Study Guide

Landlocked

by Doris Lessing

Landlocked Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Landlocked covers the years 1944 to 1949 in Martha Quest’s life. In an irrational world of organizational corruptions and personal frustrations, Martha enters a love affair and finds a temporary solace. Paradoxically, this relationship becomes both a balm for her troubled soul and the most profound emotional experience of her entire life. The visionary heights that Martha achieves through her sexual expression with her new lover reflect Lessing’s view that, from the release of intense feeling and passion, one can achieve a sense of connection and balance in the universe.

At the outset, Martha is offered a promotion at her law firm. Instead of being happy for the opportunity, she refuses the offer, believing further commitment to a collective that she does not esteem will only detract from her search for self. After refusing the job, she dreams that she is a “large house . . . with half a dozen different rooms in it,” but that in the center the house is empty, ready to be filled. She accepts the dream as an “image of her position” and reasons that a man is needed to fill her inner space.

Martha’s choice becomes Thomas Stern, a Polish Jew who escaped from Poland but discovered later that the Nazis murdered all members of the family that he left behind. Thomas’s passionate outrage toward Nazis stirs Martha and alerts her to his potential for filling her empty center with emotions that could ignite her true self. Although...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

Landlocked Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Doris Lessing. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.

Draine, Betsy. Substance Under Pressure: Artistic Coherence and Evolving Forms in the Novels of Doris Lessing. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983.

Karl, Frederick. “The Four-Gaited Beast of the Apocalypse: Doris Lessing’s The Four-Gated City.” In Old Lines, New Forces: Essays on the Contemporary British Novel, edited by Robert K. Morris. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1976.

Klein, Carol. Doris Lessing: A Biography. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Lessing, Doris. A Small Personal Voice: Essays, Reviews, Interviews. Edited by Paul Schlueter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.

Martinson, Deborah. “Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook: ’An Exposed Position.’” In In the Presence of Audience: The Self in Diaries and Fiction. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2003.

Pickering, Jean. Understanding Doris Lessing. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Rubenstein, Roberta. The Novelistic Vision of Doris Lessing: Breaking the Forms of Consciousness. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979.

Waterman, David F. Identity in Doris Lessing’s Space Fiction. Youngstown, N.Y.: Cambria Press, 2006.