The Grass is Singing

Charlie Slatter Character Analysis

Charlie Slatter is a neighbor of the Turners, and thinks of himself as Dick’s “mentor.” A working-class Englishman who previously worked as a grocer in London, he made a fortune through tobacco farming in Southern Rhodesia. He is at times a good friend to Dick, and seems to genuinely have Dick’s interests at heart. However, he is also self-interested and strategic, and much of his support for Dick is secretly rooted in the fact that he wants to take over Dick’s farm to increase his own profits. Furthermore, Charlie is exceptionally invested in maintaining the racial hierarchy of Southern Rhodesia, which leads him to force Dick and Mary to leave the farm after he comes to believe Mary is having an affair with Moses. After Mary is murdered, Charlie conspires with Sergeant Denham to cover up Mary’s relationship with Moses in order to protect the reputation of the white race.

Charlie Slatter Quotes in The Grass is Singing

The The Grass is Singing quotes below are all either spoken by Charlie Slatter or refer to Charlie Slatter. 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:
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Grass is Singing published in 2008.
Chapter 1 Quotes

To live with the color bar in all its nuances and implications means closing one's mind to many things, if one intends to remain an accepted member of society. But, in the interval, there would be a few brief moments when he would see the thing clearly, and understand that it was “white civilization” fighting to defend itself that had been implicit in the attitude of Charlie Slatter and the Sergeant, “white civilization” which will never, never admit that a white person, and most particularly, a white woman, can have a human relationship, whether for good or for evil, with a black person. For once it admits that, it crashes, and nothing can save it.

Related Characters: Charlie Slatter, Tony Marston, Sergeant Denham
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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Charlie Slatter Character Timeline in The Grass is Singing

The timeline below shows where the character Charlie Slatter appears in The Grass is Singing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
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...community in which people are usually hungry for gossip. An outsider might have assumed that Charlie Slatter told everyone not to say anything, but it was actually achieved by a kind... (full context)
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...and unclean.” They wonder who wrote the newspaper article, reasoning that it could have been Charlie Slatter. People have suspicions about why Mary was murdered by a native, but they do... (full context)
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Charlie Slatter lives 5 miles away from the Turners, and the farm workers go straight to... (full context)
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Slatter drives to the Turners’ farm in his “fat American car.” He had been a grocer’s... (full context)
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When Slatter arrives at the house, he sees Moses standing in handcuffs. The policemen salute Slatter, yet... (full context)
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...the way native people are treated, but eventually they adopt the same cruel behavior themselves. Slatter asks Tony what he means by “difficult,” and Tony knows that he is being warned,... (full context)
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Slatter asks Tony if he knows why Moses murdered Mary, but when Tony replies he has... (full context)
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Denham and Slatter stand “like two judges,” and Denham asks Tony some questions. Tony explains that he has... (full context)
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...“her boys well.” Tony responds that Mary treated the houseboy cruelly, and both Denham and Slatter concur that women do not know how to deal with black people. Tony is then... (full context)
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...Moses obeys the policemen’s orders without resistance, and shows no sign of regret or fear. Slatter asks about Dick, and the Sergeant replies that Dick “won’t be good for much.” Tony... (full context)
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Tony cannot stop thinking about the expressions of Slatter and Denham as they looked at Mary’s body; their faces were frozen in “a hysterical... (full context)
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The next day, Tony packs up his things and tells Slatter he is leaving. Soon Slatter’s cows overrun the Turners’ farmland, and the Turners’ house falls... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...visitors. However, it is too late to do anything about this. The car stops and Charlie and Mrs. Slatter get out. Mary is relieved to see Dick’s car following closely behind.... (full context)
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Meanwhile Charlie and Dick are in the midst of an intense discussion about farming and the burden... (full context)
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A few days later, Mrs. Slatter invites them to an evening party, which Dick reluctantly agrees to attend for Mary’s sake;... (full context)
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After Charlie leaves, Dick is overcome by anxiety. He tells Mary that they may have to wait... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...happiness what she thinks about the prospect of getting bees. He resolves to go see Charlie about the matter the next morning. When Dick returns, he is whistling in a false... (full context)
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Mary carries her suitcase to the Slatters’ farm and asks Charlie to drive her to the station, explaining that Dick can’t do... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...he develops a burning fever and rushes home to bed. Mary reluctantly writes to Mrs. Slatter and later that day Charlie brings a doctor to the Turners’ farm. After examining Dick,... (full context)
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...stands on the veranda watching the doctor leave, her mind filled with enraged resentment. Mrs. Slatter drops off a bag of citrus, for which Mary writes a “dry little note” of... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...have children, but Dick sadly responds that they are too poor. He points out that Charlie’s assistant is raising 13 children on £12 a month, and that the family is miserable;... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...doctor comes back and scolds Mary for not having mosquito-proofed their house as he advised. Charlie Slatter is also present, and silently daydreams about what he will do when he takes... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...of gossip in the “district” for many years. This is all the fault of the Slatters, the narrator says. Mrs. Slatter was stung by having been snubbed by Mary so many... (full context)
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Charlie remains fixated on the Turners because he hopes to acquire Dick’s farm for himself. Before... (full context)
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Two years pass when Charlie does not see the Turners, and when Charlie realizes this he goes to their farm... (full context)
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...Mary, who has changed dresses and is putting on a false show of cheerful hospitality. Charlie agrees to stay for dinner, and Mary goes to find Moses. The dinner is unappetizing,... (full context)
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Charlie then asks about Moses and suggests that they fire him, but Dick replies: “Mary likes... (full context)
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...to Dick at this point; she only seems “alive” when Moses is in the room. Charlie immediately starts looking for someone to take over Dick’s farm, and finds a candidate in... (full context)