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.
A fictionalized version of Michael in the yellow notebook, Paul Tanner is a married psychiatrist who becomes Ella’s central love interest. They meet at a party at Dr West’s house and spend many of the next few days together, eventually having sex on a rug in a field in the country. He begins to spend every night at Ella’s flat. Although he compares them to an old married couple, Paul also insists that he does not love Ella, criticizes her novel, tries to change her clothing and personality, and continues having affairs with other women. When he realizes that Ella is in love with him, he moves with his family to Nigeria and never sees her again. He exemplifies how married men take advantage of their unmarried mistresses, seeing them as sources of pleasure and diversion but never taking responsibility for the consequences of having relationships with them.

Paul Tanner Quotes in The Golden Notebook

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

What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women’s emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don’t live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly … I am always coming to the conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons — but I won’t do it, I can’t be like that …

Related Characters: Ella (speaker), Anna Wulf, Paul Tanner
Page Number: 300
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

Paul Tanner Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook

The timeline below shows where the character Paul Tanner appears in The Golden Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Notebooks: 1
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...party, and Ella wishes she had stayed home—and then a nervous but sweet psychiatrist named Paul Tanner comes over to chat with her. She will later fall in love with him, although... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Compared to Dr West, Paul Tanner is far more understanding about Ella’s frustrating work—she shows him a letter and explains that... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
After just an hour, with Paul Tanner claimed by Patricia and another captivated woman, Ella decides to go home. She flashes him... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
The next day, Ella thinks about Paul Tanner ’s voice while making lunch for her son, whom Julia has brought to visit friends... (full context)
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Paul Tanner notes Ella’s pleasure and she mentions how ugly she considers the city’s buildings, how unfair... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Ella hopes they might “get away from the villages,” and Paul Tanner is “frankly startled” (which she only understands later). He asks about Ella’s father, whom she... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
They lie on a rug in the field—Ella worries that Paul Tanner is already trying to sleep with her, but later he insists that she was planning... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
When he drops Ella off at home, Paul Tanner asks if she might see a film with him, for she clearly likes him. Ella... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Seemingly having forgotten “the episode in the field,” Ella brings Paul Tanner home, and they make love again. This is “the deepest experience Ella had with a... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
That next night, Paul Tanner is so sweet that Ella is “restored to happiness.” However, he then says that he... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...to sleep with him, because “why not?” She is not attracted to him, but with Paul Tanner ’s casual attitude, that is the point. Their lunch is lovely, and she overcomes her... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
When they see one another again, Paul Tanner remarks that, “if you love a woman sleeping with another woman means nothing.” Ella does... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Ella and Paul Tanner begin spending every night together—he thinks nothing of his wife, and Ella only worries about... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...than writing it; she now sees naivety as the central theme in Ella’s relationship with Paul Tanner . Naivety is what Anna sees in her own relationship with Michael—but neither she nor... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
The notebook returns to Ella and Paul Tanner : namely, “the end of the affair.” The first, crucial sign is his loss of... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Ella’s novel gets published, and Paul Tanner “reacts with elaborate sarcasm.” He says that “the real revolution,” greater than any political one,... (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
...“like a curving line on a graph.” Anna explains that, in Ella’s first months with Paul Tanner , because of their love and his need for her, she has vaginal orgasms; later,... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Around the same time, Paul Tanner tells Ella about a lecture at the hospital, during which a male professor insists that... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Paul Tanner and Ella eat dinner, and he remarks that that he has not “succeeded in changing... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
One day, Ella comes over while Paul Tanner ’s family is away. She clearly sees that “this was his home.” The wallpaper is... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Ella proposes what Paul Tanner ’s miserable wife might write to her own advice column; he admits he is “not... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Then Paul Tanner suddenly goes to Nigeria—Ella is supposed to follow him in a few weeks, but the... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Ella feels a deep sense of depression and rejection, which she imagines Paul Tanner ’s wife must have felt, too. She dreams that she is keeping Paul’s house, waiting... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Then Ella hears that Paul Tanner is back in London for two weeks. As though against her will, she waits for... (full context)
The Notebooks: 2
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...Brent recommends that Ella go to Paris for a week—she needs to free herself from Paul Tanner , who left her a year ago. In Paris, she returns to the same hotel... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...still does not want Brun and Elise to leave, and she cannot help fixating on Paul Tanner after they do. A man comes to talk with her, and she leaves like “a... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...try and cure her heartbreak by writing another novel, but soon returns to thinking of Paul Tanner , realizing that in his absence she was “alone, frightened to be alone,” and without... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...She visits her son and goes to bed, for the first time not thinking about Paul Tanner as she falls asleep. She spends the next day at home, then meets the American,... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
...and Ella is astonished to realize that, for the first time and completely unlike with Paul Tanner , she is “giving pleasure.” (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
...had an affair.” She is glad, though, that this language suggests she is finally over Paul Tanner , whom she still admits to Cy that she loved. Even though Ella says she... (full context)
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...because of him. Ella feels “there’s no use my going to bed with anyone but Paul Tanner ,” although she intends to persevere. (full context)
The Notebooks: 3
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...Third continues in the yellow notebook. “The third” in the novel’s title used to be Paul Tanner ’s wife, then it was Ella’s alter ego based on “fantasies about Paul’s wife,” then... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
...her closest friendship has fallen into “hatred and resentment,” while Ella continues to ruminate about Paul Tanner . Ella also learns that Julia has “protected [her] from a certain kind of attention”—she... (full context)
Gender, Labor, and Power Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...knows he will try and sleep with her. She feels unattracted to him because of Paul Tanner —who also did not attract her at first. (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
“The invisible projectionist” behind Anna’s 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,... (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... (full context)
Fragmentation, Breakdown, and Unity Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
...at the man with his daughter June. There is Mr Lattimer ogling Mrs Boothby, then Paul Tanner getting his clean shirt—“Get it?” asks the projectionist. (full context)