The Fifth Child

by

Doris Lessing

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Fifth Child can help.

Sarah Character Analysis

Daughter of Dorothy and mother to four children, including Amy, who is born with Down Syndrome. It is Harriet’s privately held opinion that Sarah and her husband William’s quarreling causes Amy to be born with Down Syndrome, foreshadowing Harriet’s belief that Ben’s violent nature was brought on by her own greed for a large, idyllic family life. Sarah expresses frustration that Dorothy provides more assistance to Harriet than to her, despite Amy’s special needs.

Sarah Quotes in The Fifth Child

The The Fifth Child quotes below are all either spoken by Sarah or refer to Sarah . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Fifth Child published in 1988.
Pages 3 – 33 Quotes

Harriet said to David, privately, that she did not believe was bad luck: Sarah and William’s unhappiness, their quarrelling, had probably attracted the mongol child—yes, yes, of course she knew one shouldn’t call them mongol[…]David disliked this trait of Harriet’s, a fatalism that seemed so at odds with the rest of her. He said he thought this was silly hysterical thinking: Harriet sulked and they had to make up.

Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Pages 33 – 74 Quotes

The new baby had of course been offered to everyone to hold, when they asked, but it was painful to see how their faces changed confronting this phenomenon. Ben was always quickly handed back. Harriet came into the kitchen one day and heard her sister Sarah say to a cousin, “That Ben gives me the creeps. He’s like a goblin or a dwarf or something. I’d rather have poor Amy any day.”

Related Characters: Harriet Lovatt, Sarah , Amy
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Child LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Child PDF

Sarah Character Timeline in The Fifth Child

The timeline below shows where the character Sarah appears in The Fifth Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Pages 3 – 33
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
...around Easter including David’s father, his mother and her husband, and Harriet’s sisters Angela and Sarah and their families. It’s clear to all that Harriet’s family is of a lower class... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
...the Lovatts receive financial help from James. In truth, money is always tight. Harriet’s sister, Sarah, casts a shadow on the atmosphere by quarreling with her husband, William. A divorce is... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
Christmas and Easter are again celebrated by the larger family. Sarah’s daughter Amy is born with Down Syndrome, confirming that Sarah and William must stay together... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
David fails to receive the promotion he expected he’d get. William also loses his job. Sarah jokes that she and William get all the bad luck, but Harriet mentions to David... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...his vision for happy family life. Angela, Harriet’s other sister, admits that she feels that Sarah and Harriet use all of Dorothy’s time and leave none for her. Sarah feels the... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
...fifth child, to the couple’s dismay, despite their efforts against it. Dorothy is away helping Sarah and her children, and though Harriet has tried out three different girls as helpers, none... (full context)
Pages 33 – 74
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Dorothy phones to say that she’s taking a break from helping Sarah and Harriet for a few weeks because she’s tired. Harriet is beside herself at this... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...seems flummoxed by Ben’s odd appearance and behavior, and one day Harriet hears her sister Sarah say, “That Ben gives me the creeps. He’s like a goblin or a dwarf or... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Harriet invites the family, determined to have a regular Christmas. Sarah asks if Amy will be safe in the house, and Harriet says yes, as long... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
...tantrums to try to get Harriet’s attention away from Ben. Dorothy departs to help with Sarah’s family for a while and Harriet is alone with Ben during the daytimes. She plays... (full context)
Pages 96 – 133
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...miss him. Helen stays with Molly, visiting very infrequently. Jane remains living with Dorothy and Sarah’s family, and when she visits the Lovatt house it’s clear she’s careful not to criticize... (full context)