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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 366

Although one can trace how Kate Brown represents another of Lessing's female characters who break out of traditional roles and values, Kate is the first one that depicts a different stage of life, that of the aging woman who recognizes both her psychological and physiological life changes and eventually embraces...

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Although one can trace how Kate Brown represents another of Lessing's female characters who break out of traditional roles and values, Kate is the first one that depicts a different stage of life, that of the aging woman who recognizes both her psychological and physiological life changes and eventually embraces them. Lessing portrays women in such instances who do not necessarily experience a radical breakdown but whose biological tendencies allow them to be receptive to a change in life, albeit not initially. When the reader first encounters the middle-aged Kate, she is unaware and resistant to changes in her accustomed role as mother and wife, even though her children are grown and repeatedly leave the home environment she has provided. Shaped by the typical biological and societal roles of mother and wife, Kate's personality has developed accordingly.

The demands of the newfound job take Kate on a journey, but the metaphorical journey she must undertake becomes more important. Kate realizes that her quest is to leave behind her familiar nurturing relationships and focus on her own needs and desires to determine what direction she wants to take. When Kate is on the steps of her back porch, she is already attempting to identify this search for a new role in life: "She was trying to catch hold of something, or to lay it bare so that she could look and define; for some time now she had been 'trying on' ideas like so many dresses off a rack." By the time she arrives at Maureen's, she is able to explore the possibilities without getting sidetracked.

Freedom, however, does not necessarily mean abandonment of all responsibility. Kate's battle is to maintain a sense of self within the social framework she chooses, in this case, her family. She walks away from Maureen's party unnoticed to emphasize her personal triumph. Recall also that in the last dream readers are reminded that Kate's assumption about this being her summer before the dark is misguided. In her dream, after releasing a seal, "she saw that the sun was in front of her, not behind, not far behind, under the curve of earth, which was where it had been for so long."

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