The Grass is Singing

Sergeant Denham Character Analysis

Sergeant Denham is the local police sergeant in the Turners’ farming district. He is in charge of investigating Mary’s death, although this task is made simple by the fact that Moses immediately confesses to the murder. Along with Charlie Slatter, Sergeant Denham helps to cover up the intimacy that existed between Mary and Moses in order to preserve the racial hierarchy.

Sergeant Denham Quotes in The Grass is Singing

The The Grass is Singing quotes below are all either spoken by Sergeant Denham or refer to Sergeant Denham. 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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Sergeant Denham Character Timeline in The Grass is Singing

The timeline below shows where the character Sergeant Denham appears in The Grass is Singing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
...go straight to him after they find Mary’s body. Slatter then sends a letter to Sergeant Denham, who immediately sends six native policemen to the Turners’ farm. Soon after the policemen... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
...he has “a sort of idea,” Slatter rudely replies that they ought to wait for Sergeant Denham to figure it out. Denham arrives and feels vengeful anger toward the murderer and... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
Denham and Slatter stand “like two judges,” and Denham asks Tony some questions. Tony explains that... (full context)
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
Sergeant Denham asks Tony if he saw anything unusual while working for the Turners, and Tony... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
Tony insists that the murder cannot be explained in simple terms, at which point Denham asks if Mary treated “her boys well.” Tony responds that Mary treated the houseboy cruelly,... (full context)
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
...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 wants to conform... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
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 look of... (full context)