2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

Mary Turner and Mental Illness in Doris Lessing's  The Grass is Singing


Mia P. Pohlman♦
Dr. Hena Ahmad, Faculty Mentor

In “Disability Studies and the Language of Mental Illness,” Katie Aubrecht states, “psychiatry treats the appearance of terror as a sign or symptom of our separation from the world” (n.p.). This “separation” is a key tenant of Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing (1950), which traces the backstory of Mary Turner's murder, a white woman living in 1940s Rhodesia. Mary is separated from the society in which she lives by her painful childhood, gender-defying ideals, and “terror” in the presence of Moses, her “houseboy.” This terror is the manifestation of her repression of deep attraction to this black man, which is dangerous because it challenges the racism that enables white society to remain powerful. Through looking at narrative structure, Mary's, Tony Marston's, and Charlie Slatter's perspectives, and Moses' motives for murder, this paper examines: how is Mary's progression into insanity aided by the patriarchal white society in which she lives?

Keywords: The Grass is Singing, mental illness, gender studies, patriarchal society, race relations

Topic(s):English
African Studies
Disability and Society

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 301-2
Location: MG 1000
Time: 1:15

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♦ Indicates Truman Graduate Student
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