The Grass is Singing

The Grass is Singing Literary Elements


Psychological-realist novel

Setting and Context

Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe)

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person narration, mostly from the point of view of Mary Turner

Tone and Mood

Nervousness, desperation, and hopelessness

Protagonist and Antagonist

Mary Turner (protagonist); Dick and Moses (antagonists)

Major Conflict

Mary's married life with Dick Turner is unfulfilling and inescapable; she finds her antagonism with her husband and their way of life spilling into her attitude towards the native laborers, especially towards Moses.


Mary rushes out from the house into the night, and Moses murders her


Mary's mother lives an unfulfilled life as a wife; Mary's life ends up following a similar path


Dick often understates the extent of his financial difficulties with the farm


A line from T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" gives the novel its title


The novel illustrates the harshness of South African poverty in towns and the rugged veld landscape of the farms


Mary relishes holding power over natives but also feels a deep attraction to being under Moses' power


Mrs. Slatter, like Mary, grew up in poverty, spent her youth in a town, and ended up marrying a farmer

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The sjambok represents the power of the white colonialist farmers over their native workers (synecdoche)