The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

by

Doris Lessing

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In Free Women, Richard’s second wife, Marion, starts the book as a miserable, pathetic alcoholic, presumably driven to drink by Richard’s unabashed affairs and her relative confinement at home with her three children. Richard spends much of the book trying to figure out what to do about Marion—of course, he never considers being faithful or attentive to her—and, in her misery, Marion turns to Molly and Anna for advice, since she admires their “freedom.” Marion’s greatest transformation comes after Tommy’s suicide attempt, when she befriends him, stops drinking, and resolves to become an activist. She ends up enthusiastically divorcing Richard and, at the end of the book, running her own dress shop. Since she does not appear in Anna’s notebooks, it is unclear whether she is a fictional construction or a real person that Anna knows. Regardless, she exemplifies the plight of married women confined to the domestic sphere by unloving and emotionally insensitive husbands, but also the possibility of reclaiming one’s independence and happiness.

Marion Quotes in The Golden Notebook

The The Golden Notebook quotes below are all either spoken by Marion or refer to Marion. 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:
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon and Schuster edition of The Golden Notebook published in 1962.
The Notebooks: 1 Quotes

Five lonely women going mad quietly by themselves, in spite of husband and children or rather because of them. The quality they all had: self-doubt. A guilt because they were not happy. The phrase they all used: “There must be something wrong with me.” Back in the campaign HQ I mentioned these women to the woman in charge for the afternoon. She said: “Yes, wherever I go canvassing, I get the heeby-jeebies. This country’s full of women going mad all by themselves.” A pause, then she added, with a slight aggressiveness, the other side of the self-doubt, the guilt shown by the women I’d talked to:
“Well, I used to be the same until I joined the Party and got myself a purpose in life.” I’ve been thinking about this — the truth is, these women interest me much more than the election campaign.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Marion
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Free Women: 4 Quotes

He smiled, as dry as she, and said: “Yes, I know what you mean, but all the same it's true. Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who'd be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they're telling the truth.”

Related Characters: Tommy (speaker), Anna Wulf, Marion
Page Number: 498
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Notebook LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Notebook PDF

Marion Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Marion appears in The Golden Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Free Women: 1
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...Molly reports that Richard is about to visit, probably to chat about “another crisis with Marion.” In the past, Anna left whenever Richard was coming, for they did not like each... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...get married, although Molly thinks it would be wrong for Anna, who asks for a beer—Marion had been coming over to Anna’s for beer, in fact, and Molly wants to know... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...married for a few months, years ago, and had one son, Tommy. Richard then remarried Marion and had three boys, and later they all became friends. During Molly’s absence, Richard came... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...decision to become a writer. After a couple years, Richard disavowed leftist politics and met Marion, winning back the respect of his family, who then sent him to “a job in... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Molly asks about Marion—Anna reveals that Marion, too, had visited her, but Richard has nothing to say. Anna and... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Anna reveals that Richard visited to ask whether he should “send Marion away to some home or something,” because her drinking was affecting the children. He implores... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Returning to their original topic of conversation, Richard suggests that Tommy stay with him and Marion, and then Tommy walks in, takes some strawberries, and asks, “And how is Marion?” He... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...are all unhappy, but Anna and Molly are “much happier than my father. Let alone Marion.” Anna mentions “how judged you make us feel,” but Tommy affirms that he would “rather... (full context)
Free Women: 2
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...happened during his visit to Richard’s office that afternoon. A few minutes later, Molly calls again—Marion, drunk, has called and said that Tommy briefly visited her. Marion was also furious at... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...“he’s not just an ordinary respectable cog in the middle-class wheel.” Tommy went to visit Marion after his father; he fully blames Richard for “ruining” her and their children. Anna does... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
...leaves, thanking her for the conversation. Anna calls Molly and explains that Tommy “frightens” her. Marion is coming to see her, and they need “to do something for Tommy, quickly.” Now... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Marion comes upstairs and replaces Tommy in the chair across from Anna. Marion drunkenly slurs something... (full context)
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...policeman takes the phone from Molly and tells Anna to come to St Mary’s Hospital. Marion has fallen asleep in her chair; Anna pulls her into bed, then runs outside. It... (full context)
Free Women: 3
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...in hearing about his blindness from her, in front of everyone. Richard, disgusted, leaves with Marion. (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Molly calls Anna to report that Marion has started visiting Tommy every day, for hours. She has also stopped drinking, and Richard... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Richard complains that Marion is spending too much time with Tommy, talking about politics, and not enough with her... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Richard is considering divorcing Marion and sending her “off on some holiday” with Tommy, while he introduces his children to... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Richard complains about Marion “outwitt[ing]” him and “cheat[ing him] out of a normal life.” Anna assures him that “the... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...She opens her room door and sees a menacing figure, which turns out to be Marion. Anna thinks that her intelligence is the only thing keeping her from “cracking up.” Anna... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Marion explains that, ever since she has started reading with Tommy and infuriating her family with... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna, resenting the “awful dripping coy little girl” that Marion has became, asks what Tommy thinks; he has told Marion to “make [Richard] face up... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Marion hopes to unite the three of them, working “for the common cause,” which makes Anna... (full context)
Free Women: 4
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...permission, Anna waits for Molly and Richard to come over. They are coming to discuss Marion, who has already begun renting Molly’s spare room. Marion had left Richard and their children,... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Then, Tommy and Marion went to a meeting and protest for African independence, and Tommy was arrested when he... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Going to talk with Marion and Tommy, Anna giggles the same dark giggle that Tommy did before shooting himself—she wonders... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Marion is delighted to have been arrested and drawn her family’s ire; Anna wonders what, if... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Marion asks about the other revolutionaries, and Anna mentions Charlie Themba, who “cracked up” lately: he... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Marion declares that she hates and could not return to Richard, and then fills a glass... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Anna proposes Tommy and Marion go on a vacation and affirms that he is good for her, but reminds him... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...come to Anna’s flat, they are not arguing but “almost like friends.” Anna tells them Marion is definitely leaving, and that they should send her on vacation with Tommy, perhaps to... (full context)
Free Women: 5
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...or work, Anna shrinks from the world of people, and “everything seemed to have changed.” Marion and Tommy are in Sicily, Molly is alone in her house, too, and has started... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...seems happy with his new wife, Jean, but has already moved on to another mistress. Marion is running a dress shop and spends her days “surrounded by a gaggle of little... (full context)