Doris Lessing

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Doris Lessing Long Fiction Analysis

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5453

Doris Lessing is a powerful writer committed to the lofty goal of changing human consciousness itself. The narrative voice that weaves throughout her prolific fiction is that of an intense thinker who observes, explores, and describes the contemporary world but whose ultimate sense of human life is that the individual, and indeed the human race, is meant to go beyond mere recognition of perceived reality and to struggle with visions of the possible. Her novels repeatedly suggest that changes in the way humans view themselves, their world, and their relationships with others are imperative if life on this planet is to survive.

Lessing’s scope is wide. Her creative imagination is able to provide a close analysis of a character—with all that individual’s fears, longings, and contradictions—and to relate that individual not only to his or her circle of acquaintances but to patterns of global economics and politics as well, and then to sweep beyond this planet to the cosmos and a perspective that encompasses the metaphysical questions of existence. Her fictional explorations are multiple, multidimensional, and overlapping, suggesting that no one viewpoint is adequate or complete. This range is also reflected in her varied narrative forms, which include realism, naturalism, science fiction, utopianism and dystopianism, fantasy, fable, transcultural postmodernism, and experimental combinations of these. This heterogeneity of themes, techniques, and perspectives illustrates Lessing’s overriding premise that truth and substance cannot easily be compartmentalized or assigned fixed labels: Existence is always process, always in flux.

Lessing’s position as an exile is a prominent aspect of her work, both in content and in theme. Born in the Middle East of English parents, she spent her adolescence in Southern Rhodesia, first with her family on an isolated and impoverished farm whose workers were all native black Africans, and then on her own in Salisbury. In the city she became involved with a group interested in international politics whose most specific focus was increased rights for black Rhodesians. Her experiences there in the 1940’s, including two marriages and three children, became material for nearly all of her novels for the first twenty years of her writing career.

Lessing has had a wide readership throughout her career. For many years her works have been on best-seller lists, and her novels have been translated into many languages. Her fiction is widely anthologized and has been closely read by many contemporary authors, particularly women writers. The number of critical articles, books, and sections of books about her work is enormous and international in scope, reflecting the wide diversity of Lessing’s readers and the serious attention her work continues to command. Lessing’s novels, wide-ranging in scope and treatment, resist any easy labels. Her major themes, however, though presented in a variety of ways, have been remarkably consistent. The individual has responsibilities, Lessing always shows, not only to achieve self-knowledge and inner harmony but to contribute to the greater harmony of society as well. Human consciousness must expand and people’s attitudes and actions must change if human life is to survive.

The Grass Is Singing

In 1949, Lessing arrived in London with her youngest son and the manuscript of The Grass Is Singing. In many ways this first book established a pattern for subsequent novels. Her manuscript was accepted for publication within three days of her submitting it to a publisher. The novel was well received when it appeared and went through seven reprintings within five months. The title comes from part 5 of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922); Lessing’s wide reading included the twentieth century writers as well as the great British, French, and Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. She most admired those writers with a sense of moral purpose, a sense of commitment to all humanity. The Grass Is Singing clearly shows the horrific effects of apartheid and racial prejudice on both the white colonial rulers and the black people who make up the overwhelming majority of the population of southern Africa.

In a stylistic technique directly opposite to that of a stereotypical detective story, the third-person narrator reveals at the outset of The Grass Is Singing that Mary Turner, the wife of a poor farmer, has been killed by a houseboy, Moses, who confessed to the crime. The opening chapter shows the confusion and emotional collapse of Mary’s husband, Dick Turner, and the reactions of Charlie Slatter, a neighbor, and Tony Marston, a young recent immigrant from England. The plot then becomes straightforward as it gives the background and chronology of events that led to the murder.

Mary grew up in the city and had established a pleasant though rather meaningless life after the death of her parents. At age thirty she begins to overhear acquaintances’ disparaging remarks about the fact that she has never married. Suddenly seeing herself as a failure, she agrees to marry virtually the first man available, an impractical farmer who comes to town for supplies. Dick Turner immediately takes her to his isolated shack, where they are surrounded by black workers; the nearest white neighbor is many miles away. Mary is unprepared for marriage and totally inept at dealing with the series of houseboys Dick brings from the field to do cooking and housework. In exile from her city life, Mary is further hampered by the typical white Southern Rhodesian belief that natives are basically inferior. She cannot handle the day-by-day contact with the native houseboys who seem so alien to her, and with the advent of the arrogant Moses, the many psychological strains lead inexorably to her almost invited death. Mary and all of white culture are guilty, but it is the black Moses who will be hanged.

Mary’s failures are also a result of her inability to understand herself. She is not a reader. She has dreams and nightmares but makes no exploration of their possible significance. She has never examined social and political realities and has no one with whom to discuss her problems. She is unable to adjust to her current reality and unable to create any alternative reality.

Children of Violence series

Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage, A Ripple from the Storm, Landlocked, and The Four-Gated City trace in detail the growth and development of Martha Quest, an autobiographical character who, unlike Mary Turner, is intensely interested in knowing herself and making sense of the world. Together these novels make up Lessing’s Children of Violence series. The first four are set in Africa, while The Four-Gated City, which nearly equals in length the preceding four, is set in London and traces Martha Quest’s life from her arrival there around 1949 to the late 1990’s. The novels set in Africa may be categorized as social realism, but The Four-Gated City moves beyond that to discuss what are often considered paranormal capacities, and the work concludes after some unspecified disaster has destroyed much of life on earth. Despite forces beyond the control of the individual, Martha Quest and some of the other inhabitants of the postcatastrophic world epitomize the continuing need for individual responsibility and commitment to a more harmonious world.

Martha Quest, as her surname suggests, is a quintessential Lessing heroine, always examining the human condition and searching for a higher consciousness to change herself and her world. The characterization is detailed and frank, including descriptions of Martha’s sexual relationships and, in A Proper Marriage, a lengthy and explicit description of childbirth. Martha’s perceptions and innermost thoughts also provide a historical overview of an entire era and a challenge to the status quo. Central to all of Martha’s struggles is her determination to grow and to envision a freer and more responsible world.

The Golden Notebook

Lessing interrupted the writing of the Children of Violence series to work on The Golden Notebook, published in 1962 and generally acknowledged as her most impressive and influential novel. “The two women were alone in the London flat,” begins the long novel, and from this simple statement Lessing creates a fascinating portrait of the modern world. Theprotagonist is Anna Wulf, a writer who says that she is suffering from writer’s block after a successful first novel about racial problems in Africa. Anna’s friend Molly is a divorced mother trying to make a life for herself. Through them Lessing perceptively examines the problems of the intelligent and disillusioned modern woman.

Anna tries to create order out of chaos by keeping a diary, which she divides into four notebooks: a black notebook recounting her experiences as a young woman in Africa; a red notebook for her Communist and political activities; a yellow notebook, which includes her fictional attempts to understand herself, including the creation of an autobiographical character named Ella, who is also writing a novel; and a blue notebook to record the factual details of her daily life and her relationships with men. Sections of these notebooks are repeated sequentially four times and are finally superseded by another notebook, the golden one of the novel’s title, in which Anna attempts to integrate these compartmentalized and often-conflicting aspects of her life. In the golden notebook section, influenced by the mental breakdown of one of her lovers, Saul Green, Anna goes through layers of madness in herself and questions the idea of reality itself.

The shape of this pivotal metafictional novel is further complicated by sections called “Free Women,” which open and close the book as well as separate the repeated sections of the black, red, yellow, and blue notebooks. The five “Free Women” sections together form a conventional novel about sixty thousand words long. Although it deals with the same characters and events recounted in the various notebook sections, it does so in a reductive and more structured way. It is as though the “Free Women” novel were what Anna is able to produce to end her writer’s block, but a novel that shows that fiction is unable to capture the intricacies and complexities of actual existence. Since the sections of this conventional novel frame and appear throughout the larger work, the contrasts and variations with the notebook sections make The Golden Notebook as a whole a complex structural and stylistic achievement.

While The Golden Notebook elaborates Lessing’s attitudes toward racism, sexism, and the interconnections between the personal and the political, it also shows the development of Lessing’s thinking to include the benefits of the irrational and the necessity of exploring areas beyond the layers of social pretense and conventionality. These areas are further addressed in The Four-Gated City and in three subsequent novels, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, The Summer Before the Dark, and The Memoirs of a Survivor. Each of these novels breaks from traditional versions of realism and insists on a wider definition of the possible.

Briefing for a Descent into Hell

Briefing for a Descent into Hell, one of the very few Lessing novels with a male as the central character, presents Charles Watkins, a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, who is found wandering and incoherent in the streets and is hospitalized for treatment of a mental breakdown. While in the hospital, Watkins, who has forgotten even his name, imagines himself taken away in a spaceship, and most of the book relates his various encounters with unfamiliar creatures and situations that seem almost mythological. Many of these experiences are painful or frightening. Often he is alone, yet he feels a sense of urgency and intense anxiety: He must accomplish certain tasks or risk total failure for himself and others. He also has times of exceptional joy, as he sees the beauty of creation and has revelations of a harmony that could prevail if each creature accepted its part in the scheme of things and made its responsible contribution. In the final pages of the book, Watkins is given electroshock treatment and yanked back into his old life, but both he and the reader are left with the sense that, compared to his previous insights, he has been forced back to a shallow and hollow “normalcy.”

The Summer Before the Dark

In The Summer Before the Dark, Kate Brown, a woman in her early forties, also goes through a period of “madness” that reveals the extent to which she has previously succumbed to the pressures to become only roles: wife, mother, sex object, efficient organizer, selfless caregiver. During the summer that is the time frame of the novel, Kate’s husband and grown children are away from home; at loose ends, Kate accepts a position as translator for an international food organization. She soon finds herself traveling and organizing global conferences. She spends some time in Spain with Jeffrey Merton, a young man whose psychosomatic and psychological illnesses spill over into her own life, and she returns to London to deal with her doubts and confusions.

She stays for a while in a flat with Maureen, a twenty-two-year-old who is establishing her own identity. Through her reactions to Maureen, Kate comes to understand much about herself and her own family, and she finally grasps the relevance of a recurring dream about a seal. The seal dream appears fifteen times in the novel, and the basic image is of Kate struggling to return an abandoned seal to the ocean. When Kate is finally able to finish the dream and return the seal to water, she realizes that what she has been burdened with is her own ego and that she must fight against the power of repressive institutions and roles.

The Memoirs of a Survivor

Lessing again shows the conjunction between the individual and the larger society, including the importance of responsibility and direction, in The Memoirs of a Survivor. In this dystopian rendering of the “near future,” the unnamed first-person narrator records her observations of a world in a state of cultural and social decline following an unexplained catastrophe. A stranger consigns into the narrator’s care a girl of about twelve, Emily, who has with her Hugo, an ugly cat/dog creature. Much of the novel describes Emily’s accelerated development through puberty and her association with Gerald, a young gang leader who, with Emily’s help, tries to rebuild some semblance of order or at least some system of survival in a degenerated and nonfunctional society.

From the window of her apartment, the narrator watches groups abandon the city, never to be heard from again, and she witnesses the collapse of civilization, demonstrated particularly in the very young children; for them, not only respect for others but also language itself has broken down, and they attack their victims or one another with barbaric yaps. In the midst of all this collapse, the narrator has become aware of another layer of reality in and through the walls of her apartment. When she enters this space, she is confronted with a variety of scenes from the past, not necessarily her own past, and usually she sees something that she must do. On one journey through the walls she glimpses a figure of a woman, perhaps a goddess or some aspect of herself, who fills her with a sense of hope. Surrounded by despair in the present world, the narrator constructs an alternative visionary world, and at the end of the novel, when even the air is unbreathable, the collapsed world is left behind as the narrator steps through the wall through both a willed and a magical transformation. She takes with her Emily and Gerald and their group of youngsters as well as Hugo, transformed from an ugly beast into something shining with hope and promise.

Canopus in Argos series

After a rare gap of five years without a novel, Doris Lessing burst forth with Shikasta, which she announced was the first in a series called Canopus in Argos: Archives, and in the next four years she published the other four books in the series. A number of loyal readers were disappointed with what Lessing called her “space fiction,” with its undeveloped, stylized characters and strangely unexciting interplanetary rivalries, but the series attracted for Lessing a new audience of science-fiction readers. Taken as a whole, the series continues Lessing’s themes: the individual versus the collective, political systems and their interference with racial and sexual equality, the interconnectedness of all life, and the need for a more enlightened consciousness.

Some of the terms that have been used to describe the varied genres in the Canopus in Argos novels—outer-space fiction, science fiction, fantasy, psychomyth, allegory, utopian—indicate the variety within and among these books. They do not even comfortably fit the classification of a series, or roman-fleuve, since traditionally a series centers on a single character, as Lessing’s Children of Violence centers on Martha Quest. Shikasta is filled with reports, journals, and interviews by aliens who discuss the fate of Earth, or Shikasta. The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five does not seem to be set on another planet so much as in the realm of myth and legend as AlIth moves between the zones in search of her destiny. The Sirian Experiments is told by a woman named Ambien II, who is a leading administrator in the Sirian Colonial Service. She discovers that the rival Canopean Empire is actually in advance of Sirius in every way and more deserving of conducting experiments on Shikasta than is her own empire, though the Sirians certainly do not want to hear this. The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 is the story of a small planet whose inhabitants live comfortably until the time of The Ice begins, with ice and snow covering most of the globe. The inhabitants are unable to emigrate, but a few of them survive in some nonphysical but essential existence. Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire uses testimonies and histories to show that the Volyen Empire has failed to keep its promises to its inhabitants and to the cosmos. The empire suffers a rhetoric-induced downfall, as its leaders become enamored with the sound of their grand ideas rather than performing the actions that should have accompanied them.

None of the narrators and voices in the Canopus in Argos series is entirely reliable, and many questions are left unanswered. Perhaps this confusion is itself Lessing’s goal: to make her readers question and reconsider ideas and actions. As Johor, an emissary to Shikasta, comments on the very first page of the series: “Things change. That is all we may be sure of.This is a catastrophic universe, always; and subject to sudden reversals, upheavals, changes, cataclysms, with joy never anything but the song of substance under pressure forced into new forms and shapes.”

The Diaries of Jane Somers

The same year the final volume of Canopus in Argos was published, another novel appeared, titled The Diary of a Good Neighbour, purportedly by a new British writer, Jane Somers. It was not until the following year, and after the publication of another Jane Somers novel, If the Old Could . . . , that Lessing publicly revealed her authorship with the publication of the two novels together as The Diaries of Jane Somers. In her introduction to that book, Lessing discusses some of her reasons for having used a pseudonym. One was to create a new persona as the narrator: How would a real Jane Somers write? Another was to show the difficulties unestablished writers have in getting published, and indeed the first manuscript was rejected by several publishers before it was accepted by Michael Joseph in London, the same firm that had accepted the unknown Doris Lessing’s The Grass Is Singing nearly four decades earlier. Lessing also says that she wanted the novels to be judged on their own merit, apart from the Lessing canon. When the Jane Somers novels first appeared, they sold in only modest numbers and received favorable but very limited attention from reviewers. Lessing notes that the modern publishing business markets high-volume, high-profile authors rather than new and experimental novelists.

The Diaries of Jane Somers focuses on old age, especially the relationship that develops between the middle-aged Jane Somers, head of a high-fashion magazine, and Maudie Fowler, a poor but proud woman in her nineties. Set in London, the novels, particularly The Diary of a Good Neighbour, give an insightful analysis of contemporary health care services and again show the impacts of social attitudes and government policies on the individual. The social realism of the novel, with its discussions of aging and dying, is given contrast by the summaries of novels that Jane writes about Maudie’s life. Maudie tells stories of her long, hard life, and Jane transforms them into successful romanticized fictions, which Maudie then enjoys hearing. Jane is repeatedly mistaken for a “Good Neighbour,” a social worker, as though there could be no other explanation for her friendship with Maudie.

The Fifth Child and Ben, in the World

In her next novel, The Good Terrorist, Lessing depicts rather stupid and totally unsympathetic would-be revolutionaries who move from city to city in England planning random bombings. Contrary to the title, no good terrorist appears in the work, and it is just as well that these characters have a tendency to blow up themselves accidentally rather than killing others. A much more interesting novel is The Fifth Child, which can be read as an accurate and realistic account of an unfortunate English family, but which other readers have perceived as a science-fiction fantasy, a tale of an alien being born into a human family. The novel hovers on some point that embraces both readings.

The setting of The Fifth Child is England in the 1960’s. Harriet and David Lovatt want a big family and a settled home life. Everything seems to be working according to their plan until the birth of Ben, their fifth child. Ben has nothing childlike about him. He is gruesome in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong, demanding, and violent. In no way does he fit into the happy home, but Harriet, steeped in the idea of motherhood, cannot bear to abandon him in some mental institution and insists on keeping him with her. As the years pass, the older children escape, though already harmed by Ben’s weirdness and violence, and even David finally recognizes that he cannot continue to live with such a creature. The novel ends in despair, the problems unresolved. Ben is well on his way to becoming a fully grown criminal, a rapist and murderer, with no one able to subdue him. The story of the Lovatts becomes a parable of the modern world, the vision of a simple and happy existence shattered within the family itself and a society unwilling to confront and unable to control its own most brutal aspects.

Twelve years after The Fifth Child, Lessing provided a sequel, Ben, in the World. Ben does not know how old he is, and when he is told he needs a birth certificate to obtain papers for work or medical care, he tries to find his mother to ask her about this. Harriet Lovatt has moved from place to place to make it impossible for her fifth child to find her. When Ben finally locates her in a park, he cannot ask her, because she is with her favorite son, Paul, the sight of whom always fills Ben with murderous rage. Ben has indeed been in trouble, but for the most part he controls his rages. Lessing in this sequel novel presents Ben as a victim, alienated from society. He is cheated out of wages from one of the few jobs he has ever had and is set up by a con man who uses him as an unwitting drug carrier. Occasionally someone, such as the prostitute Rita, helps him or pities him, but never for long. Ben is so large and physically odd that most people automatically fear and shun him. When Rita first sees him naked, she thinks he is not human: the thick hair over all his body, the hunched shoulders, the long dangling arms, the animal barks and grunts. A mad scientist wants to experiment on Ben, and he cages Ben in a lab where horrific experiments are being conducted on animals. In a sad and unlikely scenario, Ben ends up in the high Andes mountains in South America, where he has been led to believe there are other creatures like himself.

Love, Again

Lessing’s novel Love, Again confronts the uncertainty of love and the decisions made because of love. Sarah, an aging theater manager, writes a play based on the true story of a young, beautiful biracial Frenchwoman named Julie Varion. Julie has many eligible suitors in her life, but none commits himself to her because of family pressures of status and community responsibility. Julie finally becomes engaged to an older gentleman, but she mysteriously dies before the wedding. Writing about this alluring character and her life is emotionally trying for Sarah, who feels that she, unlike Julie, is unable to act on her love interests because of her age. Unable to act on her feelings, Sarah suffers silently through her painful longings for a twenty-eight-year-old actor and a thirty-five-year-old director. Sarah eventually comes to terms with her age through painful moments of realization and acceptance.

Mara and Dann novels

Mara and Dann is an exciting adventure story set thousands of years in the future. The two main characters, Mara and her brother Dann, were kidnapped from their home with the Mahondi tribe when Mara was seven and Dann was four. In order to stay alive, the two are forced to change their names when they are taken to a village of the Rock People, a tribe considered less advanced than the Mahondi. Mara stays in the village until she becomes a strong young woman who desires to learn as much as possible even as she faces starvation and drought; she is sold into slavery and taken prisoner to be a breeder for other tribes. Dann suffers through abductions and addictions and becomes divided in his desires and duties toward his sister. Through his dreamworld, Dann faces his fears and eventually accepts his past experiences. Although the two are separated many times, they never stop searching for each other even at the risk of slavery and death. The novel suggests the survival of the human mind and spirit even through the most severe times, although issues of racism, greed, and the abuse of power remain.

The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot, and the Snow Dog is a sequel to Mara and Dann, and the long title indicates the four main characters. Dann’s beloved sister Mara is dead, but her baby, Tamar, has survived, and Dann is finally united with her when she is six years old. When Dann learns Mara is dead, he descends into despair, but through the help of Griot, a soldier who had served under him when Dann was a general, and Ruff, a remarkable white dog that Dann has rescued as a puppy from a frozen lake, Dann survives. He hates the continual, ubiquitous wars, and he turns his interest to trying to learn more about the ancient past, when people had more knowledge available to them and even had things like books and airplanes and big cities. He impresses the need for knowledge on his little niece, Tamar, although the reality of their lives is to be on the move, longing to know more about past cultures and dreaming that somehow future eras can again inhabit a more livable planet, filled with more than ice or deserts, and can create a social order that provides peace for all.

Playing the Game

Playing the Game is a graphic novel. Its sixty-four pages contain a moralistic fantasy about Spacer Joe Magnifico Simpetco and his hope of love in a soulless, violent urban environment. Accompanying the text are illustrations by Charles Adlard. Lessing was ahead of her time in creating this contribution to what would later become an established genre, again demonstrating her multiple experiments in fiction.

The Sweetest Dream

In The Sweetest Dream, Lessing traces the lives of a wide cast of characters for several decades. The novel starts in the 1960’s, a decade that brought many changes to the world. Frances Lennox, for lack of money after her husband Johnny has left, lives with her two sons in her former mother-in-law’s huge house. Frances serves as a mother figure to an ever-changing group of young people who come to the house for food and shelter, as does Johnny, who sees himself as a charismatic leader who can recruit the motley group to a glorious vision of communism that will save the world, but in reality Johnny will do almost anything to avoid work. Much of the second half of the novel takes place in Africa, where Frances’s son Andrew Lennox has become rich working with corrupt African officials, and Sylvia, one of the group, has become a doctor working with extremely poor natives in a scarcely funded bush hospital. The adult lives of Andrew and Sylvia symbolize well the outcome of the youthful “dreams” of the 1960’s.

The Cleft

In contrast with her futuristic works, in The Cleft Lessing depicts a period early in the development of the human race—indeed, a time when there were only females, and female babies. At some point, the women inexplicably found themselves having babies that were different. The story is told by an aging Roman senator, based on some ancient documents that purportedly reveal the past. He deduces that the women first killed the “monsters,” but eventually some kindhearted ones left them out on a rock, and big eagles carried them off to a place across the river where the placid women never ventured. Eventually, who knows after how long, the more adventurous group, the “Squirts,” as the women called them, met up with the “Clefts,” the women, and, as one might say, the rest is history. This speculative fiction allows Lessing to explore the age-old problem of relationships between the sexes, and the use of the Roman narrator reveals the patriarchal views that were common in his time. In fairly obvious allusion to the present, the novel also includes a vast climate change, referred to as “the Noise,” which always means hard times for animal species of any sex.

Alfred and Emily

In her 2008 novel Alfred and Emily, Lessing combines fiction and memoir. This innovation is reminiscent of The Golden Notebook, in which Anna Wulf writes a novel, included in the overall text, based on what happens in the rest of the novel, and of The Diary of a Good Neighbour, when Jane Somers fictionalizes the hard life of her aged friend Maudie in a novel that makes Maudie’s life romantic and happy. Alfred and Emily starts with what is labeled a novella. It presents a fictitious version of what Lessing’s parents’ lives might have been if World War I had not taken place. The two do meet, but they are only acquaintances. Alfred’s leg is not shattered by shrapnel, and the doctor Emily loved did not die when the ship he was on was torpedoed. Alfred farms in his home country, England, and marries a conventional wife, Betsy. Emily abandons her idea of being a singer, becomes a nurse, leaves that career when she marries a wealthy but cold doctor, and, after his death, uses his fortune to help the poor. She is always discontent.

In the second part, Lessing combines biography and autobiography to tell what her parents’ life together was really like and how that life affected Lessing as a child. One particular image is of her being roughly bundled by her mother’s hard, impatient hands, which Lessing dates to the birth of her younger brother, whom she knows her mother always preferred. It is a nearly primal image, and Lessing describes it in almost the same words she uses in her autobiography, Under My Skin. Even earlier, in The Memoirs of a Survivor, she wrote a similar scene in which an irritated and impatient mother bundles her little girl into bed and turns quickly to cuddle her baby boy. This coincides with the continuing saga of Lessing’s conflicts with her mother, made even more complicated by her pity for her, since she knows her mother is never happy with her husband or her life. Emily’s mother had died when Emily was only three, and she was raised by a stepmother who did not love her. Lessing shows that what happens to individuals in childhood shapes their destinies, just as war shapes the destinies of all.

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