The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

by

Doris Lessing

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Golden Notebook can help.
Michael is a married psychiatrist with whom Anna has a lengthy, heartbreaking affair during roughly the first half of the 1950s. He is a Jewish ex-communist—much of his family died in the Holocaust, and many of his communist dissenter friends were murdered by the Soviets. Their relationship is mostly referenced in passing and through the fictional character Ella’s relationship with the fictional doctor Paul Tanner in the yellow notebook, but it is clearly the central reason for Anna’s emotional devastation throughout the novel. In the third section of the blue notebook, Anna recounts the end of their relationship; on September 16, 1954, which Anna describes in detail, she spends much of her day at home catering to Michael’s every desire—sex, food, emotional reassurance—but gains nothing in return; after she lovingly makes him a veal dinner, he never shows up and she ends up throwing it in the trash. While Michael was the only man Anna ever loved, he never saw her as anything more than a diversion and never would have married her; this disconnect between men’s apparent affection for women and their lack of emotional investment in them is the central obstacle to Anna’s satisfaction with her romantic relationships.

Michael Quotes in The Golden Notebook

The The Golden Notebook quotes below are all either spoken by Michael or refer to Michael. 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

“How can you separate love-making off from everything else? It doesn't make sense.”

Related Characters: Ella (speaker), Anna Wulf, Michael, George, Paul Tanner
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

What Ella lost during those five years was the power to create through naivety.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar, Michael, Ella, Paul Tanner
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
The Notebooks: 2 Quotes

15th September, 1954

A normal day. During the course of a discussion with John Butte and Jack I decided to leave the Party. I must now be careful not to start hating the Party in the way we do hate stages of our life we have outgrown. Noted signs of it already: moments of disliking Jack which were quite irrational. Janet as usual, no problems. Molly worried, I think with reason, over Tommy. She has a hunch he will marry his new girl. Well, her hunches usually come off. I realized that Michael had finally decided to break it off. I must pull myself together.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Janet Wulf, Molly Jacobs, Tommy, Michael, Jack, Comrade John Butte
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:
The Notebooks: 3 Quotes

From this point of the novel “the third,” previously Paul’s wife; then Ella’s younger alter ego formed from fantasies about Paul’s wife; then the memory of Paul; becomes Ella herself. As Ella cracks and disintegrates, she holds fast to the idea of Ella whole, healthy and happy. The link between the various “thirds” must be made very clear: the link is normality, but more than that — conventionality, attitudes or emotions proper to the “respectable” life which in fact Ella refuses to have anything to do with.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Michael, Ella, Paul Tanner
Page Number: 429-30
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Notebook LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Notebook PDF

Michael Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Michael 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
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Molly also asks about Anna herself—she had a visit from Michael, with whom she had broken up three years prior after living together for five years.... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna walks back to her five-room flat, where Michael persuaded her to live (instead of with Molly). She rents a room to two students... (full context)
The Notebooks: 1
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...defend it at dinner with an old friend, Joyce. When he stops by that night, Michael is unsurprised. He plays the Eastern European ex-revolutionary, and it is “fascinating—the roles we play,... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Three of Michael’s friends are hanged in Prague, and he insists to Anna that they could not be... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...wholeness through the Party—but it actually “intensified the split.” That night, she discusses it with Michael, that “witch-doctor” and “soul-curer,” who affirms that the human soul is far too complex to... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Anna and Michael go to East Berlin, which is ominous and terrifying. Some old Comrades are hostile to... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...Stalin might not have known about “all the terrible things that were happening,” and later Michael agrees, since “anything is possible.” He mentions that he used to see Stalin as a... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...Ella’s relationship with Paul Tanner. Naivety is what Anna sees in her own relationship with Michael—but neither she nor Ella understood during their relationships how men destroy “the knowing, doubting, sophisticated”... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Anna has never analyzed her own relationship with Michael—it was “like a curving line on a graph.” Anna explains that, in Ella’s first months... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...her room, Anna remembers waking to the same noise each morning in Africa, and then Michael’s “cold irony,” which was also repetitive. Playing with Janet and her blocks, Anna feels nothing.... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...a magic wand had been waved.” She and Mrs Marks talk about her resentment for Michael, who mocks her writing and preference for Janet above him, and who says he will... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
...15, 1950: Anna tells Mrs Marks she is the happiest she has ever been with Michael, but hates him every morning. Mrs Marks suggests it is “time you started dreaming again,”... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
On April 15, 1954: Anna has multiple dreams about Michael leaving, which convince her that he will indeed leave soon. Though unhappy in life, she... (full context)
Free Women: 2
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...ever was with Janet’s father, Max Wulf. She did not love him—she loved nobody until Michael. She thinks this is not so terrible, but that the only terrible thing is “to... (full context)
The Notebooks: 2
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Molly is fed up with the Party’s lies to defend the Soviet Union. Anna tells Michael about this at night, and to her surprise, he supports her. (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...alone, watching the world’s fragments fly about in chaos. All she cares about, truly, is Michael—he is the only thing that brings her happiness. (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
The blue notebook continues. In an entry dated September 15, 1954, Anna recounts how Michael declares that their affair is over, but poses it as a question. He celebrates their... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Anna’s portrait of her day begins. She wakes early, next to Michael, and wonders whether it will be their last time together, which feels impossible in the... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...feels tense and resentful, looking ahead to a day full of meaningless tasks, knowing that Michael will have “women in all kinds of capacities” helping him with his work all day.... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Anna wakes Michael, who praises her “efficiency and practicality.” She makes breakfast and eats with him while wondering... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Anna dons a dress that Michael likes and buys the food she plans to cook for him. She changes the sheets... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...another version of herself might soon decide not to leave the Party and realizing that Michael and Jack, “the ex-communist” and “the communist bureaucrat” respectively, represent her nightmare about the execution.... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...and notices that her dress has a “slightly grimy” collar, picks another outfit and imagines Michael’s criticisms. She makes two dinners (one for Janet, one for her and Michael) and runs... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna makes veal for Michael and herself, feeling delighted until her happiness disappears into self-doubt and tiredness, guilt and dissatisfaction.... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Molly returns from the theater and asks if Michael is coming—Anna promises that he is, but Molly doubts her. Anna tells Molly that she... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Anna realizes Michael will not be coming; he calls and says he can’t make it, but that he... (full context)
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...to with Jack. Janet is “as usual”; Molly is distraught over Tommy; Anna understands “that Michael had finally decided to break it off” and “must pull [her]self together.” (full context)
Free Women: 3
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...wonders what that could mean—perhaps it means the “whole area of tension” with men like Michael and Richard.  Ivor’s friend Ronnie has “moved into Ivor’s room and to his bed,” and... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...“this new frightened vulnerable Anna” has come into being, realizing that it is because of Michael leaving her. Yet she is glad to think she can be strong “just so long... (full context)
The Notebooks: 3
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...her to read through the books for the first time, which reminds her how much Michael’s rejection impacted her. She is also “disturbed” because she cannot recognize herself in her writing... (full context)
The Notebooks: 4
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...deeper sense of ‘reality’ than ‘normal’ people.” Dave told Anna that she should not let Michael’s rejection—years old by now—affect her, since “who are you if you can be broken up... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...character; the girl is as normal as one can be, except for Anna, Molly, and Michael’s influence. By going to boarding school, she means to say that she wants “to get... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...he immediately changes, proving “extraordinarily acute about her character and situation,” like no man but Michael could have done, “naming” her so pleasingly. (full context)
The Golden Notebook
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...memories switches to another scene: a fight between Paul Tanner from the yellow notebook and Michael from reality; these two men merge into a new, heroically strong person, who says they... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
The projectionist runs through various films: Mashopi, then Paul Tanner and Ella, then Michael and Anna, Ella and Julia, Anna and Molly. He laughs when it says, “directed by... (full context)