Health, Sports & Psychology

A reader's guide to The Grass Is Singing

Updated Tuesday 1st April 2008

Doris Lessing's debut novel drew deep on her experiences in 1950s Rhodesia.

Doris Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, and this month on the forum we are celebrating her achievements.

Lessing was raised on her father’s farm in Southern Rhodesia. The evocative setting was to inspire her first novel, 1950's The Grass is Singing.

This title is from What the Thunder Said in The Waste Land by TS Eliot.

A white farmer, Dick Turner, is passionate about his land; however, his wife Mary is utterly fatigued and frustrated by the relentless heat and grinding poverty.

Her thoughts often drift to her previous existence in town, where she enjoyed a career and an active social life.

Doris Lessing Creative commons image Icon Elke Wetzig under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license
Doris Lessing [Image: Elke Wetzig under CC-BY-SA licence]

Mary becomes increasingly discontented, particularly when she realizes that Dick is, fundamentally, incompetent. Much of her aggression is taken out on a succession of black servants, who find it impossible to satisfy her demands.

Eventually she develops an obsession with a houseboy called Moses, and the reader witnesses a tragedy unfolding.

Lessing’s novel succeeds on many levels. Her writing conveys the harsh landscape and the oppressive climate.

She produces penetrating portraits of the central characters, enabling us to comprehend the reasons underlying their behaviour.

The complacency and cruelty of white colonial society are laid bare, as issues of racism, injustice and sexuality are explored with insight and sensitivity.

My copy of the book contains a list of Lessing’s works. These include an impressive array of novels, short stories, poetry, drama, non-fiction, autobiography and operas. She is a worthy Nobel winner!

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Exploring family health Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Iakov Filimonov/Dreamstime.com free course icon Level 1 icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Exploring family health

How can families support healthy living and cope with illness? This free course, Exploring family health, will provide an understanding of what is meant by socialisation. You will recognise how a family can learn and support good and poor health behaviours alongside government interventions, such as the 5 A DAY strategy. Identification of people with Alzheimer's disease is steadily increasing and you will consider key features and research. Caring within a family will be considered through reading about Sheila who cares for her husband and son. Finally, the course will look at the plight of young carers, often hidden from view, and losing part of their childhood due to their caring responsibilities.

Free course
8 hrs
The Christchurch Earthquake: 22nd February 2011 Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: martinluff under CC-BY-SA licence article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

The Christchurch Earthquake: 22nd February 2011

A second earthquake in six months strikes New Zealand - and this time Christchurch feels the full force. The OU's David Rothery suddenly faced a different day to the one he had planned...

Article
Sustainable lifestyles Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Sustainable lifestyles

Trina Hahnemann, Danish chef and writer, talks about Dirt Café, and her passion for cooking, organic food and sustainable lifestyles.

Video
10 mins
The beauty of Mother Nature Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

The beauty of Mother Nature

Conservationist and film producer Elsie Kariuki makes films with a conservationist message. She believes people should not take nature for granted and hopes to get her films to the rural audiences in Kenya - the ones who will be hit the hardest by climate change

Video
5 mins
Water source Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Water source

Alex Mulisa is from the Poverty Environment Initiative. He explains how critical the river Nile is to Rwanda

Video
5 mins
Young v Old, CEO v Chairman: A tale of two citadels Creative commons image Icon Erwin Bolwidt (El Rabbit) under CC-BY-NC-SA licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Young v Old, CEO v Chairman: A tale of two citadels

 Do the battles of the generations reflect the power struggles between Chairs and CEOs?

Article
David Beavis' story Creative commons image Icon No GMOs March UK (Activism) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

David Beavis' story

Explore the personal side of climate change with David Beavis' diary entry.

Article
Motivation and factors affecting motivation Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Corbis Super RF / Alamy free course icon Level 1 icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Motivation and factors affecting motivation

This free course explores the term 'motivation' and factors affecting motivation. This includes looking at the most influential theories of motivation that contribute to understanding the causes of motivation. The motivation of sports people and people working in sport and fitness environments are used to help understand the theories presented.

Free course
5 hrs
Earthquake and tsunami in Honshu, Japan: 11th March 2011 Creative commons image Icon japan_style under CC-BY-NC licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Earthquake and tsunami in Honshu, Japan: 11th March 2011

Shortly after news started to come through of the massive earthquake in Japan, David Rothery shared his thoughts for us.

Article