The novel ranges over a period from about 1944 to 1957. The action is primarily set in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and London, England.
Narrator and Point of View
The novel purposefully plays with the concept of narrator and point of view. The "Free Women" sections are narrated by a third-person narrator and primarily represent Anna's point of view, while the notebooks are narrated in the first person by Anna.
Tone and Mood
The tone of the novel is often cynical and depressed, although it can also be shrewdly observant and wryly amused. The mood of the novel is often depressed, distressed, and anxious since most of the characters are perpetually experiencing some sort of crisis, and have a difficult time retaining stability over time.
Protagonist and Antagonist
Anna is the main character and protagonist of the novel. She also functions as the antagonist because her struggles with creativity, self-awareness, and emotional stability impede her from thriving in her career and finding happiness.
Anna's success with her first novel, Frontiers of War, leads her to writer's block, as the novel is not what she intended it to be and it does not portray the truth she was trying to capture.
Anna decides to write a novel starting with the words: "The two women were alone in the London flat." The use of the sentence, which is the same one that starts the frame narrative "Free Women," shows that the entirety of "The Golden Notebook" exists as a narrative created by Anna, and that there is nothing outside of it that can be thought of as "real."
Tommy visiting Anna before his suicide attempt, talking about her notebooks and his unhappiness with his life, foreshadows the upcoming attempt.
See the separate "Imagery" section of this ClassicNote.
The novel itself is a paradox as Anna talks in it about her struggles as a writer, writer's block, and inability to produce something for the public, yet the entire novel constitutes her work proffered for the public.
Anna creates a parallelism between herself and her fictional character Ella by giving Ella similar experiences and interests. Ella's friend Julia also seems to be a parallel for Molly, while Ella's lover Paul parallels Anna's former lover Michael.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
The Golden Notebook Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Golden Notebook is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.