Individuals are not born to be subjects. Living in a
society requires them to form their subjectivity since they do not get it
automatically. The subjectivity of individuals is the result of their
involvement to culture. The formation of subjectivity reflects the social
process that constitutes individuals as subjects.
The social process is closely
related to the culture where the individuals live in. The cultural conditions
in society have a great deal on how the subjectivity is formed. Patriarchal culture
that society conforms is impactful since it puts men as the dominant gender. This kind
of gender construction emerges gender stereotype since the opposite gender is
considered as inferior and flawed.
The stereotype put women in difficult position to establish their own
subjectivity because society always prioritizes any patriarchal culture.
Marilyn French (1985) also emphasizes that the existence of patriarchal system put
men in superior position while women as the inferior one. This causes the
harmful stereotype for the women. Patriarchy is an ideology which denies the
possibility of women upholding the power. It gives small proportion for women
to wield power instead.
Simone de Beauvoir’s provocative declaration also supports the
standardized concept of gender stereotype, she has stated: “He is the Subject,
he is the Absolute—she is the Other,”. To be the Other is to be the
non-subject, the non-person, the non-agent—in short, the mere body. In law, in
customary practice, and in cultural stereotypes, women’s subjectivity has been
systematically subordinated, diminished, and belittled, when it has not been
outright denied. Women have been identified either as pale reflections of men
or as their opposite throughout. They are characterized through perceived
differences from men and subordinated as a result of them; in both cases, women
have been denigrated on the basis of these views. (Anderson, 2015)
The biological differences between men and women also
take part in constructing the stereotypes between both genders in the society.
Moreover, Freud’s early theories
also extend his views of male sexuality to women, viewing women as simply men
without penises. His sexuality theory is problematic since he states that the
lack of penis in women caused penis envy, which is the jealousy that little
girls feel towards boys and the resentment towards their mothers. The lack of
penis also signifies women’s lack of
social power. Therefore, Freud reckons that men are stronger than women.
Another differences between them can be seen through
the psychological aspect. Men are identified with the style of moral reasoning that stresses justice,
fairness, and rights while women with child-bearing capacity are
identified with the style of
moral reasoning that stresses wants, needs, and interests of particular people. These
female characteristics are then identified with the perception that she is
illogical and easy to oppress (powerless), while the male is logical and
powerful. As the
result, women are considered with flawed nature even though
they are evidently not. This stereotype exists because of the labeling process uses man’s style of moral reasoning
as the standard (Tong, 2009).
also considers the women’s nurturing trait as their weakness. Their capacity of
caring such as nurturing the children are often neglected and often viewed as
domesticity only. This characteristic is seen as trivial capacities that are
often sidelined by society. As a matter of fact, the capacity of nurturing is
as important as capacity of rationality.
then try to consider women’s capacity of nurturing as their specialties in
order to support them in society. By their capacities of care, women
have revealed how stereotypes towards women are totally wrong. Even they are called as society’s primary caregivers
worldwide. Instead of being weak and easy to oppress, women’s nurturing
capacity is seen as something powerful. This is due to their big capability to
nurturing. They could abandon their own
needs in order to take care of their children. This “irrationality” becomes the
true power of women.
Maternal power is considered as one of women’s biggest treasure.
The practice of maternal power
needs special skills that not everyone could do it. People need such
characteristics as reflection, judgment, and emotion to possess a maternal
power. Women also experience nine-months pregnancy and breastfeeding. It means
that they have experience to keep the healthy and the adequacy of nutrients for two persons, the
mother and the child. So, they are considered to have more awareness of their
role as parents than men.
maternal care possessed by
women construct a power within themselves. The power later will make women gain
their subjectivity as good mothers. As much as their subjectivity is a process
of individualization, it equals the process of socialization. They are not isolated
in a self-contained environment, but endlessly engaging in interaction with the
surroundings. Women with their maternal subjectivity will socialize in a
patriarchal society rigidly because they have their own power.
The importance of
maternal power is also represented in some previous researches, such as: “Motherhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved: A
Psychological Reading (Mayfield, 2012), “Being a Good Mom: Low-Income, Black
Single Mothers Negotiate Intensive Mothering” (Brenton, 2015),
“Motherhood as Resistance in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave
Girl” (Li, 2006), and “Motherhood in
Prison: Reconciling the Irreconcilable” (Freitas, 2016). These
researches reveal how the power of a mother could bring positive effects to their children and themselves. Besides,
maternal power also empowers their subjectivity and their life.
Due to the background explanation
above, Room novel by Emma Donoghue is
chosen as the object of the study.
This novel has motherhood as the theme
which illustrates the struggles of a mother
and her sacrifices for her child. Half of the struggle faced by the mother
character here takes place in more than a half of the book. This situation
makes a great deal on the development of the characters
and this is why the novel is entitled “Room”.
tells about a young woman who has been abducted for seven years in a backyard
shed since she was 19. She is raped by her captor –called Old Nick–many times
till she gives birth to a child named Jack. Ma, Jack’s calling for his mother,
struggles by herself to nurture Jack in an eleven-by-eleven feet room with
limited facilities. It is unbelievable yet remarkable, a teenager is kidnapped
and she has no idea for having a baby and suddenly should spend her time in a small
room for loving and caring
Her struggles do
not stop there. Her power as a woman and mother is also
examined after she could escape from the shed.
After getting out of the room, she has to face the fact that society, even her
family, could not accept her current condition easily.
Ma has to face humiliation from people but instead of giving up, she tries to
empower her life with all the love she has for her only son, Jack.
was previously analyzed in a post entitled “Dr. Andrea Powell Wolfe Recommends
“Room” by Emma Donoghue”. This post contains a review about Room by Emma Donoghue and put together
the Lacan psychoanalysis of Jack. It is stated that Jack realizes his own
subjectivity as a boy and also Ma’s subjectivity as his mother. (Wolfe, 2013)
In this research, Ma’s subjectivity
as powerful mother will be analyzed. By analyzing subjectivity establishment of
Ma character from a powerless into a powerful woman through Lacan’s orders, the
importance of Ma’s maternal power to empower her and even the people around her can be ascertained.
Maternal power is momentous power
for Ma against the treatments of the captor and people around her that put her in the
suffering and powerless position. Ma used her maternal instinct as mothering
can be a source of empowerment in such oppressed condition. It helps her to take care for Jack as
well as survive
and assert herself into society. She still
could nurture Jack well without any experience as a
mother. She leads her life with Jack on a healthy lifestyle in her secluded
condition. She could arrange their activities
inside the room, including Jack’s studying activity as if he really went in the
school. It results in Jack’s growth as a smart and well-mannered kid which
shows Ma’s mothering power.
She still find obstacles even
though she has quite normal and happy life with Jack. She still
could not avoid Old Nick’s abusive treatments to her. Ma could not
escape because she still needs Old Nick to provide their supply while being
locked inside the shed. This is why she still plays as a good wife that follows
Old Nick’s demand. She also asks Jack to sleep inside the wardrobe in order to
avoid him from the abusive man and to make him not seeing Old Nick’s raping Ma.
By understanding her condition, we
can imagine how painful she feels. Ma’s experience is not a usual situation
that other people can easily cope with. The people who feel Ma’s suffering may
consider Jack as the source of trauma and remind them about the raping and the
suffering. But Ma has choices whether to feel all the shame and guiltiness or
to ignore her traumatic experience and choose to nurture her child. She chooses
the latter by
putting Jack as her new
priority over everything. We will be wondered, whether possible or not for a
woman to get the source of her power only by loving her child that she gets
from the rapist, or there is another source of power that could change her
This work of
fiction challenges Jacques Lacan’s term of phallocentrism represented by
patriarchy in the form of the captor and the society around Ma. It also
suggests the alternative discourse against the standardized concept in society,
called as “maternity” or “maternal power” which forms
Woman-Mother’s real identity and strength.
In this research, Ma’s psychological development as a powerful mother is analyzed through Lacan’s psychoanalysis orders. The development of Ma’s
character starts from her powerlessness
as the victim of rape and kidnap to finally gain power to live her life. The process she is undergoing is
purposed to achieve her new subjectivity since victimization makes her lose her
B. Scope of Study
research will focus on the characters’ attitude that portrays nurturing ethics or maternal power through Lacan’s psychological development from a powerless woman to be a
C. Research Question
This research is conducted to answer the following
How is Ma’s subjectivity as a powerful mother formed through
Lacan’s psychoanalysis orders?
D. Research Objective
The objective of the research is to identify the
subjectivity development of Ma as a powerful mother through Lacan’s psychoanalysis orders.
E. Research Benefits
This research is expected to give benefit as follows:
To make the readers understand the subjectivity development of women.
To make the readers realize that women’s capacities to nurture is considered as strength and not their weakness.
To make the readers give more appreciation to women.
To provide information for further research
that has related topic of study through Lacan psychoanalysis with a concern in women’s
nurturing trait as their strength and power.
F. Research Methodology
1. Type of Research
The design of the research is descriptive qualitative. This type of method allows
more elaborated analysis as the data are not in the form of fixed number. As this research focuses on
the description and explanation of the process of a phenomenon,
it takes a method that can give a broader understanding for it. By using qualitative
can provide more
details about human behavior, emotion, and personality characteristics that
quantitative studies cannot match.(Source: https://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2012/09/strengths-and-weaknesses-of-quantitative-and-qualitative-research.php)
2. Data and Source
The primary data for this research is taken from quoting dialogues and narrations in the book entitled Room written
by Emma Donoghue which is published by Picador in 2010. For supporting the
primary data, the secondary data are needed. The secondary data are taken from other information from
any sources which completing and supporting the understanding of the analysis.
3. Technique of Analyzing Data
a. Data Collection
The whole story of the primary data are read thoroughly and repeatedly to build a deep understanding. After the reading process, the data from
the story are collected by quoting some certain points that are
related to the topic of the research in the form of dialogues and narrations. Finishing with the
primary data, the related information from the secondary data are applied in order to support and to analyze the main data.
The analysis is conducted by concerning to the theory of Lacan’s
psychoanalysis and feminism focused on the care-focused feminism theory. The
analysis starts by examining Ma’s attitudes that portray her role as a woman
and her maternal power. The next step is categorizing Ma’s psychological
development as a mother into each process of Lacan’s orders.
The result of the
analysis is presented in the narrative arrangement. The presentation of the
result is in the form of sequence, based on Todorov’s narrative pattern. It
starts from the equilibrium, disruption, recognition, reparation, and
restoration. This sequence is also presented in repeated cycles.
The research of Woman Subjectivity: Maternal Power in “Room” by Emma Donoghue focuses
on motherhood issue represented in a novel. Since the object of this analysis
is a literary work, it can be conducted under literary criticism framework. Literary criticism is the evaluation, analysis,
description, or interpretation of literary works.
It has been a controversy to separate
between literary criticism and literary theory. Sometimes people consider them
as the same realm. However, some critics consider literary criticism as a practical application of literary
theory because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works
while theory may be more general or abstract(Source:
Two of the branches of literary criticism
applied in the research are psychological criticism and feminist criticism. Psychological focuses primarily on
the characters, and type of psychological
influence and shape them throughout the story. This field of criticism
emphasizes character development and the relationships between characters.
and literature has
a bilateral relation. Human’s soul makes the literature and literature
nourishes human’s soul. Human’s psychical receptions take into consideration
the human and natural life perspectives and provides references of literal
works; on the other hand, literature also take into account the life’s truths
to make clear the perspectives of human’s soul(Dastmard, 2012).
This research also applies feminist criticism. It is the literary criticism informed by feminist
theory, or to put in broader context, by the politics of feminism. It uses feminist principles and ideology to critize the
language of literature. Based on A
History of Feminist Literary Criticism, this criticism properly begins in the
aftermath of ‘secondwave’feminism, the term usually given to the emergence of
women’s movements in the United States and Europe during the Civil Rights
campaigns of the 1960s (Plain & Sellers, 2007:2).
Feminist literary criticism recognizes that since literature
both reflects and
shapes culture, literary studies can either perpetuate the
oppression of women or help to eliminate it. Thus,
feminist criticism is concerned to question and challenge conventional notions
of masculinity and femininity to explore ways in which such conventions are
inscribed in a largely patriarchal canon; and to consider the extent to which
writing, language and even literary form itself are themselves bound up with
issues of gender difference (Bennett & Royle, 2004:291). Hence, feminist
literary critics all over the world are always motivated to raise questions
about literature and literary criticism based on women’s struggle for autonomy.
Feminist literary criticism also assumes that
literature both reflects and shapes stereotypes and other cultural assumptions.
These stereotypes and assumptions are mostly considered as the form of women
oppression. One of the stereotypes of women represented in the object of this study
is that women nurturing characteristic is considered as their weakness.
people in patriarchal society see women’s attitude for caregiving as their
weakness, because they think caring is sacrificing, and that is iidentified with submissiveness. One
of the feminism branches, called as care-focused feminism, reveals the reason
behind women as the caregiver. This theory regards women’s capacities for caring as a human strength rather than a
weakness. Moreover, it expends considerable energy developing a feminist ethics
of care as a complement of, or even a substitute for, a traditional ethics of
justice (Tong, 2009).
In this study, the coherence between those two
criticism are needed since the focus of the study is to analyze the
subjectivity development of Ma as a powerful
The caring attitudes of the mother character to develop her subjectivity are
analyzed through psychoanalysis.The using of the psychoanalysis to examine the
subjectivity is also supported by the statement, “Psychoanalytic method, is the
best method we have for dealing with all the shifting sands and subtle
complexities of subjectivity,” (Solms, 2013).
To undergo an effective psychoanalysis of Ma,
Jacques Lacan’s theory is used. Lacan believed that subject psyche is formed by
three interacting orders – the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic.
The real order consists of the underlying
structure in a person’s psyche that is pure need. While in the imaginary order,
the person becomes aware of the sense of lack
onto something. And the last, the symbolic
register represents the learning of and the living by way of linguistics and
other rules or codes. Later, a desire in this register
is emerged to fulfill the lack and to own
an identity. Ma’s subjectivity development and her desire to be a powerful
mother can be seen clearly by these orders. Her powerful maternal desire is
like a weapon to face the domination of patriarchy as the ruler of symbolic order.
The research is divided into four
chapters and sub-chapters:
Chapter one is introduction. It consists of eight
sub-chapters, they areresearch
background, scope of study, research question, research objective, research
benefits, research methodology, theoretical approach and thesis organization.
Chapter two is literature review. It consists of discussion
about reviews of related theories used for discussion such asJacques
Lacan’s subjectivity formation, feminism, care-focused feminism, previous
research, and biography of Emma
Chapter three is the analysis. It will be delivered throughLacan psychoanalysis of
Ma’s subjectivity as a powerful woman.
Chapter four is conclusion and recommendation. In this chapter, the
conclusion of the research and the recommendation are delivered to the readers.