The Grass Is Singing Questions and Answers
by Doris Lessing

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Could you please explain how Africa is the central protagonist in The Grass is Singing?

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The Grass is Singing is a novel by Doris Lessing first published in 1950. The novel deals with the life of Mary Turner, a white woman living in Southern Rhodesia, who gets killed by the worker Moses, who was her servant.

Africa can be seen as the central protagonist in this story, as Africa is clearly more than just a setting or a backdrop to the story. One could argue that in fact it is only possible for the story to happen because of the existence of Africa. The racial tension and the conflict between white people living in African countries as non-natives on the one hand and the native black population on the other hand was typical for life in Africa at the time. Therefore, Africa could be seen as a protagonist, as it adds to and enriches the story massively because of the social and historical background it provides.

The vastness of the countryside in Africa is not only a geographical feature but again can be seen as a contributing factor to the storyline and therefore as a central protagonist. It is this vastness and emptiness of Africa that the white people struggle with. Mary and Dick’s life is very lonely, and Mary drifts increasingly into depression. This could therefore be seen as a result of the loneliness and isolation induced by the vast and open African landscape. It highlights how alone Mary and Dick actually are. One could perhaps even argue that this feeling of isolation is to be blamed for Mary’s cruel, violent, and racist actions towards black people.

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