The Grass is Singing Suggestion

The Grass is Singing Suggestion

Honours 4th year
20th Century Novel
The Grass is Singing - Doris Lessing

Part A : Brief Questions with Answers

The Grass is Singing Suggestion

  1. When and where was Doris Lessing born?

Ans. Doris Lessing was born on October 22, 1919 to British parents in Kermanshah in Persia (now Iran). Her original name was Doris May Taylor.

  1. What was her father?

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Ans. Doris Lessing’s father, Alfred Cook Taylor, formerly a captain in the British Army during World War I (1914-18), was a bank official.

  1. What was Doris Lessing’s mother?

Ans. Doris Lessing’s mother, Emily Maude Taylor, was a nurse at the Old Royal Free Hospital in London.

  1. Where did Lessing spend her formative years?


Ans. Doris Lessing in her formative years moved with her parents to a farm in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and she came of age in the years around World War II (1939-45).

  1. When did Doris Lessing come to settle in England?

Ans. Doris Lessing, a divorced woman, came to settle in England in 1949 with her son Peter and with manuscript of The Grass is Singing.

  1. When was The Grass is Singing published?


Ans. 1950.

  1. Which book marked the feminist movement of Doris Lessing?

Ans. The Golden Notebook (1962) was Doris Lessing’s real breakthrough. It was a pioneering work in feminist movement, dealing with the twentieth-century view of the male-female relationship.

  1. When was Doris Lessing awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Ans. In 2007.

  1. What do you mean by ‘Apartheid in South Africa’?


Ans. Apartheid in South Africa’ refers to a political system of the past, according to which people of different races were separated into categories such as Bantu (black Africans), white and coloured (of mixed races), etc.

  1. How was there movement against apartheid in South Africa?

Ans. The black majority of South Africa had resisted apartheid for many years but the movement culminated in 1976 through rioting, violence, strikes, demonstration, sabotage, etc.

  1. When was apartheid denounced by the international community?


Ans. Apartheid was denounced by the international community in 1961. South Africa was forced to withdraw from the British Commonwealth by member states who were critical of the apartheid system.

  1. When was the apartheid system finally uprooted?

Ans. The apartheid system was finally uprooted in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president.

  1. Why is The Grass is Singing called a debut novel of Doris Lessing?


Ans. Debut refers to the first appearance or introduction of someone’s art, music or literature to the public. The Grass is Singing is Doris Lessing’s first novel published in 1950, dealing with the racial conflicts in South Africa.

  1. What is the source of the title The Grass is Singing?

Ans. The title of the novel The Grass is Singing has been taken from a line in T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land, Section V ‘What the Thunder Said’.

  1. What is the setting of the novel, The Grass is Singing?

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Ans. The novel, The Grass is Singing is set in Southern Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe which was a self-governing British colony in the twentieth century.

  1. When did the British settlers establish their colony in South Africa?


Ans. British settlers arrived in the land of South Africa, which became Rhodesia in the late 1890s. The Africans resisted them but by 1898 the British had won.

  1. How was Rhodesia divided by the British?


Ans. The British divided Rhodesia into Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia in 1911.

  1. When did Southern Rhodesia become a British Colony?

Ans. Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in 1923.

  1. What happened to Northern Rhodesia?


Ans. Northern Rhodesia became independent as Zambia in 1963.

  1. When did the government in Southern Rhodesia declare independence?


Ans. In 1965 despite British opposition, this government declared independence.

  1. How did the negotiation between the black Africans and the white-dominated government of Southern Rhodesia occur?


Ans. Many countries imposed economic sanctions against the white-dominated government of Southern Rhodesia, and these, together with internal guerrilla activity, forced the government to negotiate with the main black African groups.

  1. Whe n was Southe’rn Rhodesia reco’gnised by Britain as an indep’endent country?


Ans. In 1980, Southern Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe.

  1. What is the theme of the novel, The Grass is Singing?


Ans. The Grass is Singing deals with a failed marriage, the febrile neurosis of white sexuality, and the fear of black power and energy that Lessing saw as underlying the white colonial experience of South Africa.

  1. How does the novel open?


Ans. The novel, The Grass is Singing opens with a newspaper reporting about a “Murder Mystery” in a bush called Ngesi: Mary Turner, wife of a farmer Richard Turner has been found murdered in her homestead.

  1. What is the name of the murderer of Mary and what is the general conjecture about his motive?


Ans. The name of Mary’s murderer is Moses, her native houseboy who has confessed his crime and surrendered to the police. About his motive there is a general conjecture that he might have been looking for valuables in the house.

  1. How has the newspaper report observed the murder case of Mary Turner?


Ans. Mary Turner’s murder case has been observed as the routine reporting of a crime in a bush to which the white readers do not pay any special attention.

  1. What is the reason for the whites’ muted reaction to Mary’s murder?


Ans. The whites in the farming district (Ngesi bush) are not much interested in discussing the murder case of Mary Turner, because the Turners being unsocial and poor whites, are disliked and hated by all the white settlers in the district.

  1. Who is the nearest neighbour of the Turners?


Ans. Charlie Slatter is the nearest neighbour of the Turners. He lives five miles away from the house of Dick and Mary Turners.

  1. What kind of man is Charlie Slatter?


Ans. Charlie Slatter, a prosperous bush farmer, is crude, brutal and ruthless. Making money is his only mission in life.

  1. Why does Charlie Slatter want to buy Dick Turner’s farm?


Ans. Charlie Slatter wants to earn money by taking over Dick Turner’s farm as grazing ground for his cattle. He knows that, despite his hard work, Dick is in debt and he cannot last long.


Part B : Short Questions

The Grass is Singing Suggestion

  1. Describe the setting of The Grass is Singing.
  2. Do you find autobiographical elements in The Grass is Singing?
  3. What do you know of Mary’s childhood in The Grass is Singing?



How was Mary brought up and educated?

  1. Trace Mary’s feminist traits.
  2. How does the author portray racial discrimination through the experience of Mary on Dick Turner’s farm?
  3. What truth is revealed through the murder of Mary by Moses, the native worker in The Grass is Singing?
  4. Describe the murder of Mary in The Grass in Singing.
  5. What are the reasons for muted reaction to Mary’s murder in The Grass is Singing?


How does Charlie Slatter take control of the murder case of Mary Turner?


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The Grass is Singing Suggestion

  1. “The most interesting thing about the whole affair was this silent, unconscious agreement. Everyone behaved like a flock of birds who communicate-or so it seems by means of a kind of telepathy.”
  2. “This damned country, he thought, convulsed with anger”
  3. “She had inherited from her mother an arid feminism, which had no meaning in her own life at all, for she was leading the comfortable carefree existence of a single woman in South Africa.”
  4. “She was going to be happy. She had no idea of the life she had to lead. Poverty, which Dick had warned her of with a scrupulous humility, was another abstraction, nothing to do with he pinched childhood. She saw it as a rather exhilarating fight against odds.”
  5. “It was not so bad, she thought, when it was all over: not as bad as that. It meant nothing to her, nothing at all. She was able maternally to bestow the gift of herself on this humble stranger, and remain untouched.”
  6. Besides, it was lonely for him, all those hours and hours of walking, walking round the lands by himself, watching the labourers work.”
  7. “Mary just could not get on with natives, and that was the end of it.  A cook never lasted longer than a month, and all the time there were scenes and storms of temper.”
  8. “It was not a woman’s job. And besides, she was so bad with natives, and he was short of labour. She said nothing of how she disliked the natives, of how the hostility that she could feel as something palpable coming from them against her, affected her.
  9. “It was this attitude towards work that had made the Whiteman what he was: the Whiteman worked because it was good to work, because working without reward was what proved a main’s worth.”
  10. “I’ve had enough of going hat in hand into fat men’s offices, asking for money, while they sit on their fat arses and look down their noses. Charity! I won’t do it. I won’t have a child growing up knowing I can’t do anything for it.
  11. “It was like a nightmare where one is powerless against horror: the touch of this black man’s hand on her shoulder filled her with nausea; she had never, not once in her whole life, touched the flesh of a native”.
  12. “But she felt as if she were in a dark tunnel, nearing something final, something she could not visualize, but which, waited for her inexorably, inseparably”.

The Grass is Singing Suggestion


“They were like two antagonists, silently sparring, only he was powerful and sure of himself, and she was undermined with fear, by her terrible dream-filled nights, her obsession”.

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  1. “And then it was that someone used the phrase ‘poor whites’. It caused disquiet. There was no great money cleavage in those days (that was before the era of the tobacco barons), but there was certainly a race division.”
  2. “For Mary, the word ‘Home’ spoken nostalgically, meant England, although both her parents were South Africans and had never been to England. It meant ‘England’ because of those mail-days, when she slipped up to the store to watch the cars come in, and drive away again laden with stores and letters and magazines from overseas.”
  3. “She loved the town, felt safe there, and associated the country with her childhood, because of those little drops she had lived in, and the way they were all surrounded by miles and miles of nothingness – miles and miles of veld”.

Short Notes

The Grass is Singing Suggestion

  1. Apartheid in South Africa
  2. Movement against apartheid
  3. Debut Novel
  4. Setting of The Grass is Singing


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Part C : Broad Questions

The Grass is Singing Suggestion

  1. The colonial situation in The Grass is Singing highlights significant issues of race, poverty, and class conflict. Do you agree?


Discuss The Grass is Singing as a colonial novel.



Discuss Doris Lessing’s treatment of race-relationship in The Grass in Singing.


Comment on Lessing’s treatment of interracial relations in The Grass is Singing.



Discuss the treatment of black African characters in The Grass is Singing.


Discuss the colonial perspective of Lessing’s The Grass is Singing.



How one the black Africans treated in The Grass is Singing? -Elucidate.


The Grass is Singing deals Colonialism. Elucidate.

  1. What picture of social life do you get in Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing?
  2. Discuss Portray the character of Mary in The Grass is Singing.


The Grass is Singing Suggestion

Show the slow degeneration of Mary Turner. Is she responsible for it?

  1. Do you consider Dick Turner in The Grass is Singing a tragic figure? Give reasons for your answer.
  2. How far is Moses responsible for the tragedy of Mary Turner?
  3. What role is played by Charlie Slatter in Lessing’s novel, The Grass is Singing?
  4. Discuss the role of Tony Marston in The Grass is Singing.
  5. Justify the title of the novel, The Grass is Singing.
  6. Discuss the life of Mary Turner before her marriage.


The Grass is Singing Suggestion – If you have any question on this topic than you also give your feedback using comment section.

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