Margaret Drabble’s “The Millstone” – A Research Paper
- Pages: 3
- Word count: 621
- Category: Novel
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- Thesis Statement
Drabble’s short novel is a take on a classic predicament taken on by a modern heroine in an astringent, comic manner. From a critical reading of the assigned work, this research paper posits that the character of Rosamund Stacey with her liberal upbringing and privileged well-to-do middle class background, does not completely adhere to the notion that all laws are based on ‘the raw edge of fang-and-claw,’ though she might be more amenable to the belief that society is ‘the common battleground of the jungle.’
Our young protagonist Rosamund Stacey is a brilliant, attractive graduate fresh out of Cambridge, writing her thesis on early English poetry in pursuit of her dream to become a literary historian. Her well-to-do Socialist parents left her a spacious flat while they are in a philanthropic mission in Africa and had raised her to be independent, so emancipated Rosamund possesses a self-detachment which effectively shields her from her own emotions.
Reluctant to have sex, ‘being at heart a Victorian’ (Drabble, 1998) yet giving in to peer pressure for fear of being considered ‘priggish’ in the London of the swinging sixties, she carries on a casual one-night stand with BBC newsreader George Matthews, whom she meets in a pub. Yet the result is anything but casual – she finds herself falling in love with him even when she believes he is bisexual (initially she thought him ‘gay’), and finds out that she is in fact carrying his child. A whole new world opens up to her after a half-hearted attempt at inducing a miscarriage she decides to have the baby even without a husband.
Though she might be fiercely independent and academically brilliant, to some extent Rosamund is still a naïve girl faced with a distressing situation despite the veneer of strength. The unworldly child in her in need of guidance reveals itself in her novel experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood. She is endowed by the author with a fierce yet still a flawed sense of individualism and self-sufficiency, admirable nonetheless, in preferring to face her burdens head-on by her lonesome though help might be available for the asking.
Education, initially the cause of ‘my inability to seen anything in human terms of like and dislike, love and hate, but only in terms of justice, guilt and innocence’ (Drabble, 1998), becomes for Rosamund more meaningful and liberating when she is faced by the harsh realities of life in adulthood, confronted as she is with ‘resentments breed so near the cradle, that people should have it from birth… facts of inequality, of the heart-breaking, uneven hardship of the human lot’ (Drabble, 1998) reminiscent of allegories of the human condition to those of animals battling it out for survival in the jungle of life.
Her pen dipped in acid, Drabble effectively narrates the harried experiences of unmarried mothers facing the assembly-line indifference of the National Health system, superbly balanced by the injection of wit, humor and satire into the pathos and near-tragic incidents. There is an obvious relation between the emergence of the welfare state and the decline of the family, i.e. Rosamund would have been compelled to seek assistance from her family if not for the existence of a welfare state operating in Great Britain by then. The law in this case, is obviously not based on the ‘raw edge of fang-and-claw’ but on universally recognized rights of the human person, though attaining such recognition was made possible through the people’s own struggle for justice and equality.
Drabble, Margaret. The Millstone. New York: Harcourt Publishers, October 1998.