The Spinster Assumptions of "Our Friend Judith"

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Women of a certain era were expected to perform a number of societal tasks, not the least of which was to marry and become a decent housewife, ever present in the home, living only to serve her husband. The women who did not marry, who lived alone and remained unmarried and therefore depressed were seen as outcasts. In “Our Friend Judith”, the protagonist is in many ways viewed as the latter, a poorly dressed abnormality that relies on her uncle for support, living in a rather unfortunate apartment by herself. The contradiction, however, is that Judith, unlike her stereotypical spinster counterparts, chooses to remain in this condition. She is an intellectual, a poet with fans that she simply brushes aside, and an occasional lover, carrying on relationships until she grows weary of such interaction and then returning to her prior state. With this in mind, Judith becomes neither a spinster nor a romantic, but instead simply a woman who has freed herself of both societal constraints and expectations. In the beginning of the story, the narrator seriously ponders Judith’s possible role as a spinster, not only citing that Judith rarely goes out to socialize, but also creating a metaphor between the narrator’s older aunts that live together, alone and unmarried with many cats, and Judith’s living situation. These points quickly become invalidated, however, proving that in many ways Judith is not at all “one of your typical English spinsters.” (Lessing 142) The first contradiction to this view comes when the narrator is describing Judith’s apartment. As she scans the bookshelf, the narrator notices a number of books with fairly romantic inscriptions. She also notes that Judith “can’t be expected to read novels” (145), so their presence in her apartment is obviously symbolic of a prior affair, and concludes that “from the age of fifteen to twenty-five (Judith) had been the
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