Women as Objects in A Woman on a Roof
Doris Lessing’s "A Woman on a Roof" allows us to understand how some men view woman: as mere objects for display and possession. Lessing shows how each of the male characters reacts and deals with rejection from a woman sunbathing on a nearby rooftop. We discover how three men’s preoccupation with sex keeps them unaware of how their advances may be unwanted and ignorant of their action’s possible consequences.
All three men share the desire to get this woman’s attention. Working on a rooftop of a block of flats in the hot, hot, sun, these men seek a diversion from the relentless heat. They whistle, yell, and wave at a near naked woman on a rooftop nearby, but the woman pays no mind to them. Their isolation on the rooftop and the woman’s relentless indignation fuels the men’s decent into a world of lewd behavior, thereby creating an atmosphere of harassment and rejection. They become "taunted" by this woman’s indifference towards them.
All three men have distinctly different attitudes towards the situation they have created. Each has experienced rejection from women. In fact, each displays a level of hardness that affects his attitude. They each react differently to the woman’s indifference and each take his efforts to different levels.
Tom, the youngest, represents a primary level, a man untouched by rejection. Stanley, the instigator, clearly at a secondary level to Tom, shows a man slightly touched by rejection. Stanley hates the blows of rejection to his manhood. Harry, on the other hand, represents a final level where he considers the woman’s presence trivial. He is long since married and possibly has suffered many indignities with regards to the scowls of women.
The three men momentarily find distraction from the heat as they become obsessed with the sunbather’ s exact location. They report her movements to one another. Stanley likens her presence on her roof to "a crime gotten away with." He states that "he would never let his wife do what she is doing" (Lessing 857). Acting as judge and jury, all three men seem to deny her the right to be on her roof doing as she pleases.
The woman acts as if she has managed to escape the mindless need to entertain men (Allen 200). The woman on the roof has not offered one invitation for comment or attention, yet the men feel she has. By being caught by their eyes was invitation enough, yet the woman ignores the men no matter what (Lessing 858). She remains the symbol of a new age woman who disdains harassment from men.
Tom believes he is this woman’s hero. Throughout the story he sees himself protecting her from Stanley’s domination (Lessing 858). He feels he is not her harasser and that she must be aware of his love for her. His dreams of her have convinced him that meeting this woman is in his destiny. He doesn’t interpret her indifference as rejection as Stanley does and has no idea how he will suffer for it later. Far gone...