A Ripple from the Storm Summary
by Doris Lessing

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A Ripple from the Storm Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Ripple from the Storm covers the years 1941 to 1943. The portrayal of Martha Quest’s emotional, personal life and her tenuous relationship to the mainstream society of white South Africa continues in this novel. Her deep involvement in the secret world of communism adds further complications to her life.

Following the example of her friend Jasmine, Martha—recently divorced and alienated from her mother and daughter—becomes the ideal hard-working communist. Believing that Russia has created the framework for an ideal society, Martha glorifies the country at every opportunity. Her worship of Russia, however, is assailed when Solly Cohen, Martha’s childhood friend, informs her that Joseph Stalin is responsible for executing Red Army officers. Although she does not at first accept this information, subsequent corruption from within her local party forces her to see that comrades do not have an automatic claim to virtue.

As Martha continues to present herself as a willing tool for the good of the Communist Party, she reaches a point of physical breakdown and has to take extended bed rest. During her illness, she is nursed by Anton Hesse, leader of the local Communist group. As Anton guards Martha’s well-being, her former lover, William, fades into the background. Martha allows Anton to take over her mind and body. Her lack of spunk also allows her to accept passively Mrs. Quest’s accusation that she has abandoned Caroline, her daughter.

Despite the fact that she does not love Anton and realizes that they are sexually incompatible, Martha moves in with Anton after she recovers. Later, she marries him to save him from an internment camp. For a period of time, she allows herself to think that they can live together harmoniously because she truly respects Anton’s mind and his position in the local party. Soon after the marriage, however, Martha sees that Anton wants to live with a “real” wife, not a fellow communist; she grows to despise him. Still, she stays in the marriage so that Anton can remain in the country.

When the communist group dissolves, mainly because of Anton’s overbearing manner and snobbery, Martha is overwhelmed by feelings of futility. Nevertheless, she believes that the end results were inevitable. At this point in her life, she loses her faith in communism and despairs of ever finding her true self: “I am not a person at all, I’m nothing yet—perhaps I never will be.” Her journey...

(The entire section is 585 words.)