The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How do potential collaborators misunderstand Anna's novel when they propose adaptations? How do these misunderstandings impact Anna?

    Anna discusses the possibility of adapting her novel for television or film with a number of collaborators. However, when Anna attends these meetings, her potential collaborators make suggestions that show they are fundamentally missing the point of her novel. For example, they sometimes suggest shifting the setting out of Africa or eliminating the key plot element of a biracial relationship. Many people who read Anna's novel see it as a love story which they can make commercially successful, and they overlook the political critiques Anna was attempting to make. These conversations leave Anna cynical and disillusioned, and they contribute to her writer's block: because she feels her first novel was misunderstood, Anna is hesitant about writing another.

  2. 2

    How does the experience of psychoanalysis impact Anna?

    Anna undergoes psychoanalytical sessions with a woman named Mrs. Marks, whom she nicknames "Mother Sugar." Mother Sugar forces Anna to confront her emotions and vulnerabilities, and she pays attention to moments when Anna seems to be showing signs of distress. For example, Mother Sugar offers Anna interpretations of her dreams that suggest that Anna is conflicted and potentially unhappy. Anna admits that the experience of going through psychoanalysis puts her in better touch with her emotions; for example, she talks about having learned how to cry. However, Anna is not entirely happy with the new vulnerability she experiences, and she would prefer to contain and compartmentalize her feelings.

  3. 3

    How is homosexuality portrayed in the novel?

    Anna takes a very liberal and progressive view towards some types of sexuality: she sleeps with many different men, many of whom are married. She rents the spare room in her flat to a young man whom she knows to be gay, but, at first, she keeps her distance from him. When Ivor starts helping to care for Anna's young daughter, Anna becomes more uncertain about him, and she reacts with disgust when Ivor moves his lover into the apartment. Anna eventually ends up evicting Ivor from her apartment. She also experiences shame and disgust at the idea that people might think that she and Molly are involved in a lesbian relationship.

  4. 4

    In what ways is Anna honest with herself in how she portrays the world? In what ways is she not?

    Anna takes pride in being able to see the world honestly and unsentimentally. She is good at noticing people's emotions and observing the ways in which they are deceiving themselves. Anna is also interested in writing frankly about sexuality and bodily functions, even though these topics have traditionally been taboo, especially for women. However, Anna can also sometimes deny what she truly wants and what would make her happy. She ignores the fact that she chooses to pursue relationships with men who are emotionally unavailable, and she is also in denial about the frustration that her inability to write another novel creates.

  5. 5

    How do Anna's sexual and romantic relationships complicate the idea of her as a "Free Woman"?

    Anna takes pride in the fact that she did not remarry simply to cave to social pressure and provide a father for her child. She seems to value her independence, but it also becomes apparent that she is sometimes lonely. Anna cannot seem to keep away from men, even though she often ends up unhappy and disappointed. Anna also comes to admit that she finds relationships sexually unsatisfying unless there is an emotional dimension. Anna's romantic entanglements and poor judgment about men show that she is not as independent and emotionally detached as she tries to appear.