness, however, is not ended by the time in her room. Her increased impatience and anger frighten her, specially one afternoon when she thinks she sees a man in her garden, stirring a snake coiled at his feet. As she determines that this devilish man has brought on the emotional turmoil she is caught up in, he



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