The Good Terrorist Essay - Critical Essays

Doris Lessing


After a series of controversial science-fiction novels by Doris Lessing, The Good Terrorist was one of a series of novels that returned to the realism of The Grass Is Singing (1950) and the Children of Violence series (1952-1969). Inspired by the 1983 bombing of Harrod’s department store and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, which happened while Lessing was in Ireland, The Good Terrorist continues to reflect the disillusionment with communism found in earlier novels such as The Golden Notebook (1962). As in her analysis of the white colonial radicals in that novel, she sees contemporary British terrorism as a privilege assumed by a decadent leisure class. Her subject is the kind of self-styled revolutionary she believes can only be produced by affluent societies. Lessing’s tone in this novel is as bitter and as sarcastic as that of Alice’s mother, Dorothy Mellings, whose name is reminiscent of Lessing’s own.

Alice’s group, the Communist Centre Union, is only intermittently unified. In spite of its radical affectations, it replicates the social patterns of the wider society. The traditional divisions of labor between male and female are observed, as well as those between middle-class and working-class persons. While members of the group are theoretically in solidarity with the working class, they do not really further the interests of the disadvantaged or disfranchised. They are not a part of any true progressive party but instead use their political organization as a theater within which they can play out their psychological problems. Working-class members of the group, such as Jim and Philip, are seen as suffering from social, economic, and health problems that are not...

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