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The grass is singing - Doris Lessing: conversation between Charlie and Tony

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  1. How does the author's method convey an idea of a corrupted and perverted land to the reader?
  2. To what extent is Tony Marston, the young intern, different from the others?

In this excerpt from The Grass is singing, published in 1950, Doris Lessing relates the relationship between Mary Turner, a racist white woman married to Dick Turner, a poor farmer, living in South Rhodesia, and Moses, a black boy working for them, during the 1940's. The extract is located at the beginning of the novel, as it recounts a conversation - following Mary's death - between Charlie, the Turners' neighbor, and Tony, a young intern in the Turners' house. At the time, Southern Rhodesia was a British colony - it has been under the yoke of Great Britain until its independence in 1980. In this way, we will ask ourselves how Doris Lessing chose to represent her hometown, as she know a lot about it.

[...] Furthermore, the form adopting? is a characteristic of a lasting phenomenon, it conveys the idea of a process, of something still running. Beside, Tony is not comfortable, if he did not know his own mind. And for that matter he did not: the weeks in the Turners' household with its atmosphere of tragedy had not helped him to get his mind clear? and after ideas of right were upset. He was confused? we can say here that Tony could be lost, lost between the two standards fighting in his head, lost because of what he saw the day before the murder and had not understood at the time, and which he understands now. [...]


[...] This distance is important because, in this extract, we can feel a kind of oppressive and taut atmosphere belonging to the country. Indeed, this country appears as being kind of hazardous. In fact, in line 72, anger, violence, death, seemed natural to this vast, harsh country the country is once again presented as an unhelpful, threatening, and dangerous background: when you enter the country, you are forced to adopt its inhabitants' opinion. Indeed, line 24: When old settlers say, has to understand the country', what they mean is, have to get used to our ideas about the native.' They are saying, in effect, ?Learn our ideas, or otherwise get out: we don't want you.' Doris Lessing uses here a gradation: firstly to get used to our ideas but then, people have to adopt them if they want to stay: ?Learn our ideas, or otherwise get out: we don't want you' These expressions show the authority, the rules and standards people are submitted to in South Rhodesia. [...]


[...] The extract is located at the beginning of the novel, as it recounts a conversation - following Mary's death - between Charlie, the Turners' neighbor, and Tony, a young intern in the Turners' house. At the time, Southern Rhodesia was a British colony - it has been under the yoke of Great Britain until its independence in 1980. In this way, we will ask ourselves how Doris Lessing chose to represent her hometown, as she know a lot about it. [...]

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