The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

by

Doris Lessing

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Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar Character Analysis

Mrs Marks is the psychoanalyst that both Anna and Molly visit and call “Mother Sugar” as a play on her “traditional, rooted, conservative” mindset. Anna initially seeks out psychoanalysis to address her “lack of feeling” and inability to write, but ends up spending most of her sessions with Mrs Marks talking about her peculiar dreams. These sessions comprise a significant portion of the blue notebook, which Anna began keeping at Mrs Marks’s request. “Mother Sugar” leads psychoanalysis sessions with brief questions and a “conducting smile,” ceding space for Anna to explore and confront her doubts and insecurities. She becomes an important source of psychological strength for Anna and pushes her to write. However, Anna also critiques Mrs Marks, most of all for seeming to prefer that feelings and experiences get “named” in terms of easily-recognizable archetypes or myths. Mrs Marks’s name is an ironic play on Karl Marx, both because she represents the opposite theoretical tendency in the book (Freud, rather than Marx) and because she is decidedly antirevolutionary—she implores Anna to make do with her own unsatisfying conditions rather than try to change her life.

Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar Quotes in The Golden Notebook

The The Golden Notebook quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar or refer to Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar. 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

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: 3 Quotes

“I'm going to make the obvious point that perhaps the word neurotic means the condition of being highly conscious and developed. The essence of neurosis is conflict. But the essence of living now, fully, not blocking off to what goes on, is conflict. In fact I've reached the stage where I look at people and say—he or she, they are whole at all because they've chosen to block off at this stage or that. People stay sane by blocking off, by limiting themselves.”

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar
Page Number: 449-50
Explanation and Analysis:

“But now I can feel. I’m open to everything. But no sooner do you accomplish that, than you say quickly — put it away, put the pain away where it can’t hurt, turn it into a story or into history. But I don’t want to put it away. Yes, I know what you want me to say — that because I’ve rescued so much private pain-material — because I’m damned if I’ll call it anything else, and ‘worked through it’ and accepted it and made it general, because of that I’m free and strong. Well all right, I’ll accept it and say it. And what now? I’m tired of the wolves and the castle and the forests and the priests. I can cope with them in any form they choose to present themselves. But I’ve told you, I want to walk off, by myself, Anna Freeman.”

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar
Page Number: 451
Explanation and Analysis:
The Golden Notebook Quotes

Still asleep, I read the words off a page I had written: That was about courage, but not the sort of courage I have ever understood. It's a small painful sort of courage which is at the root of every life, because injustice and cruelty is at the root of life. And the reason why I have only given my attention to the heroic or the beautiful or the intelligent is because I won't accept that injustice and the cruelty and so won't accept the small endurance that is bigger than anything.

Related Characters: Anna Wulf (speaker), Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar, Saul Green
Related Symbols: Anna’s Dreams
Page Number: 606
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Golden Notebook LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Golden Notebook PDF

Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs Marks / Mother Sugar appears in The Golden Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Free Women: 1
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...“There’s nothing new under the sun,” Anna responds in the German accent of their psychoanalyst, Mrs Marks . They call Mrs MarksMother Sugar” because of her “traditional, rooted, conservative” mindset. (full context)
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Anna insists she cannot go back to Mrs Marks , with “all that damned art all over the place,” but Molly wonders if this... (full context)
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...in their private friendship. Yet Molly thrives on arguments, which devastates Anna. They know from Mother Sugar “that they were both ‘insecure’ and ‘unrooted,’” but Anna had started taking this as a... (full context)
The Notebooks: 1
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
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...quality: curiosity. Anna resents her inability to enter new domains of the world, but also Mother Sugar ’s “small nod of satisfaction” in reaction to the obvious truth “that the artist writes... (full context)
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...her exasperated—how can she trust that she “remembered” the important things? For her time with Mother Sugar and the notebooks—she stops her thought mid-sentence, for “this kind of observation belongs to the... (full context)
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On January 10, 1950: Anna writes about going to Mrs Marks for the first time, because “I’ve had experiences that should have touched me and they... (full context)
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...at a grand-piano in a full concert hall, “unable to play a note.” She tells Mrs Marks this is “about lack of feeling.” In another, she is dancing with Max in Central... (full context)
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
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...which was also repetitive. Playing with Janet and her blocks, Anna feels nothing. She tells Mrs Marks this is about Michael—but they are still sleeping together. Anna insists it is absolutely not... (full context)
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On January 31, 1950: Anna tells Mrs Marks about numerous recent dreams that have felt like “false art, caricature, illustration, parody.” They were... (full context)
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...above entry, she “stopped dreaming as if 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... (full context)
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On March 15, 1950: Anna tells Mrs Marks she is the happiest she has ever been with Michael, but hates him every morning.... (full context)
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On March 27, 1950: Anna finds herself crying at night, which Mrs Marks says “are the only genuine tears.” She gains pleasure from the pain—this is the same... (full context)
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...April 2, 1954: Anna realizes that she is “beginning to withdraw” from her “experience” with Mrs Marks , who has long known this. On April 4, 1954: Anna has a nightmare about... (full context)
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On April 7, 1954: Mrs Marks asks Anna if she is taking notes, even though she has not mentioned the diary... (full context)
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On April 9, 1954: Mrs Marks asks Anna when she is “going to start writing again,” and Anna says, “very likely... (full context)
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...indeed leave soon. Though unhappy in life, she is emotionless about it in the dreams. Mrs Marks asks what Anna has learned through psychoanalysis, and she says that she has learned to... (full context)
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Mrs Marks has no reply to this dream, but says Anna should “drop in to see her”... (full context)
The Notebooks: 2
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Love and Sex Theme Icon
...have “women in all kinds of capacities” helping him with his work all day. From Mother Sugar , Anna knows that resentment is a universal, impersonal emotion for women; Michael, starting to... (full context)
The Notebooks: 3
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This question of truthfulness is not literary—it’s like psychoanalysis. Anna remembers telling Mother Sugar that the procedure seems to reduce one’s knowledge to the infantile “intellectual primitivism” of myth... (full context)
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Anna continues recounting the old psychoanalysis session. Mother Sugar asks if Anna is “better or worse” from analysis, and Anna says that she does... (full context)
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Anna asks whether Mother Sugar thinks she is “ready for the next stage,” by which she means the one where... (full context)
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...off, by myself, Anna Freeman,” living in a way women have never been able to. Mother Sugar reminds her that women have achieved art, independence, and sexual freedom in the past. Anna... (full context)
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Mother Sugar frowns, but assures Anna that she fully believes in people’s potential to change. However, Anna... (full context)
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Mother Sugar says that Anna should be writing, instead of saying this all to her—she could even... (full context)
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...then she is becoming formless, nothingness, her intelligence dissolving. She has a recurring nightmare, which Mother Sugar made her realize was about “joy in spite.” At first, she dreamed that her Russian... (full context)
The Notebooks: 4
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...“a short novel”: two people, one of whom passes their neurosis to the other—like when Mother Sugar spoke about a psychologically normal family that felt neurotic because of their totally neurotic, but... (full context)
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Anna begins feeling how she had during her time with Mother Sugar seven years before—unfeeling and indifferent to everyone but Janet. When she quit psychoanalysis, she told... (full context)
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...boarding school makes her feel “listless and idle.” It also makes her start yearning for Mother Sugar to save her—“from what? I don’t want to be saved.” She relearns how to be... (full context)
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...choose other women, that another woman could give him what she could not. Perhaps, as Mother Sugar suggested, this is a homosexual impulse. (full context)
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...with joy and peace” and wonders if she has finally “dreamed the dream ‘positively,’” as Mother Sugar always hoped for her. (full context)
The Golden Notebook
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...the beautiful or the intelligent,” Anna refuses to accept this. She takes these words to Mother Sugar , asking whether this courage is the same as the grass growing thousands of years... (full context)