The Grass is Singing

The Grass is Singing Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mary wakes up suddenly in the middle of the night. At first she feels comfortable and rested, but before long she bursts into tears. Dick wakes and asks her if she’s sad that they are leaving, but Mary doesn’t answer—she finds the question ridiculous and feels resentful of Dick’s presence. Mary gets out of bed, looks through the window, and sees the beginning of sunrise. She wonders why she didn’t have any nightmares that night, but instead woke peacefully, feeling well-rested. She feels joyful; however, as the sun rises higher, this joy turns to pain and dread.
There is an important shift that takes place in this final chapter regarding the way Mary’s thoughts are presented on the page. Up until this point, the narrator illustrates the ways in which Mary’s behavior is inspired by her thoughts and feelings, thus highlighting the internal logic of her mind. At this point, however, the narrator’s description of Mary’s existence matches the erratic state of her subjectivity.
Themes
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Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Dick gets dressed and urges Mary to do the same. Mary almost calls for Moses, but stops herself. She stacks plates in the kitchen and thinks about Moses, imagining he is outside in the bush waiting for her. She becomes convinced that night will “finish her” and that she deserves this, even though she is not sure what sin she has committed. She imagines the house rotting after she leaves, being subsumed by plants and animals. People will walk past the remains and casually note the fact that it was once the Turners’ house.
Visions, thoughts, and emotions start to occur to Mary almost at random, and she oscillates between different mental and emotional states at breathless speed. Furthermore, Mary now seems to be aware of the future in an almost mystical manner, shown by the fact that she predicts that Moses will kill her and that the farm will be abandoned and overgrown.
Themes
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Suddenly, Mary cannot bear to be in the house any longer. She runs out, hoping she meets “him” in the bush, and imagining that it will then “all be over.” She looks closely at a sapling with beetles crawling all over its knotted trunk, and realizes that she has never really looked at the trees before. Feeling panicked, Mary runs back to the house, where a native man is holding a note from Dick saying he is too busy to come back for lunch and asking Mary to send some tea and sandwiches. After Mary sends off this man, she thinks about Tony, suddenly convinced that he will “save her.”
Mary’s state of mind in this passage shows that she no longer experiences the world rationally, but rather symbolically. When she runs outside, the tree she encounters seems to be a reflection of herself; although it is only a sapling, it has a knotted trunk like an old tree and is crawling with beetles, evoking the poisonous, parasitical force that has seemingly taken over Mary’s mind.
Themes
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
Mary sits down on the veranda and closes her eyes; she opens them to find that she has slept through her last day on the farm, and that it is now late afternoon. She frantically searches the house for signs that Moses came while she was asleep. She comes across a big suitcase full of books about Cecil Rhodes (the Englishman who led the conquest of southern Africa in the late 19th century), but does not read them.
The suitcase full of books about Cecil Rhodes at first seems to be an odd detail that jars with the rest of the narrative. Yet by encountering and then ignoring the books, Mary symbolically betrays the colonial project Rhodes advocated. She no longer feels a sense of loyalty to other white settlers; the only person who matters to her (whether as enemy or beloved) is Moses.
Themes
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Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
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Mary suddenly realizes that she needs to go to the store. When she enters, she finds Moses waiting there, and she stumbles back out again with a cry. As she runs away from the store, she notices Tony, but now realizes that he will not “save” her after all. She is convinced that she will live on the farm until she dies. Tony speaks to her gently, telling her that he suggested Dick take her to the doctor the next day. Mary’s response is erratic; she tells Tony she has been ill for years, before whispering: “He is in there” while pointing to the store.
In this passage, Moses’s presence is most obviously comparable to that of a ghost—a specter that is either haunting Mary alone, or is a figment of Mary’s imagination. In Victorian literature, there exists a trope of ghosts haunting women, and this narrative is often linked to explorations of repressed sexuality. In this sense, Moses is both a ghost haunting Mary and a figment of her imagination.
Themes
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Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
Mary goes back into the house, where Dick is sitting at the table and waiting for her. He asks if she’s finished packing, but she simply cackles with laughter. Tony and Dick eat supper, but Mary refuses food. Eventually Mary hears Dick calling for her to come to bed, but she is standing at the back door, staring at Moses. She tells Dick: “He’s outside,” but when Dick comes out he finds no one there.
Moses clearly has a special relationship with Mary and little interest in the other characters; at the same time, Mary’s fear of Moses is seemingly irrational and baseless, the product of her own mind.
Themes
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
Eventually Mary gets into bed. Dick tells her that she is ill and that they must see the doctor. Mary responds that she has always been ill, and that it is an illness inside her heart. In the darkness, Mary thinks she sees Moses in the bedroom, but realizes there is nothing there. Mary gets up and creeps through the house, feeling that the sensation of the carpet and curtains on her skin is like being touched by animal fur. She goes out onto the veranda, where she finally feels safe.
As Mary descends further into delusion and paranoia, she seems to sense the house already being subsumed by the wilderness. Her acceptance of her “illness” appears to be more than just an acknowledgment of her mental state—the fact that she says she’s “always” been ill suggests that she sees some fundamental flaw in herself, or perhaps a fundamental disconnect between her “heart” and the world she has been forced to live in.
Themes
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
Suddenly, Mary sees Moses emerging from the darkness, and she is overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt. She is about to speak to him when he raises something above her head and puts his hand over her mouth. In one move, Moses kills her, and her body drops to the floor. It begins to rain, and the raindrops mix with Mary’s blood dripping across the veranda. Moses drops his weapon, before picking it up again. He considers proclaiming his innocence, but changes his mind again and drops the weapon next to Mary’s body once more. He ignores Dick, who is sleeping and who he “defeated long ago.” Moses then walks to Tony’s hut and listens to Tony breathing, before walking back to the house. A flash of lightning briefly illuminates Mary’s body on the veranda. Finally, Moses walks into the bush and leans against a tree, where he remains until he turns himself in the next morning.
The final passage of the novel proves that Mary’s premonition that Moses would kill her was correct. This provokes the question of how she knew this would happen, and the question of whether Mary’s death at Moses’s hand was inevitable. Under one interpretation, the transgression of a white woman sexually desiring a black man in the colonial context is so great that it can only end in violence and death. Throughout colonial and postcolonial history, black men have been killed even for the suspicion of desiring white women, and—as is revealed at the beginning of the book—this will be Moses’s final fate. Another interpretation might suggest that Moses’s murder of Mary represents the struggle of all colonized people to overthrow their oppressors, and in doing so to reject false notions of white innocence and racial hierarchies. Perhaps Moses then hands himself in because this struggle is not truly a sin or crime, but a symbolic restoration of justice.
Themes
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Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
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