Feminine Competence in Society

An analysis of the character of Rosamund in Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone.

This paper examines how, in contrast to feminist protagonists that preceded her in literature, the heroine of Margaret Drabbles The Millstone comes to embody an intellectual and physical form of feminine competence in society. It looks at how, ultimately, Rosamund’s pregnancy does not prove a hindrance to her work and how she discredits female stereotypes related to pregnancy through her simultaneous embodiment of maternity and intellectual development. It also shows how her work gives her societal approval at the same time she is receiving physical and sexual satisfaction from her role as a mother and a sexual being.
“However, after weathering graduation and assuming graduate study, Rosamund becomes pregnant. Now, as the result of what was casual action, resulting partly because she was treating her body “like a man” woman, how can Rosamund still achieve feminine competence in a society that denies this concept? How can Rosamund liberate one’s self from such constructed notions of the female self, as they are attached to the female body, particularly if one possesses a body deemed to be female in this society and achieve a sense of social and personal competence? Also, what occurs when a body enters into a state of maternity? How can a mother be competent?”

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