The Grass is Singing

Dick Turner Character Analysis

Dick Turner is Mary’s husband. Born in the suburbs of Johannesburg, Dick trains as a vet in his youth before using a government grant to buy a small farm. Dick is kind and principled, and described by Mary as “a good man.” However, he is an extraordinarily unsuccessful farmer. Many people—including Dick himself—interpret his failures as the result of bad luck, and several of Dick’s neighbors nickname him “Jonah,” the name sailors give for someone who brings bad luck to a ship (after the Biblical character Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale). Over the course of the novel, however, it becomes clear that much of Dick’s “bad luck” is in fact the result of irrational fantasies and poor decisions he makes about his farm. Toward the end of the novel, Dick becomes weak and is often sick, a physical manifestation of his weak will. After Mary is murdered, Dick goes mad.

Dick Turner Quotes in The Grass is Singing

The The Grass is Singing quotes below are all either spoken by Dick Turner or refer to Dick Turner. 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:
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). 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

Long before the murder marked them out, people spoke of the Turners in the hard, careless voices reserved for misfits, outlaws and the self-exiled. The Turners were disliked, though few of their neighbors had ever met them, or even seen them in the distance. Yet what was there to dislike? They simply "kept themselves to themselves"; that was all.

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Dick Turner
Page Number: 2
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Chapter 3 Quotes

It meant nothing to her, nothing at all. Expecting outrage and imposition, she was relieved to find she felt nothing. She was able maternally to bestow the gift of herself on this humble stranger, and remain untouched. Women have an

extraordinary ability to withdraw from the sexual relationship, to immunize themselves against it, in such a way that their men can be left feeling let down and insulted without having anything tangible to complain of.

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Dick Turner
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 5 Quotes

"Of course he's lying," said Dick irritably. "Of course. That is not the point. You can't keep him against his will."
"Why should I accept a lie!" said Mary. "Why should I? Why can't he say straight out that he doesn't like working for me, instead of lying about his kraal?"
Dick shrugged, looking at her with impatience; he could not understand her unreasonable insistence: he knew how to get on with natives; dealing with them was a sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying game in which both sides followed certain unwritten rules.

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Dick Turner
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
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“If you must do these things, then you must take the consequences,” said Dick wearily. “He’s a human being, isn't he? He's got to eat. Why must that bath be done all at once? It can be done over several days, if it means all that to you.”
“It’s my house,” said Mary. “He's my boy, not yours. Don't interfere.”
“Listen to me,” said Dick curtly, “I work hard enough, don't I? All day I am down on the lands with these lazy black savages, fighting them to get some work out of them. You know that. I won't come back home to this damned fight, fight, fight in the house. Do you understand? I will not have it. And you should learn sense. If you want to get work out of them you have to know how to manage them. You shouldn't expect too much. They are nothing but savages after all.” Thus Dick, who had never stopped to reflect that these same savages had cooked for him better than his wife did, had run his house, had given him a comfortable existence, as far as his pinched life could be comfortable, for years.

Related Characters: Mary Turner (speaker), Dick Turner (speaker), The Servant
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

For although their marriage was all wrong, and there was no real understanding between them, he had become accustomed to the double solitude that any marriage, even a bad one, becomes.

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Dick Turner
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

He approached slowly, obscene and powerful, and it was not only he, but her father who was threatening her. They advanced together, one person, and she could smell, not the native smell, but the unwashed smell of her father. It filled the room, must, like animals; and her knees went liquid as her nostrils distended to find clean air and her head became giddy. Half-conscious, she leaned back against the wall for support, and nearly fell through the open window. He came near and put his hand on her arm. It was the voice of the African she heard. He was comforting her because of Dick's death, consoling her protectively; but at the same time it was her father menacing and horrible, who touched her in desire.

Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

"It’s not customary in this country, is it?" he asked slowly, out of the depths of his complete bewilderment. And he saw, as he spoke, that the phrase "this country," which is like a call to solidarity for most white people, meant nothing to her. For her, there was only the farm; not even that––there was only this house, and what was in it. And he began to understand with a horrified pity, her utter indifference to Dick; she had shut out everything that conflicted with her actions, that would revive the code she had been brought up to follow.

Related Characters: Tony Marston (speaker), Mary Turner , Dick Turner, Moses
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dick Turner Character Timeline in The Grass is Singing

The timeline below shows where the character Dick Turner 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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...entitled “Murder Mystery,” which describes the murder of Mary Turner, who is the wife of Dick Turner, a farmer. The article notes that a “houseboy” has confessed to the murder, and... (full context)
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...up to this maxim. In the wake of the murder, people begin to sympathize with Dick and demonize Mary as “something unpleasant and unclean.” They wonder who wrote the newspaper article,... (full context)
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...arrive, Moses turns himself in, saying something like: “Here I am.” After Moses is arrested, Dick comes up through the bush, muttering to himself crazily. The policemen leave him be, because... (full context)
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...yet he feels uncomfortable around them, as he cannot “bear the half-civilized native.” Slatter puts Dick in the back of his car. Inside the house, Tony explains how he found Mary’s... (full context)
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...meals with the Turners but did not socialize with them outside of this, and that Dick seemed reluctant to leave his work on the farm. Denham expresses sympathy for Dick, and... (full context)
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...theory, Denham responds that he doesn’t want “theories,” but “facts.” He urges Tony to “remember Dick,” which strikes Tony as an absurd and meaningless statement. (full context)
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...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 feels conflicted; he... (full context)
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...Turners’ house, and puzzles over how they could have tolerated living there. He wonders what Dick and Mary were like before they lived there and if their pasts could help explain... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...feels conscious that people look at her pityingly. It’s at this time that she meets Dick. He “might have been anybody,” or at least anyone who would treat her as if... (full context)
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At the cinema that night, Dick looks down the row of seats, notices Mary, and asks who she is. After his... (full context)
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Dick is wary of thinking about women, but cannot get Mary out of his mind. A... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Mary has been tormented by Dick’s apparent lack of interest in her, thinking it proves that the cruel rumors about her... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Mary and Dick arrive at the farm the night after their wedding. Mary has told herself that she... (full context)
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Inside the house, Dick refills a lamp with paraffin, and Mary feels sick from the smell. She knows Dick... (full context)
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The pictures lie on the floor until Dick crumples them up and throws them into the corner; there doesn’t appear to be a... (full context)
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Seeing Mary’s look of unhappiness, Dick leaves her to undress, and as he is undressing himself he feels ashamed and guilty... (full context)
Chapter 4
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In the morning Mary wakes up alone. Dick comes into the bedroom in his pajamas shortly after, and they have a “polite and... (full context)
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...was taught to be afraid of them. Samson offers to show Mary the kitchen, where Dick keeps the food under lock and key but silently permits Samson to take a small... (full context)
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Half an hour later Dick returns and begins to shout at Samson in “kitchen kaffir,” the nickname for the language... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...that makes her feel like a new person. In the morning she drinks tea with Dick. She leaves the cooking to Samson, although she no longer allows him to take a... (full context)
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...kitchen kaffir, which she practices by scolding Samson. Samson is deeply unhappy, and one day Dick finds Mary crying and claiming that Samson had stolen raisins she’d been saving for pudding.... (full context)
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...presence, and at dinner she yells at him. This causes an argument between her and Dick, who insists that she will drive herself crazy by keeping her standards so high. Dick... (full context)
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Disturbed by the way Mary treats native people, Dick asks her to come to the land with him so he can show her how... (full context)
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One day, Dick remarks that they have been running out of water very quickly, and he accuses Mary... (full context)
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At lunchtime, Dick is surprised to find Mary cooking, and asks where the servant is. Mary says that... (full context)
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...The car stops and Charlie and Mrs. Slatter get out. Mary is relieved to see Dick’s car following closely behind. The four of them sit inside, and Mrs. Slatter expresses sympathy... (full context)
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Meanwhile Charlie and Dick are in the midst of an intense discussion about farming and the burden of dealing... (full context)
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At this moment, the servant comes out to the veranda and hands Dick and Mary his notice, explaining that he is needed in his kraal (his village). Mary... (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; however, Mary does not want to go, and... (full context)
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After Charlie leaves, Dick is overcome by anxiety. He tells Mary that they may have to wait to have... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Dick and Mary rarely visit the local train station, which is 7 miles away, instead sending... (full context)
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They go about the rest of their tasks at the station awkwardly; when Dick accidentally bangs his leg against a bicycle, he begins to curse in a surprisingly violent... (full context)
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Back at home, Mary finds Dick intensely absorbed in the pamphlet. After supper, he begins to make calculations, and eventually asks... (full context)
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Dick spends the next month in a reverie of devotion to the beekeeping project. He builds... (full context)
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Before the pigs arrive, Dick reads that curdled milk produces better bacon than fresh, so he leaves milk out, where... (full context)
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...She has realized that two options lie before her: drive herself crazy with anger at Dick, or repress this anger and silently “grow bitter.” Mary chooses the latter option, although she... (full context)
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During Dick’s “turkey obsession,” he hardly goes to the fields at all, instead staying near the house... (full context)
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Mary sells the turkeys and buys chickens for the enclosures, telling Dick she will use whatever chicken money she can get to buy herself some new clothes.... (full context)
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...bought them more rooms for the house, ceilings, and furniture. Once the store is finished, Dick is so happy that he buys 20 bicycles to sell, a risky move, as rubber... (full context)
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...midst of this period, she begins thinking of running away. Although she worries about hurting Dick, she comes to disregard this, believing that if she only gets on the train and... (full context)
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...and realizes that she does not have enough money to pay the bill. Soon after, Dick knocks on the door. He takes her hands and says: “Mary, don’t leave me.” They... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...the night. In the coolness of winter, Mary is almost restored to her previous vitality. Dick is more gentle with her, fearing that she will run away again. Mary usually refuses... (full context)
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...it seems that the dynamic of their marriage is transforming into something new and better, Dick becomes ill. At first he insists on still going to work, but within a few... (full context)
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...a bag of citrus, for which Mary writes a “dry little note” of thanks. Seeing Dick in his state of incapacitation, Mary thinks: “Just like a nigger!”, as she has only... (full context)
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...rest of the morning silently watching them work. At lunchtime she goes back to tell Dick what has happened, and then returns to the land, where she begins to walk through... (full context)
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...want to leave, and some simply walk off. This worries Mary, as she knows that Dick is constantly concerned about losing laborers, but she remains steadfast. She tells the remaining men... (full context)
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Back at the house, Mary complains to Dick about how the natives “stink,” and Dick replies with a laugh that they think white... (full context)
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...“won in this battle of the wills.” At night, she feels even more victorious; unlike Dick, she has proven that she knows how to deal with native people. Yet she begins... (full context)
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After a few days, when Dick is looking a little better, Mary goes over calculations she has made with him, becoming... (full context)
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Mary says that they “can’t go on like this,” which angers Dick. He knows he does not want to leave the farm, and is horrified to realize... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...case about the future of the farm, Mary withdraws, knowing that the more she nags Dick the more she hates him. She needs to feel that he is strong and decisive,... (full context)
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...and die. They will not be able to make enough money to cover expenses, and Dick applies for a loan in order to avoid declaring bankruptcy. Mary pleads with him to... (full context)
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...motivation to do so. She begins to suffer from headaches and looks “really very unhealthy.” Dick suggests that since they cannot afford to send her on holiday, perhaps she can go... (full context)
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One day, Mary asks Dick when they can have children, but Dick sadly responds that they are too poor. He... (full context)
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This period of time is miserable for Mary. She marvels at Dick’s niceness and his utter lack of force, and wonders how he came to be that... (full context)
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Mary starts to worry about Dick. He chain-smokes, buying “native cigarettes” because they are cheaper. He treats native people worse and... (full context)
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Mary asks Dick if he can bring someone else instead, but Dick insists that Moses is the best... (full context)
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...sight of the bed disturbs her, reminding her of the unpleasant nights of sex with Dick. She then catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and begins to cry. That... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...about her work wearily, and when she is not working sits still, thinking about nothing. Dick has become increasingly irritated with her nagging of Moses. The chickens begin to die, and... (full context)
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...question, and says that Jesus is “on the side of good people.” Later, she asks Dick where Moses comes from, and Dick explains that he is a “mission boy,” a group... (full context)
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...him, and during the days she feels wary of his kindness to her. In February, Dick becomes ill with malaria. The doctor comes back and scolds Mary for not having mosquito-proofed... (full context)
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...lap. She then believes that she has woken up, and is in the house on Dick’s farm—yet Dick is dead. She sees that Moses has opened the window, and blames the... (full context)
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...Mary, holding a tray of tea. He puts the tray down and assures her that Dick is asleep. Moses asks Mary why she is afraid of him, and she unconvincingly assures... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Dick and Mary would be shocked to learn that they have been the subject of gossip... (full context)
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Charlie remains fixated on the Turners because he hopes to acquire Dick’s farm for himself. Before the First World War, Charlie had been poor, but—like many maize... (full context)
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...their farm immediately. He feels guilty, as he had always considered himself a “mentor” to Dick. Driving up, Charlie notes that the farm is in a bad state. He approaches Dick,... (full context)
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Charlie then asks about Moses and suggests that they fire him, but Dick replies: “Mary likes him.” Hearing this, Charlie insists that he and Dick speak outside, alone.... (full context)
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Dick returns to the house feeling broken, and finds Mary curled up in a “lump” on... (full context)
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...made a fortune in tobacco farming, which inspired him to move as well. Tony pities Dick but also somewhat romanticizes his struggle. Tony has “progressive” ideas about race, and has brought... (full context)
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Tony eats meals with the Turners, but Dick is so morose that they barely communicate. Tony rarely sees Mary, but when he does... (full context)
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Three days before Dick and Mary’s departure, Tony suffers from heatstroke and takes the afternoon off from work. He... (full context)
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...become hysterical and accuse Tony of ruining everything. Tony comforts her, and resolves to tell Dick to fire Moses. However, Moses does not return. (full context)
Chapter 11
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...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... (full context)
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Dick gets dressed and urges Mary to do the same. Mary almost calls for Moses, but... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Mary goes back into the house, where Dick is sitting at the table and waiting for her. He asks if she’s finished packing,... (full context)
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Eventually Mary gets into bed. Dick tells her that she is ill and that they must see the doctor. Mary responds... (full context)
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...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... (full context)