The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

by

Doris Lessing

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The Golden Notebook: The Notebooks: 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The remainder of the black notebook, now without the division between “The Source” and “Money,” is full of newspaper clippings about suffering in Africa in 1955-1957, as well as a single entry from September 1956: Anna dreams there is a television film being made about the people she knew at the Mashopi Hotel. She never sees the script, but they are filming on site, and she watches the story shift as the actors (including herself, “but not as I remembered her”) speak lines she does not remember and build relationships unlike the ones they really had. The cast and crew finish and go inside to drink; she asks the director why he has changed her story, and he insists he “only filmed what was there.” She decides “he was right, that what I ‘remembered’ was probably untrue.” She declares the notebook over and this dream, if it must be “named,” to be “about total sterility.”
With Anna’s newspaper clippings, the black notebook comes to an abrupt end; her dream jarringly undermines the reliability of all her memories of Africa, which might as well be fiction, to her as much as to the reader. The television film is not only a kind of fiction, but precisely the genre that threatened to completely distort the meaning of Anna’s novel Frontiers of War; and yet this fiction seems to hold the “real” truth in a way that Anna’s memories do not, just as Anna can recount her experiences more faithfully through the yellow notebook’s fiction than through the blue notebook’s bare facts.
Themes
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Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
The red notebook, too, is full of news in 1956-1957: Anna underlines the word “freedom” wherever she sees it and counts 679 mentions at the end. There is also just one entry. A friend named Jimmy has returned from a teachers’ delegation trip to the Soviet Union, during which he met a teacher, Harry Mathews, who had quit his job to fight in Spain, gotten injured and become disillusioned with the Communists, and joined and left the Trotskyists, too, which made him and Jimmy mortal enemies. He ended up teaching “backward children” and performing casual acts of heroism in London. He met a widow, who ended up dedicating her life to him—meaning the children he taught.
Although the reader does not see Anna’s newspaper clippings, she likely underlines “freedom” in order to show how the word is used differently in different contexts, usually to reinforce the political ideology of whomever is writing (to the Soviets, capitalism is a form of slavery, while to the West, the Soviets trample on their citizens’ freedoms). Harry appears again, but it is unclear whether he is the same Harry as the one in the black notebook or the Party meeting where Anna meets Nelson (just as it is unclear whether this Jimmy is the Jimmy from the black notebook). Here, Harry is a selfless, working-class hero straight out of communist clichés.
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Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Secretly, Harry was learning Russian to study Soviet history and propaganda. He is humorless, waiting patiently for the Soviets to “all suddenly and at the same moment see the light” and realize they needed his help. So he is overjoyed whenever a new scandal arises, when Stalin dies, when Jimmy decides to invite him with the delegation—which suggests to Harry that “the Party itself” is inviting him to advise them.
Although Harry seems to keep his communism completely secret (much as Anna keeps her writings private), he has an absurd faith that the world will recognize and reward his efforts, which leads him to ironically rejoice when the ideology he believes in fails. He is deeply invested in the communist myth that his personality also represents.
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The Soviets find Harry revolutionary but perplexing, and when he finally learns on the last night that Jimmy invited him, not the Soviet leadership, he insists on giving the group’s translator a night-long lecture on the Russian Communist Party’s history. She leaves in the middle of the night, briefly, and he is convinced he is about to be sent to a Siberian prison—she comes back with tea, but soon falls asleep, and they are both ashamed. He is “silent and rather ill-looking” on the trip back to London. The red notebook ends with a double black line.
Harry’s story is a cynical retelling of the parody story gummed into the second part of the red notebook: whereas that story’s protagonist was in awe to meet Stalin, Harry is devastated to realize that his genuine commitment to equality makes him more a threat to the Soviets than their savior. If he is the same Harry from the blue notebook’s Party meeting, he presumably chose his Party loyalties over his free thought when he returned to London; Anna ends the red notebook with the same sense of disappointment that started it.
Themes
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The yellow notebook opens with Anna’s notes for a series of short stories. First, a woman “deludes herself about the nature of” a younger man who views her as “another love affair merely.” In the second short story, a man woos a woman with “grown-up language” that does not reflect his true emotions. Recognizing this, she still cannot help but love him.
The Shadow of the Third is cut short with no resolution; Anna seems to be searching for a different story to make sense of her imbalanced relationship with Michael—or perhaps another affair in which she repeats her mistakes, falling for gestures that she now recognizes as insincere.
Themes
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Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
In the third story, Anna notes that “nice women” fall for “unworthy men” who “name” them or “have an ambiguous uncreated quality” that “nice” men lack, for “nice” men “are finished and completed and without potentialities.” The story would concern Annie, Anna’s friend from Africa, “a ‘nice woman’ married to a ‘nice man.’” She fell for “a hard-drinking womanizing miner” who joked that she was “born to be the wife of a pirate,” then died from his alcoholism—Annie wrote Anna, saying, “the meaning of my life has gone.” In England, this would be “the nice suburban wife in love with a hopeless coffee-bar bum, who says he is going to write, and perhaps does,” narrated by the “entirely responsible and decent husband.”
Anna begins to theorize her love for men who do not love her back: she wants to create something out of them, to affect them in the ways they affect her; Annie falls for this ploy, throwing away security to save the man from himself (which, predictably, she fails to do). But this is not quite a foil for Anna’s relationship with Michael—she never sought to change him—and suggests that she is talking about someone else, which is entirely possible since notebooks covering roughly the same time period are always presented one after the other (black, red, yellow, then blue).
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Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
In the fourth story, a woman falls in love with a man, falls sick, realizes it is his illness, and learns about it through its reflection in herself. In the fifth story, a woman in love “against her will” wakes up in the night to hear her man say, “no, no, no,” but she does not know to what. Upon waking, she asks, “is that your heart beating?” and he replies, “no, it’s yours.”
In these stories the woman begins merging with the man she loves, losing any sense of distinction between him and herself. She understands herself only through him—he can access a part of her that she cannot.
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Love and Sex Theme Icon
Anna’s sixth story details an affair between a woman seeking love and a man seeking refuge. He leaves for a day, but accuses her of being “very permissive.” At night, he wants sex only because she first refuses, and afterward she admits that she knows he was with someone else. He says that it should not matter, because “I don’t take it seriously,” which leaves her feeling “diminished and destroyed, as if she does not exist as a woman.”
This is another story about men like Nelson and De Silva, who demand a loyalty they cannot offer in return and use their other affairs to shield themselves from vulnerability; they sever all connection between love, emotion, and sex.
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In the seventh story, “a wandering man” allows himself ambiguous words and emotions with a woman whose kindness, for the time, he needs. They have predictable sex. She says she loves him; he leaves and writes, “Left London. Anna reproachful. She hated me.” A few months later, either “Anna married, good” or “Anna committed suicide. Pity, a nice woman.”
This man is simultaneously unable to voice his need for human connection and afraid to actually form that connection; Anna finally inserts herself explicitly into her story, offering two alternatives that suggest decisive action—but not necessarily moral courage.
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
In the eighth story, a woman artist, living alone, structures her life “around an absent man for whom she is waiting” and stops producing art. A new man, “some kind of artist” who has not yet started making art, comes around and begins feeding off her artistic energy. He becomes “a real artist, fulfilled” as “the artist in her [is] dead.” So he leaves her, needing an artistic woman for his own art.
Men’s parasitic reliance on women’s domestic labor and emotional support here translates into the realm of art; while Anna imagines building a man up in order to also pursue her own art, in this story her protagonist does so only at her own expense.
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The ninth story is “a short novel.” In it, a blacklisted American, an early critic of Stalin, moves to London. The other blacklisted artists reject him, even as they come around to his viewpoint. They decide that he must be an F.B.I. agent, and he commits suicide.
People with opposite roles cannot recognize their shared beliefs—they can only reconcile their agreement with their old enemy by declaring that he must be possessed by some alien force.
Themes
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Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
In the tenth story, which should be a film, a person has “lost a sense of time.” Anna would “never have a chance to write it, so there’s no point thinking about it,” but she does anyway. Having lost a “sense of reality,” the man actually “has a 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 by someone being fool enough not to take you on?” He was, of course, “talking about himself,” becoming Michael, shattering Anna’s “sense of reality.” At the same time, she felt more lucid. “This art of comment” goes in the blue notebook.
As Anna moves closer toward insanity, she finds her notebooks beginning to meld—yet she insists on sustaining their proper separation in order to keep herself sane. This story must be a film because, as Anna has argued previously, film tells stories in real time rather than retrospect—and, indeed, Anna’s obsession over Michael continues to define her “sense of reality,” destroying her “sense of time” in the present as her mind remains saturated with the past.
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The eleventh story is another “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 seemingly normal, mother. She said that often “normal” family members pass their neuroses to others, who adapt to the “normal” person’s strong personality. This also goes in the blue notebook; Anna “must keep them separate.”
Anna continues struggling to separate her life from her fiction—especially as these stories increasingly look like straightforward accounts of her own experience.
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In the twelfth story, a man commits infidelity because he wants “to assert his independence of the married state.” He “accidentally” leaves proof for his wife to find, but this is the point.
The man is proving his “independence” to his wife as much as to himself—he is establishing a pathway out of emotional intimacy.
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The thirteenth story is “a short novel, to be called ‘The Man Who Is Free Of Women.” In it, a middle-aged man—if American, then divorced, but if English, then simply disconnected from his wife—has “a couple of dozen affairs, three or four serious.” The serious ones, “really marriages without formal ties,” end instead of becoming marriages. His ex-mistresses are marrying, but he remains dependent on them, like “kindly nannies or nursemaids,” as he continues to take much younger mistresses.
While this man is free of any woman in particular, he is clearly dependent on women collectively for his emotional sustenance—this may be a reference to Richard, who continues to rely on Molly, Anna, and his mistresses even though he has moved on from all them. Unwilling to make himself vulnerable to any single woman, he takes a little from many, but never achieves the full emotional independence he seeks.
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The fourteenth story is “a short novel”: a man and woman both know they are reading one another’s honest diaries, then begin lying in them to deceive the other and keeping secret diaries, locked away. An argument reveals these private diaries, one accuses the other of having read it, and they leave one another.
With the dissolution of the barrier between self and other, the fully private and the merely intimate, truth and falsity also collapse into one another—Anna is also directly challenging the reader’s probable assumption that her notebooks are the closest one can get to her true interior self.
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The fifteenth is a short story about an American man and English woman, who both want “to be taken” and reach an “emotional deadlock” in their relationship. The story becomes a comparison of cultures. In the sixteenth story, a man and woman who are “both sexually proud and experienced” discover they dislike one another, which proves their dislike for themselves. They become friends, then genuine lovers.
These stories explore the potential and pitfalls of relationships between similar people: while these similarities prevent them from truly fulfilling one another’s emotional needs, they also offer a mirror through which people can overcome those needs by recognizing and accepting their insecurities in the other.
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In the seventeenth story, a man gradually loses interest as a woman builds it; she finds another man, which makes the first man want her again, but she freezes because she was with the second man before gradually falling back in love with the first man, who promptly leaves her for someone else. The eighteenth story is like Chekhov’s “The Darling,” except the woman changes more rapidly, mirroring “one man who is a psychological chameleon,” adopting different personalities throughout the day.
Men remain more interested in conquest than love; this conquest is so absolute in the latter story that it completely determines the woman’s identity, which becomes nothing more than a mirror of the man’s.
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Anna calls the nineteenth story “The Romantic Tough School of Writing.” Three friends are out on a cold Saturday night in New York. They fight, knocking each other out, laughing and enjoying themselves, proclaiming their love for one another. A woman walks by; staring at “her round-ball butt,” Buddy says he loves her and sets after her, abandoning the others for “the frame-house funeral.” The others proclaim their love for each other—one punches the other in the face, then holds him tenderly. Anna says she has “gone back to pastiche,” so “it’s time to stop,” and the yellow notebook ends.
This last story is unique: it is the only one with a title, imagined from a male perspective, and is actually written rather than merely planned. The men seem unable to distinguish between play and conflict, love and violence, or pleasure and pain; this kind of masochistic male bonding undoubtedly affects men’s treatment of women, yet Buddy abandons his friends because of his sexual appetite, even if he clearly dehumanizes the woman but appears to respect (however perversely) the other men. In calling her work pastiche, Anna is parodying men’s writing; but it’s unclear whether her adoption of the male perspective stems from success or resignation.
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The blue notebook includes no more dates, but is not one continuous entry. Anna tries to rent her upstairs room. Two girls come by, but Anna does not want girls, and the men all expect something from her, whether sex or mothering. Anna decides not to rent the rooms at all. Instead, she will “take a job, move to a smaller flat, anything.”
The blue notebook begins to blend together in a continuous stream that jumps days at a time; its integrated form parallels Anna’s spiral into madness but also increases the gap between her experience and the reader.
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Janet is disappointed that Ivor has left, and she wants to go to boarding school—Anna feels “sad and rejected, then angry with myself that I did.” She thinks about Janet’s 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 out of the complicated atmosphere,” which is likely due to Anna’s depression—she hides it, but Janet must know, and Janet is the only thing anchoring Anna to normalcy. Another production company has bought Frontiers of War for a film, so there is enough money, and Janet will leave shortly.
Anna is frightened both by the possibility that Janet will end up broken like her, Molly, or Tommy, and by the increasing likelihood that Janet will grow up to be conventional and happy, entirely unlike them, with no enduring mark of their influence—which makes Anna both a successful and failed parent. Realizing that her life only has a semblance of order because of her obligations as a mother, Anna seems to already know that she will descend further into madness.
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Molly calls to propose a tenant, who is a blacklisted American—Anna worries that he would be writing a novel, getting psychoanalysis, and complaining to her about his “awful American marriage.” Molly warns that Anna might end up like other ex-Communists, lonely and working in dreadful industries like advertising. Anna agrees to give the man a chance—Molly says he is “brash and opinionated” like the rest of Americans, but Anna feels that Americans had lately become “cool and shut off,” good-humored and afraid of intimacy, “measured, shrewd and cool.”
Molly is precisely one of the miserable ex-Communists she fears Anna might become, and Anna has also long since moved out of her flat and away from her supervision. But Molly still clearly plays a maternal or sisterly role for Anna. The women’s attitudes about Americans parallel their own personalities—aloof Anna thinks Americans are reserved, and boisterous Molly think they are gregarious. This also suggests that England and America are cultural mirrors for one another, just as Anna’s relationships are mirrors that allow her insight into herself.
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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 Mother Sugar, “you’ve taught me to cry, thank you for nothing, you’ve given me back feeling, and it’s too painful.” In fact, “people everywhere are trying not to feel,” trying to be “cool,” especially in America. It is as though they think, “in a world as terrible as this, limit emotion.” Mother Sugar wanted Anna to fight terror with optimism; she thinks people instead freeze up because they fear recognizing terror, because they understand that “they are in a society dead or dying” and that their emotions are controlled by “property, money, power,” and work. Anything is better than the refusal to feel, even the insistence on feeling halfway.
What Anna gained from psychoanalysis seems to be the opposite of what Mother Sugar wanted to offer her: while analysis was ostensibly about finding satisfaction and wholeness by reducing one’s life to myths, in fact Anna learns to feel her pain again only by recognizing the limits of these myths and the self-deception that Mother Sugar’s optimism leads her into. She finds the courage to feel and to pursue the truth of suffering, even if she can never fully express or access that truth through language (which, like myth, relies on order and form, so can never represent the world’s disorder and formlessness).
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Janet comes upstairs from school, at which she chooses to wear the optional, ugly uniform—a decision Anna finds remarkable and troubling. Janet has gone from “a dark, lively, dark-eyed, slight young girl, alive with new sexuality, alert with the instinctive knowledge of her power” to just another identical, uniformed schoolgirl. At least she would not make herself vulnerable to “frightened men who measure out emotions like weighted groceries”; Anna is pleased at the “triumphant malice” of saving Janet for some potential future in which men truly value her.
Anna’s pride in her own moral courage contrasts with her delight at realizing that Janet will likely grow up unable to truly feel, too comfortable and sheltered to recognize the suffering that surrounds her. While Anna worries that this kind of disconnection makes genuine love impossible, she knows that most men are already incapable of it, and so feels that Janet would not be missing out on much.
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Saul Green, the American, delays his arrival because he is in the countryside—Molly calls to tell Anna that, actually, a friend is “showing him Soho,” and that Tommy did not like him. She finds it strange that, as a socialist, Tommy’s friends are “respectable and petit-bourgeois.” Including “that ghastly wife,” who complained that Mr Green had no job; this all means Anna should be inclined to like the man.
Mr Green’s thinly veiled excuse suggests that he has little respect for Anna. Tommy increasingly resembles Anna and Molly, with the contrast between his beliefs and his own comfortable elite life—perhaps this reflects the fact that the Soviet version of Communism played a less significant role in his leftist politics.
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Anna laughs, thinking about how Janet’s departure to 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 comfortable with time, to lose track of the clock and follow the light instead. As in her childhood, she starts playing “the game” at night, naming everything in her room, the house, the street, London, England, out to the rest of the world—creating it all in her mind, trying to achieve “a simultaneous knowledge of vastness and of smallness.” It is harder at her age than before.
Anna sees that Janet, like psychoanalysis, imposed a defined order on her life that allowed her to go through the motions of her days without questioning her true motives or desires. The “game” is about learning to comfortably hold contradictions together, rather than losing perspective by focusing too much on the miniscule or macroscopic (like the daily romantic problems and the horrible news from afar that both, at different points, lead Anna to a kind of moral paralysis).
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Saul Green comes to visit, finds the apartment “fine, fine,” and moves in. Anna mentions his day in Soho, and he looks offended and gives a long-winded, improbable explanation. She mentions that she would be leaving soon and that he could bring girls to the room, which he scarcely looks at. Anna has never experienced “as brutal a sexual inspection” as the one he gives her on his way out. She comments, “I hope I pass,” and he replies, “fine, fine.” They have coffee, and he makes her uncomfortable, with his oversized clothing and paranoid eyes. They have an exceedingly awkward conversation until Anna mentions Molly, and he immediately changes, proving “extraordinarily acute about her character and situation,” like no man but Michael could have done, “naming” her so pleasingly.
Of all the book’s characters, Saul Green most of all resembles George Hounslow, the brutish but sincere roadsman from the Mashopi Hotel. Like George, Saul’s actions reveal truths his words fail to hide; this conflict gives him the tension of a “real man.” Anna has long spoken about her desire to be “named”—to be called into a definite role, or confined to a myth. Unlike with the other men who “name” her to claim her as their sexual object, the “names” Saul gives her seem accurate: he appears to understand her rather than try and distort her for his own purposes, even though he is sexually interested in her.
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Anna begins including numbered asterisks in her account. (*1) She asks Saul about herself, and he lectures her frankly and understandingly about her lifestyle, “naming” her “on such a high level (*2)” that she feels like a small girl. He talks through her laughter, as though she were not there. She has to send him away, for a man is coming to try and buy the rights to Frontiers of War, which Anna does not end up selling him. He keeps trying to raise the price, and she laughs in his face.
These numbered asterisks correspond to the stories from the most recent section of the yellow notebook. Those stories are revealed as fictional accounts of Anna’s relationship with Saul, but subdivided into its parts; the reader can attempt to predict the course of their relationship from these stories, but Anna also noted that these stories were failures, much like her attempt to describe her relationship with Michael through the relationship between Ella and Paul in the yellow notebook.
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Saul grows offended and defensive when Anna sends him out for this meeting, but he later proves deeply understanding about her project—he left Hollywood because nobody “was capable of believing that a writer would refuse money rather than have a bad film made.” In America, he said, it is much harder not to give in; he lectures her in a sexy pose straight out of Hollywood movies. She notices that he is now wearing clothes that fit, but “still looked wrong.” She comments on his new clothes and realizes that his face is unhealthily pale. She finds it so peculiar that he could be “capable of such real perception about women” yet seem to treat her as a “sexual challenge.”
Like so many of the other men Anna sees, Saul is fractured by the contradiction between his incisive, welcoming, and understanding self and his clumsy, manipulative, and violent one. Even while he completely ignores Anna, he certainly also reminds her of herself: he worries about whether art can express the truth or is merely becoming a commodity, and he seems genuinely sick because of his internal divide, unlike all the men who repress it to keep up appearances. His sickness reminds Anna of her own.
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Anna “spent today playing the ‘game,’” hoping to defeat her depression through self-discipline. She might even get a job. Molly calls to tell Anna “that Jane Bond has ‘taken a fall over’ Mr Green,” a mistake (and a warning) (*3).
Success in the “game” means holding opposites together, turning division into tenuous unity, which is why it promises to cure Anna’s depression—but her compulsive “game” playing also looks insanity.
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Another morning, Anna wakes up with a stiff neck and difficulty breathing, feeling a knot in her lower stomach. She calls Molly, who consults a book and confirms that Anna is “suffering from an anxiety state,” but that she has nothing to worry about. However, “tonight (*4) it is very bad. Extraordinary.”
Like she had through her sessions with Mother Sugar, Anna goes from an inability to feel anything to an overwhelming feeling of pain—but her ability to confront it instead of blocking it out seems like progress. This anxiety is probably connected to Saul: it is the “air of tension” that Anna thought “real men” might give her.
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Jane Bond calls in the early morning for Saul Green today, but he does not come to his door when Anna knocks—he is fast asleep, so she comes and touches his shoulder. He is pale and cold—she thinks he may be asleep—but he wakes with a start and holds Anna around the neck, seemingly terrified. She goes downstairs for coffee; he joins her after the call with Jane and talks to her about raising a child. Anna notices how often he says “I, I, I, I, I.” He speaks over her interruptions—she realizes that he is the cause of her anxiety and decides to take a bath. He flinches and “scramble[s] off his chair” when she says this; she tells him to relax, and he is clearly straining his whole body in his fight for self-control.
Whereas Saul is usually boorish, aloof, and hotheaded, on this morning he is vulnerable and frozen. Then he returns to the distastefully egotistical man Anna first met. He is clearly divided, both in this sense and in his fight to control his own body, but in repeating “I, I, I, I, I,” he forcefully insists on his own unified identity, ignoring Anna and trampling on her own ego when she is already progressively losing her sense of self.
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In the bathroom, Anna fails to play “the game” and realizes she is “going to fall in love with Saul Green.” She has dinner with Molly and talks about Saul but feels increasingly possessive over him. At home, Anna and Saul argue about politics and how he never answers questions, and she “went to bed deciding that to fall in love with this man would be stupid.”
Anna recognizes her love in advance—as in a tragic prophecy, her knowledge precedes her feelings, which she feels powerless to stop. She seems to be feeling the impulse she cited in the yellow notebook: the desire to create something out of a man’s unrealized potential.
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Whenever Anna makes coffee or tea, Saul walks about with a sense of “loneliness, isolation, […] like a coldness around him,” which invariably leads her to invite him to join. This time, he is talking about his “friend” in America, who is tired of affairs—Anna knows he is talking about himself, and when she mentions that his “friend” must be well-read, he flinches. Anna can start to feel these reactions of Saul’s in her own body’s anxious responses.
Like his initial, overwrought excuse for why he could not view the apartment, this lie of Saul’s is thin, the result of compulsion rather than a deliberate need to hide his affairs—the “friend” that is really part of himself also points to the schism in his identity. His anxiety seems to surface when Anna forces him to confront his contradictions, like when she catches him here; but his divided self also begins to infiltrate her, as in the stories about neurosis that Anna planned in the yellow notebook.
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Later, when Saul brings the “friend” back up, Anna asks about why he always talks of “getting laid,” in the passive voice, despite his feelings “about the way language degraded sex,” as he proclaimed the other day. They are angry at one another, and Anna accuses Saul of having an unhealthy attitude about sex. Frustrated, he insists that he is “the only American male I know who doesn’t accuse American women of all the sexual sins in the calendar.” They turn to politics—Saul is a “prematurely anti-Stalinist” communist, reviled by Hollywood and European communists alike, but not bitter about it. They joke about his clothes and she writes, “I am hopelessly in love with this man.”
Anna specifically points out that, despite Saul’s cavalier attitude toward women and sex, he talks about it as something that happens to him rather than something he does—this recalls Ella’s reflection on the difference between being a sexual object and “giving pleasure” in the yellow notebook. Saul at once wants to be “taken” and refuses to be vulnerable to the women he sleeps with. The irony of Saul’s politics is that he was ostracized for having the right beliefs too soon—of course, with her resignation about communism, Anna is not surprised.
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Anna wrote the above entry three days ago, but has lost all sense of time in her love, which finally consummated itself a few days before when Saul sullenly suggested they “be good to each other” (*5). She has forgotten everything about being with, and being in love with, “a real man” like Saul.
Anna confirms that Saul is the kind of “real man” she has sought; since many of her entries are so short, the stories she planned in the yellow notebook can offer context that is lacking here (story five about the man showing the woman that her own heart is the one she hears beating).
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A week later, Anna writes that she was (*6) and is still “so happy, so happy.” She feels “a calm and delightful ecstasy,” one with the universe’s “confident energy” (*7). Saul, too, is relaxed and inapprehensive (*8).
Saul and Anna seem to have brought each other genuine happiness—something Anna has not reported feeling since her night with Paul in Africa, more than a decade before.
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Anna “read the last paragraph as if it were written about someone else,” for Saul did not come to her that night. She felt snubbed, and he looked tense at coffee the next morning. They made love that afternoon, but “it wasn’t real love-making.” It was one-sided, his decision.
Anna continues to feel like multiple people in a single body—but instead of keeping them sequestered in different notebooks, she now begins to directly confront her divisions.
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Some length of time later, Anna describes the previous night: Saul offers a long story about needing to go somewhere, but Anna “didn’t want to know and that in spite of the fact that I had written the truth in the yellow diary.” He accuses her of being “very permissive” and gives her “a blind look” while she insists that “the word permissive is so alien to me.” When he returns at night, having just been with another woman, he claims, “it doesn’t mean anything.” Anna sees him this morning and him now as two different, irreconcilable people—and then the third Saul, “brotherly and affectionate,” tells her to go to sleep. She does, seeing two other versions of herself—“the snubbed woman in love” and “a curious detached sardonic Anna, looking on.” She has the nightmare about “the old dwarfed malicious man,” this time with a menacing erection.
It appears that Saul wants Anna to act possessively so that he can scorn her; of course, she does feel deeply possessive of him, but she decides not to reveal her true feelings, at once effacing her authentic self and protecting them both from Saul’s violent desires. Although she has long felt divided, Anna starts to see an analogy between her and Saul’s senses of internal division. The joy-in-spite dream is clearly about Saul’s apparent pleasure in sleeping with another woman. But, whereas previous male characters’ insistence that sex does not matter to them in fact proved to Anna (and Ella) that she was insignificant to them, too, here Saul seems to “mean [no]thing” by sex precisely so that he can soothe his anxieties and return to his tender self for Anna.
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In the morning, Anna can smell fear on Saul’s neck—she falls back asleep and dreams that she is the malicious man. Saul is still cold in the morning and smiles at her, “yellow and terrified,” before “[making] love to [her], out of fear.” Anna responds by “loving through terror.”
Anna and Saul’s relationship is based on mutual breakdown as they dissolve into one another, which is why they are terrified of their love; this might also explain why Anna has the joy-in-spite dream about herself (which might really be Saul).
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Saul avoids Anna for a week, and she feels an unfamiliar “terrible, spiteful jealousy.” They have a hostile argument, and he comes downstairs to tell her that he, unlike her, is not happy—that she is using him. She says that he is using her, and they share “a real laugh, not the hostile laugh.”
Anna and Saul realize that their anxieties are parallel—they are both afraid of being used and hurt and convinced that the other does not need them.
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Anna and Saul talk about politics, the cruelty of America and McCarthyism (*9), how Saul was forced to resign when his boss found out he had been a Party member in the past—the same boss later cried about his guilt, but Anna reminds Saul that they all have different public and private attitudes, that they all fear looking like a traitor. Saul accuses her of “middle-class talk,” a weaponized remark that surprises her. He talks about loving England, where he can be open about his communism—“stock from the liberal cupboard, just as the other remarks were stock from the red cupboard.” Anna explains that British liberals are defending McCarthyism. Saul soon walks out, and Anna laments how few people have “the kind of guts on which a real democracy has to depend.” She is disappointed in the easiness of believing that freedom and liberty will always endure.
The American persecution of communists ironically follows the Stalinist playbook, forcing people to sacrifice their private beliefs in order to profess the correct dogma publicly. Like Marion, Saul also plays various roles in his political speech, even taking up the liberal ideology that led to his expulsion from the United States. Anna contrasts this kind of political role play, in which one’s beliefs depend on context and convenience, with real moral courage—which, of course, she lacks just like Saul. This moral courage requires balancing a realistic pessimism with a resolute commitment to action—it is the alternative to naïve idealism and hopeless resignation, the way out of Anna’s cycle of inspiration and disappointment.
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Saul comes downstairs and they comfort each other. He rambles on about his parents, goes upstairs to work for all of five minutes and comes back downstairs to ask about “a friend’s” parents. He is surprised when Anna knows he is talking about himself (*10)—she realizes that “he had genuinely forgotten he had told me,” and actually that he does this all the time.
Saul completely lacks a stable ego—he is unable to keep hold of his ideas or memories for more than a few minutes and repeats his thinly veiled talk about a “friend,” which Anna can easily see through.
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Anna shuts herself in the big room, signaling that she is “not to be disturbed.” Sweating, anxious, reminding herself that “this isn’t my anxiety state” to no avail (*11), she fails “the game” and hears Saul traipse around the house. She calls Molly, who mentions that Jane Bond is still in love with Saul—Anna realizes his “walk” last night was a visit to her, and just then he knocks to tell her he is going for another “walk.” She says something irrelevant, feeling sick and unable to kick him out even though she wants him to leave; she realizes she has to detach from him.
Anna is frightened to realize that Saul might drag her down into utter insanity, completely destroying her sense of self; by locking herself in the room alone, she tries to secure her independence from him, but she is also sickened precisely when he leaves to see another woman (which signifies a break in his affections, too).
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When Saul returns from his “walk,” he goes to the bathroom (*12) and Anna finally manages to ask him to leave when he comes into the bedroom. He says no and holds her “so simply and warmly that I immediately succumbed.” He calls her oversensitive and she feels ill, unable to think—he tells her to make him supper, because “it’ll be good for you” (*13). She does.
Saul again secures Anna’s affection and trust by conveniently returning to the best version of himself when he gets home. His insistence that Anna make him dinner represents his seemingly absolute power over her—it is patronizing and forces her into the same gender roles she has sought to escape by refusing marriage.
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Jane Bond calls early in the morning, and Anna hides in the bathroom while Saul talks with her. He goes to visit Jane after breakfast, and Anna looks through his papers, rationalizing her violations of his privacy. She finds letters from girls in America and Paris who complained that Saul did not write back. Then she discovers his diaries (*14) but finds it strange that he keeps them in chronological order. They are full of details about work and love, his loneliness and detachment—she tries to square this “self-pitying, cold, calculating, emotionless” Saul with the man she knows. Then she remembers that she cannot see herself in her own notebooks, and she realizes that writing about one’s actual self (not one’s projection of oneself) always looks “cold, pitiless, judging” and lifeless after the fact. While reading Saul’s diaries, Anna alternates between anger and delight.
Anna attempts to understand Saul’s past by decoding his diaries—this is exactly what the reader is forced to do with Anna, and in both their cases, their private writings clearly do not fully capture their identities. Anna cannot determine whether the Saul who writes the diary is closer to or further from the Saul she knows, and she struggles to imagine how any writing could ever approximate experience. Through Saul’s letters to other women, Anna can recognize his impulsive flight from intimacy as a longstanding pattern; of course, she cannot see how he may have treated them in person, before abruptly scorning them.
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Then, one of Saul’s diary entries frightens Anna because it corroborates what she has already written in the yellow notebook. Actually, there are three entries. Saul writes that he wants to leave Detroit because “Mavis [is] making trouble.” Then, Mavis visits him while he has another girl over. Then, he gets a letter that “Mavis cut her wrists with a razor. They got her to hospital in time. Pity, a nice girl.” He never references this Mavis again.
Anna is as astonished at her own apparent foresight as she is at Saul’s indifference to Mavis’s well-being; he seems unable of appreciating the extent of his effect on women, and this confirms her suspicion that he flees from them when he is most needed.
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Infuriated, Anna jumps to Saul’s writings about her. He writes that he has decided not to stay with another girl he was sleeping with. At first, he writes that Anna is unattractive. Soon, he says he liked her “better than anyone” but does not like sleeping with her. He complains about Jane Bond, with whom he has apparently broken things off—he is now visiting a different woman, Marguerite, instead. Anna feels “a triumphant ugly joy because I’ve caught him out.” (*15) But she is deeply wounded to read that Saul did not enjoy sleeping with her: she feels deceived and ashamed. She comes downstairs and writes this entry in her blue notebook.
While Saul almost never directly reveals his feelings to Anna, his journals express a seemingly coherent perspective on their relationship. Saul has difficulty reconciling his love for Anna and his sex with her—yet Anna is more hurt by his disinterest in sex with her than his relationships with other women.
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Anna looks again at Saul’s diary and realizes that he wrote the entry about not enjoying sex with her during his week of sulking. She says she understands nothing.
The timing of Saul’s note suggests that he may have been in a particularly critical mindset, and that his entry might not be an accurate picture of his feelings toward Anna.
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Anna recounts the day before. She asks Saul whether he is sick, and he wonders how she can tell; he is trying not to burden her with it. But then he accuses her of “sound[ing] like a bloody psycho-analyst.” He eventually apologizes and changes the subject. Anna calls the doctor to ask about Saul; he implores her to make an appointment, unable to believe she is truly asking about “a friend.” She argues with Saul about it, and they have “hard violent sex, like nothing I’ve ever known before” (*16).
Ironically, just as Saul asked about a “friend” when he was really talking about himself, Anna’s doctor assumes that her complaints about a “friend” must be about herself; yet clearly she is ill, too, with their shared madness.
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Today Saul criticizes Anna in bed and they debate whether there are different, perhaps national, styles of sex. Spending their days alone in the flat, Anna knows that she and Saul “are both mad.” She is permanently anxious; all his movements provoke her anxiety, including when he goes out for a walk.
Saul and Anna continue losing all sense of who they are; yet they also fixate on their differences, with their search for national styles of sex suggesting an attempt to “name” away their differences through reference to broad archetypes.
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Today, Saul returns and Anna knows he has just been with a woman; he tells her that, unlike her, he does not “[take] fidelity for granted.” She nearly tells him to move on, but ends up affirming that fidelity matters to her. In his diaries, Saul writes that Marguerite is tired of him and that he has moved on to Dorothy. And yet he and Anna remain friendly, most of the time, except for when “the friendliness switches to hate in the middle of a sentence.”
As though to hold themselves together (and apart from one another), Anna and Saul draw a clear line between their values. Instead of fleeing confrontation, for the first time, Anna directly states what she needs from Saul (fidelity), acknowledging that she is much more of a wife than a mistress.
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Anna goes to visit Janet—she knows Saul is with Dorothy at the same moment. Janet seems happy, and Anna just as soon reverts to her new, tense self on her way home. When she arrives, she goes to the bathroom, where she is physically sick from her anxiety for the first time in her life. Saul is home; he can see her suspicion and wonders, “what are you trying to find out?” She realizes she is frightened because of his hatefulness. He brings her jazz records, which she finds “good-humoured and warm and accepting,” unlike their relationship.
Anna says remarkably little about Janet’s new life—it is utterly conventional, their relationship no longer returns Anna to normalcy (instead, it seems to remind Anna about the normalcy she cannot have, but also does not quite want). Anna’s pain crosses the boundary from mental to physical, and she throws up in the bathroom as though trying to expel Saul’s influence from her body.
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Anna says that she and Saul should separate for the night; he is shocked, quickly grows defensive, and then makes a joke out of it. And he still insists on getting into bed with her later that night—she asks what they are really fighting about. He says it is their craziness, that they will look back on their time together as “a fascinating experience.” They fall asleep. In the morning, Saul is cold and asks what Anna dreamed about—it is “the terrible dream, but the malicious irresponsible principle was embodied in Saul.”
When Anna insists on drawing an emotional boundary with Saul, he recoils and cannot give up having his way. He acknowledges his insanity, but does not let Anna help him fully confront it. In talking about how they will remember their relationship, he both promises that their relationship will end and comments on the structure of literature, which Anna has remarked judges events retrospectively, from an outside perspective, even when those events are remembered. It is thus unsurprising that Saul’s recourse to a perspective outside his own is what finally turns him into the figure of joy-in-spite.
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Anna goes downstairs to make coffee; Saul goes out, waiting for Anna to say something on his way down. She listens to his jazz records, and when he returns, triumphant, she says nothing because “there’s nothing to say.” Saul wonders if he wants to be punished and notes that he likes neither himself nor her. He asks if Anna knows what he’s doing, and she admits to reading his diary; Saul calls her jealous and says he has not “touched a woman since I’ve been here.” He yells at Anna—“I, I, I, I, I”—until he suddenly falls silent and asks what is wrong with her; he proclaims that sex “just isn’t important.” Anna gets him to admit that he knocks women down, and then realizes that “the whole thing, this cycle of bullying and tenderness, [is] for this moment when he could comfort me.” She leaves for a cigarette.
Anna continues realizing and utilizing her power to make Saul confront his demons by refusing to give into his sadistic side—she learns strength by realizing that it can heal them both. And so she appears to be gaining the upper hand in their relationship, especially by refusing to admit the hurt his infidelity causes her. This leads to a breakthrough: Saul finally admits his underlying misery. Contrary to the joy-in-spite nightmare and unlike with previous men, Saul takes joy in healing Anna and so needs to continue causing her pain; he also talks about the unimportance of sex to justify, rather than deny, his feelings for her.
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Back inside, Anna explains what Saul is doing in terms of his “mother-trouble”—he has to outwit her, but is frightened at his violent impulses, which leads him “to comfort and soothe” her. She asks why he is not angry, for she is naming him, and he should be ashamed of himself, “at the age of thirty-three.”
Anna’s ability to “name” Saul distances her from her pain by reminding her of her emotional strength; again, love figures as the unbalanced, incestuous neurosis of a mother and son.
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Anna and Saul have sex, coldly, and she feels “he’s making love to someone else.” Saul starts talking in a Southern accent, and she tells him he is “getting us mixed up.” He is shocked and rolls over; he asks Anna to “take me easy,” and she replies, “then that defines you.” Shocked, fighting himself, he asks what is wrong with him—Anna reminds him that they are both “inside a cocoon of madness,” and he insists that she is “the sanest bloody woman I’ve ever known.” For a long time, they lie there, silent and calm, with the angry versions of themselves “in another room somewhere.”
Saul quite literally takes on a different persona, having lost track of his Anna’s identities. Anna continues to induce crises of anxiety in Saul by naming and defining him—she seems “sane” to him because she has the power over his identity that he lacks. With the ability to name and injure now reciprocal, it becomes clear that Anna and Saul can mutually heal one another in a way they cannot heal themselves.
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(*17) For a week, Anna and Saul are happy. They are alone, and Anna feels no need to write anything, until now—when “a switch has been turned in him.” Saul comes downstairs, restless, and says he should go out. They anticipate the entire fight they will have, and Anna feels her anxiety take over, her “week of being happy slide away.” She wonders whether she could be happy for Janet, who would need it that summer.
Anna again shows that she is more likely to record her dissatisfaction than her moments of happiness with Saul; like Anna with communism, she and Saul learn that their cycles of tranquility and conflict predictable, and this knowledge allows them to conceive an alternative to the cycle rather than remaining caught up in it.
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Saul decides not to go out and heads upstairs to work, then comes down and waits for Anna a few minutes later and says he had “never been like this before, so tied to a woman I can’t even go for a walk without feeling guilty.” She declares it is not her fault that he has not left for a week; he tries to convince her that it has only been two days, both because he cannot remember and because “he hated the idea that he had given any woman a week of himself.” Anna insists it has been a week, and Saul grabs and shakes her, saying, “I hate you for being normal,” and realizing that she remembers everything he has said and done to her. Ana sees herself through Saul’s eyes, as “inexplicably in command of events” because of her memory, which made her feel like a prisoner.
Saul finally admits that he has grown dependent on Anna—she has become part of his conscience, able to influence his thinking, give him anxiety, and regulate his values in a way no woman ever has. His strange perception of time also reflects his mental breakdown, and recalls Anna’s declaration that her sense of ordered time and regimented obligations was keeping her sane before Janet left for boarding school. Yet Anna also sees this madness as a form of freedom  from the memory and history that continue to determine her sense of self.
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Saul orders Anna to bed, then begins touching her over her objections. When she starts crying, he suddenly becomes tender, but their sex is “an act of hatred, hateful.” She at once feels freed by his cruelty and hates him for it. She suggests he see “a witch-doctor” but he decries the prospect of psychoanalysis with another “shouting, automatic I, I, I speech.” Furious, he leaves—and then knocks on her door to say he wants to take a walk before running down the stairs. Anna notes that her writings erase “the happiness, the normality, the laughter” and only leave “a record of two people, crazy and cruel.”
More disturbing than Saul’s sexual violence toward Anna is her sense of freedom after it; she recognizes that he injures her out of his own emotional fragility that drives his violence. Saul’s attempt to consolidate his identity through “I, I, I” is much like psychoanalysis for Anna—both fail, but expose genuine feelings of tension and conflict that the characters must instead learn to embrace. Anna again reminds the reader that her notebooks cannot offer a full picture of her relationship with Saul, since there she finds nothing notable to write about their periods of normalcy.
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Anna slowly drank whiskey last night in an effort to ease the tension in her lower stomach. She thinks she could become an alcoholic, which is the most shocking part of her relationship, yet “nothing, compared to the rest.” Toward Saul, she feels jealous, then frightened, then worried, jealous again, and hateful. She goes to his diary. Written today: “Am a prisoner. Am slowly going mad with frustration.” She feels like their week of happiness is suddenly being revoked. She starts to think Saul should choose other women, that another woman could give him what she could not. Perhaps, as Mother Sugar suggested, this is a homosexual impulse.
Saul and Anna both feel imprisoned by their relationship—Anna by Saul’s cruelty, Saul by the need to answer for it and his unwanted emotional attachment to Anna. Of course, Saul is already seeing other women, which suggests that Anna offers him something unique—perhaps precisely the accountability he needs.
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Anna realizes (*18) she is becoming part of Saul and looking for the same mother figure he lacks. She is frightened to feel one with him and knows it would be in step with his pattern for him to leave her. She feels unable to see herself, uninformed about the world—she reads the week’s newspapers, but their contents are unsurprising and predictable. She finds “a new knowledge,” a version of “the game” born of terror: she imagines living the wars in the newspapers, knowing that “cruelty and the spite and the I, I, I, I of Saul and of Anna were part of the logic of war.”
As their senses of self break down, Saul and Anna get ever closer to dissolving into one another and losing all sense of the boundary between them. This same sense of violent dissolution, which Anna wrote about extensively in the black notebook, continues to dominate the world and perhaps accounts for her obsessive newspaper-clipping collections. Her new version of “the game” depends on seeing this fundamental principle in herself and the world at the same time.
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However, words and writing do nothing to capture her “knowledge of destruction as a force.” Anna worries about war, fears for Janet, falls “limp with exhaustion” and gets into bed, feeling momentarily sane and imagining how Saul must occasionally feel the same. Anna hears him outside and notices “a surge of fear and anxiety,” plus utter hatred for him, then yearning; she follows him to bed and can tell that “he had been stumbling about the streets, ill and lonely, from the way he held me.”
Words and language hide instability through the illusion that they directly refer to the world instead of merely approximating it, which is partially why Anna’s blue notebook grows increasingly ambiguous and contradictory as her relationship with Saul develops. In wandering around London, Saul tries to find himself outside his relationship with Anna but realizes that he cannot—his identity is pinned to hers.
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This morning, Anna reads the newspapers, unsure which version of Saul would come downstairs. In the last three days, she has been “inside madness” and Saul has looked like “all his energies were absorbed in simply holding himself together.” He is at his limits, requiring attention and care. They talk about politics, but he is only “talking to hold himself together.” He parrots a wide range of political ideas—she asks a question and he strains to answer, if there is even a real “he” inside him, a single true self “more himself than the others.” They have, for once, a sober and logical conversation, until he lapses back into madness and she has to shake him out of it.
Saul is on the brink of losing his battle for unity, but this is actually a good thing because he lets down his guard, allowing Anna to finally help piece him back together. The total dissolution of his identity creates the potential for salvation through love, transformation through the admission of failure. As Saul falls apart, Anna begins to look more sane than ever—if only for a few brief moments.
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Anna stands by the window, thinking of Janet, feeling herself further descending into chaos. She tries to “summon up younger, stronger Annas,” the Annas from Africa—and she becomes Tom Mathlong and Charlie Themba, and herself again. After a time, she returns to herself and finds Saul in bed. She holds him, wakes him up and lets him fall back asleep, holding him and seeking to warm him up, feeling “no reason why I should be mad or sane. She has the nightmare again, and she is “the malicious male-female dwarf figure, the principle of joy-in-destruction,” but so is Saul, and they are in love, kissing, “celebrating destruction.” She awakens “filled with joy and peace” and wonders if she has finally “dreamed the dream ‘positively,’” as Mother Sugar always hoped for her.
Realizing that she, too, has multiple personalities within her, Anna tries using them to cobble herself together—as with Saul, her fracturing starts looking like a way to save herself as well as a symptom of her illness. Her reminiscence brings her completely into chaos and out of reality for a while, but she emerges rejuvenated; Anna and Saul seem positioned to overcome their madness by embracing it, rather than resisting it. Anna’s new dream is ambiguous: could her happiness be the result of finally resigning herself to taking joy in spite, or does the positive version of the dream mean that the dwarf figure now represents something else?
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Saul wakes up abruptly and yells Anna’s name; they have sex and he goes out, while Anna lies with a great joy on the bed. In what may or may not be a different entry, Saul is upstairs and Anna is frustrated, feeling that she is “denying life itself,” betraying womankind. Saul goes out, and Anna ceases to care. She begins “making images, like a film,” in her mind: she is a communist prisoner in a communist jail, a soldier and student and peasant in different revolutionary struggles around the world. She imagines herself as Tom Mathlong, whose detachment is uncommon, but essential for successful revolutions. Anna falls asleep and wakes in the early morning, but Saul is nowhere to be found, and she feels “dissolved in the hateful emotion, the woman-betrayed.” He comes in and goes upstairs, but she does not follow.
Anna no longer lets Saul’s departure hurt her and starts experiencing the world from other, more distant viewpoints, integrating herself with events across the world as in her “game.” The shift to film is key: Anna has written multiple times that film is closer to actual human experience because it happens within the flow of time, whereas literature is detached from space and time (even when it focuses on specific events). Mathlong’s emotional detachment points to the paradox of political action: to an extent, people must block out empathy in order to get anything done.
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In the morning, Saul chastises Anna for letting him sleep in and insists he missed his business lunch, which obviously could not have been the case. Feeling sick, Anna goes into her room and sets out the notebooks; Saul follows her and accuses her of “writing a record of my crimes!” He asks why she has four notebooks, and she says she will henceforth keep only one—which she only realizes in the moment. He wonders how, although they are multifaceted and complex people, their relationship has condensed them into “one small thing”—Anna’s jealousy. He says he will not be trapped and soon leaves the house. A part of Anna follows; she knows he walks until he finds a bench or stoop, sits on it and feels “the cold of loneliness.”
Saul and Anna’s tumultuous arguments resume; he imagines that her notebooks must revolve around him, which is indeed true—he dominates the blue notebook to the exclusion of everything else, which so threatens him because he conveniently forgets his “crimes.” Like Ella’s fictional protagonist committing suicide in the yellow notebook, Anna decides abruptly to consolidate her notebooks—which no doubt represents a decision to consolidate her identity—but seems to have been planning it forever, unconsciously. Yet she and Saul draw a clear distinction between consolidation and becoming “one small thing”; Anna’s sort of consolidation, like her “game,” requires holding tensions and contradictions together rather than blocking out what is inconvenient. She gains a unified identity by expanding her horizons to include her divisions, rather than shrinking her horizons to exclude them.
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Anna looks into the blue notebook but cannot write, so she calls Molly. However, Anna realizes she “could not talk to her,” with her sullenness fighting Molly’s enthusiastic report that Tommy is about to lecture about “the Life of the Coal-miner,” and maybe join rebel fighters in Algeria or Cuba. His wife is opposed to the idea, but Molly does not object, although Tommy did blame her for it—he decided he could not fight, since he had to lecture.
The paradox of this entry is that while Anna did, indeed, end up writing in the blue notebook, it is entirely unclear what she originally hoped to write (but could not). Tommy’s political activities are still inconsistent with those in Free Women, indicating that the book’s narrative tension has also not been resolved. Tommy seems caught between inspiration and resignation—like Anna, he is unwilling to put his body on the line and only commits to revolution as an intellectual. He even becomes an expert on coalminers despite only working in the mines briefly, to avoid military service; while he might be advancing the revolutionary cause, he is still clearly not a sincere member of the working class.
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After their conversation, Anna feels the floors and walls moving, and momentarily stands in empty space—she walks carefully to the bed, where she sleeps and sees her body lying down, then watches people she knows come “try and fit themselves into Anna’s body.” First are the people from the Mashopi Hotel—Paul Blackenhurst, dead, invades her, and Anna struggles to inhabit her body as she watches Paul’s dead smile on her face.
For the first time, Anna’s madness is not just cognitive, but also perceptual—in bed, she comes to view herself as though she is a third-person observer. The others entering her body represent not only her sense of divided selves but also how her identity remains indebted to those who have influenced her in the past.
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When Anna succeeds in entering her body, she has returned to the Mashopi, with everyone surrounding her; she tries to write in the notebook, but finds herself holding a gun. She is an Algerian soldier fighting against the French, willing to kill and torture, knowing that the revolution will lead to “new tyranny” but is still necessary. Terrified, she finds herself flying through Algeria, ecstatic.
Anna sees that revolutions follow the same cycle of inspiration and pessimism as her own involvement in politics, but also starts to believe in the cycle despite its tendency to failure. In other words, perhaps the whole cycle of inspiration and depression, revolution and repression, means two steps forward and one step back.
Themes
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Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna is in the old “flying dream” about “joy, joy in light, free movement.” She flies to China and finds a pregnant peasant woman, whose body she enters—but she still has her own brain, “thinking mechanical thoughts which I classified as ‘progressive and liberal,’” “naming” the woman. She tries to fight her “terror of dissolution” but it overcomes her, ejects her from the woman’s body, and throws her to the earth—she tries to climb the mountains to Europe but wakes afraid that she will be trapped in China.
The flying dream’s liberation allows Anna to enter other people rather than the other way around. She “names” both herself and the Chinese peasant woman, which destroys her freedom in flight but also quite literally grounds her in a fixed order. This is exactly how Saul and Anna “name” and heal each other by entering one another.
Themes
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Communism and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
It is the afternoon, and Anna is “changed by the experience of being different people.” She becomes herself “with a weary sense of duty” and hears Saul upstairs. He comes downstairs and holds her hand; she realizes “he was comparing it with the hand of a woman he had just left, or a woman he wanted me to believe he had just left.” He expects she will ask him questions, so she decides not to. She goes to the window and he follows and holds her, promising that he is telling the truth, that he has not been with someone else. “I did not believe him,” Anna writes, “but the Anna in his arms believed him,” and they make love—he promises her a child, treating her as someone else, again, and she reminds him it is her.
Anna’s “sense of duty” shows that she has moved from the paralyzing search for solutions to the capacity for action; its weariness suggests that it comes not from naivety or unrealistic optimism, but rather from moral courage. She and Saul can both recognize one another’s expectations and feelings, and ultimately the truth of the matter—whether Saul was actually with another woman—matters far less than his and Anna’s ability to fill their roles for each other.
Themes
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Anna is sick in the bathroom and goes to sleep, then dreams of “playing roles” against Saul, as in variations of the same play. In the morning, she writes until he wakes—he suggests that she “write another novel,” and she says, for the first time, that she has a writer’s block. He says that her writing is driving him crazy, challenging his “sexual superiority.” They agree that, despite his theoretical support for equality, Saul enjoys dominating women; he orders Anna to make him coffee.
Anna’s dream again shows how her and Saul’s need for one another to play particular roles—distinct from their actual personalities, and therefore fictional—has structured their relationship. It also points to fiction’s power to reconfigure their relationship and free them, so it is no coincidence that Anna admits her writer’s block for the only time ever. Her newfound belief in writing’s power to clarify and mask the truth sets her up to discover the golden notebook.
Themes
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Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna goes grocery shopping and comes across a stationery shop, where she finds a beautiful large golden notebook that an American has custom-ordered and never retrieved. She buys it, but is not sure what to use it for. Saul thinks it is beautiful and wants it for himself, and so repeats, “gimme, gimme, gimme, in a child’s voice.” He nearly runs out with the golden notebook and Anna has to stop him; he goes upstairs and does nothing, leading her to feel ill again.
The titular golden notebook promises to let Anna finally give up on her four separate books and integrate herself into a single text. The golden notebook’s mysterious origin story implies that the notebook—and consequently Anna’s psychological progress—is a symbolic gift from Saul, the absent American from the stationery store. 
Themes
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Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon
Anna spends today inside, looking at the golden notebook and finding that Saul had scribbled a “schoolboy’s curse” inside: “Whoever he be who looks in this / He shall be cursed, / That is my wish. / Saul Green, his book. (!!!)” She laughs and nearly gives him the golden notebook but cannot—she rids herself of the four notebooks and decides to begin recording “all of myself in one book.”
Anna finally takes the decisive step to combine her notebooks, but her new notebook is not wholly hers: Saul’s his writing opens the golden notebook. His curse is a direct challenge to the reader: try to distinguish him from Anna in what follows.
Themes
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Action, Freedom, and Moral Courage Theme Icon
Fact, Fiction, and Authorship Theme Icon