The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook Summary and Analysis of The Notebooks, continued, and Free Women, Part 4


The blue notebook resumes with a series of entries made daily over an eighteen-month period, which describe in concise and factual terms the events of the day. However, these entries have been crossed out and are followed by an entry in which Anna deplores that her attempt at being truthful in the blue notebook has failed. She thought she could achieve truth by writing down only facts, but this has not helped her to capture the reality of her experience. She describes a conversation with Mother Sugar in which she argues about whether or not psychoanalysis is helping her and what purpose the treatments might serve. Anna then describes how, once she moves into her own flat, the notebooks assume a more central place in her life. While she had written in them during the time she lived with Molly, she hadn't thought about them critically or consciously. After reading them, she is disturbed by what she reads and decides to use the blue notebook as a simple record of facts about her life. However, she finds that these entries have not helped her to achieve clarity or consistency.

Anna describes a disturbing reoccurring dream. She struggles to describe what she believes to be the root of the dream. She then describes a meeting of the Communist Party held at Molly's house, where a man describes a pattern of violence and atrocities carried out by Communist regimes in other countries. A man at the meeting, an American named Nelson, confronts the man who is speaking, insisting that these events should be concealed to avoid damaging the public perception of Communism. Anna finds herself attracted to Nelson, and the two of them sleep together, although she quickly realizes that Nelson does not enjoy sex. The two of them continue to see each other in an awkward and ambiguous way, and then Nelson invites Anna to attend a party at his home. The party is full of Americans with connections to Hollywood, and Anna finds herself uneasy, especially because Nelson's wife is at the party. Amidst drinking and quarreling amongst varied married couples, Anna realizes that Nelson and his wife will choose to remain in their dysfunctional relationship forever. The next morning, Nelson asks Anna to marry him, and she becomes angry when she refuses. She sees the dream as a manifestation of this unpleasant experience.

Anna then moves to another recent encounter with a man, noting that she is coming to associate men with the fear of pain. His name is De Silva, and he is a journalist, unhappily married with children. His wife and family are in Ceylon, and he is friends with Molly, on whom he sometimes relies for money. After she rejects him, Anna feels bad and invites him for dinner. He tells her a story of a recent experiment, wherein he had sex with a stranger, telling the woman that he would behave as though he were in love with her but did not want her to respond with any affection. He was frustrated by the woman's inability to prevent herself from showing him affection. He then tells Anna another story about a friend who destroyed his marriage by having an affair with his cleaning woman. Anna and De Silva sleep together, but she tells him the next day that she will not sleep with him again, which makes him upset. He suggests bringing another woman back to Anna's flat and sleeping with her there, forcing Anna to listen.

Molly later reports that De Silva has abandoned his wife and children and that she feels she has been duped by him. Anna later finds out that the friend De Silva told her about is the one providing an allowance to his wife, and that De Silva was the one who had been having an affair with the cleaning woman.

Returning to the frame narrative, Anna is waiting to meet with Richard and Molly: they need to discuss Marion's living situation since she has effectively moved into Molly and Tommy's flat, but Marion continues to insist that she will eventually go home. Richard has no desire to see Marion return since he wants to live with his secretary, Jean. Tommy and Marion are arrested during a protest, and Richard is worried about the bad publicity since he is a well-known figure. Richard is angry with Molly and Anna, thinking they have encouraged Marion to embrace Leftist politics as a way to torment him. Molly is overwhelmed and unhappy, but she doesn't know how to confront Marion and Tommy. She begs Anna to help her.

Upon arriving, Anna first meets Tommy, who tells her he doesn't want her to speak with Marion. She ignores him and goes to see Marion anyways. Surprising herself, Anna ends up talking about an African leader named Tom Mathlong, remarking that she respects his vision for the society he wants to create. She also talks about another African leader named Charlie Themba who became paranoid that others were conspiring against him. Anna shows Marion a letter Charlie wrote to her. Marion explains that she cannot return to Richard, not even for the sake of their children. As Anna begins to argue that Marion cannot live in Molly's house, Tommy interrupts the two women. Tommy accuses Anna of trying to take Marion away from him, and Anna suggests that Tommy and Marion travel abroad somewhere.

Anna leaves feeling a sense of hope, and when she meets with Molly and Richard, she tells them she is optimistic. She suggests that Richard offer again to send them abroad, predicting that they will accept the invitation this time. Anna explains that because she became emotional in her interaction with them, she was able to achieve a sense of understanding. Molly and Richard leave to speak with Tommy and Marion. Anna, buoyed by a new sense of confidence, tells Ivor that he must leave the house since she knows he has begun seeing Ronnie again.


The blue notebook shows Anna experiencing further distress, and finding it increasingly difficult to make sense of her life. While Ella has described increasing ambivalence about relationships with men, Anna articulates a more intense sense of fear and distress. Both Nelson and De Silva significantly disrupt her psyche. Both men are selfish, willing to lie, and don't seem to care at all about what Anna feels or experiences. When she tries to explain her nightmare to Mother Sugar, Anna states that she sees it as the principle of malice or spite, and she later speculates that the origin of the dream is rooted in the way Nelson behaves towards her. Anna seems to see these romantic entanglements as damaging and threatening, but she also continues to seek them out. Anna reveals a certain kind of masochism in continuing to submit to relationships with men who have no regard for her, and she is not even experiencing any pleasure from these relationships.

Anna's disturbing revelations from the blue notebook find a more mundane counterpoint in Richard's behavior in the frame narrative. He continues to be totally preoccupied with his own gratification and his desire to start a new marriage with a woman he believes will be more passive and pliable than Marion. Ironically, Richard once sought out Marion because he saw those same qualities in her, so it is hard to predict how happy Richard's third marriage is likely to be. He is also deeply concerned with keeping up social appearances, and he relies on Anna to try to smooth things over with his wife and son because he lacks the communication and emotional intelligence to do so himself.

Anna finds herself challenged by needing to undermine the political beliefs of Marion and Tommy while knowing that she once fervently held similar beliefs. She wants to spare them, especially Marion, the pain she had to go through of later realizing that she was naïve and being led along by a cause that she viewed idealistically. Anna relies on stories in order to try to build a rapport with them, utilizing the skills that led her to write a novel rather than political diatribes. She later reflects to Molly that the reason she was able to persuade Tommy and Marion to listen to her was that she abandoned reason and instead responded to their emotions with her own emotions. Since Anna so often focuses on containing and controlling her feelings through actions like keeping separate notebooks and creating fictional characters as a way to work through her feelings, being open, expressive, and emotional is a surprising choice. The realization that other people respond when she is truly authentic hints at what a better strategy might be for Anna if she could find the comfort to be vulnerable.