The Grass is Singing

Tony Marston is a young, well-educated Englishman who has recently moved to Southern Rhodesia after being inspired by his cousin’s success in tobacco farming. Tony holds the racially “progressive” ideas that are popular in England, and is more sensitive than the other characters in the novel. At the same time, he is also keen to conform to the norms of the society around him, and his progressive ideas are shown to be rather flimsy, particularly after he comes to believe that Mary and Moses are having an affair. After Mary’s murder, Tony abruptly leaves the farm and ends up working in an office, precisely the kind of work he moved to Southern Rhodesia to avoid.

Tony Marston Quotes in The Grass is Singing

The The Grass is Singing quotes below are all either spoken by Tony Marston or refer to Tony Marston. 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

Most of these young men were brought up with vague ideas about equality. They were shocked, for the first week or so, by the way natives were treated… They had been prepared to treat them as human beings. But they could not stand out against the society they were joining. It did not take them long to change. It was hard, of course, becoming as bad oneself. But it was not very long that they thought of it as "bad." And anyway, what had one's ideas amounted to? Abstract ideas about decency and goodwill, that was all: merely abstract ideas. When it came to the point, one never had contact with natives, except in the master-servant relationship. One never knew them in their own lives, as human beings.

Related Characters: Tony Marston
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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If you must blame somebody, then blame Mrs. Turner. You can't have it both ways. Either the white people are responsible for their behavior, or they are not. It takes two to make a murder––a murder of this kind. Though, one can't really blame her either. She can't help being what she is.

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Tony Marston
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

He had been in the country long enough to be shocked; at the same time his "progressiveness" was deliciously flattered by this evidence of white ruling-class hypocrisy. For in a country where colored children appear plentifully among the natives wherever a lonely white man is stationed, hypocrisy, as Tony defined it, was the first thing that had struck him on his arrival. But then, he had read enough about psychology to understand the sexual aspect of the color bar, one of whose foundations is the jealousy of the white man for the superior sexual potency of the native; and he was surprised at one of the guarded, a white woman, so easily evading this barrier. Yet he had met a doctor on the boat coming out, with years of experience in a country district, who had told him he would be surprised to know the number of white women who had relations with black men. Tony felt at the time that he would be surprised; he felt it would be rather like having a relation with an animal, in spite of his "progressiveness."

Related Characters: Mary Turner , Moses, Tony Marston
Page Number: 213-214
Explanation and Analysis:
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"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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Tony Marston Character Timeline in The Grass is Singing

The timeline below shows where the character Tony Marston 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
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
...a “convict,” with beady eyes he keeps permanently narrowed against the sun. Slatter wonders why Tony Marston, his assistant, did not come to him about the murder. He resents Marston for... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
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Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Femininity, Sexuality, and Maternity Theme Icon
...the half-civilized native.” Slatter puts Dick in the back of his car. Inside the house, Tony explains how he found Mary’s body on the veranda. He says that the dogs were... (full context)
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
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Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
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Tony is one of the many young, privately-educated Englishmen who come to Southern Rhodesia to learn... (full context)
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Slatter asks Tony if he knows why Moses murdered Mary, but when Tony replies he has “a sort... (full context)
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Denham and Slatter stand “like two judges,” and Denham asks Tony some questions. Tony explains that he has been staying in a hut nearby for three... (full context)
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Sergeant Denham asks Tony if he saw anything unusual while working for the Turners, and Tony replies that he... (full context)
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Tony insists that the murder cannot be explained in simple terms, at which point Denham asks... (full context)
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...Slatter asks about Dick, and the Sergeant replies that Dick “won’t be good for much.” Tony feels conflicted; he wants to conform in this new country, but wonders if staying silent... (full context)
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Tony cannot stop thinking about the expressions of Slatter and Denham as they looked at Mary’s... (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... (full context)
Chapter 10
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
Hierarchy and Authority Theme Icon
Brutality vs. Civilization Theme Icon
Independence, Isolation, and Exile Theme Icon
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...finds a candidate in the form of a well-educated young man freshly arrived from England (Tony). However, when Charlie and Tony go to the farm, Dick is resistant to leave so... (full context)
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Tony, meanwhile, is thrilled to have found a job so soon after moving to Southern Rhodesia.... (full context)
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Tony eats meals with the Turners, but Dick is so morose that they barely communicate. Tony... (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 is lying in his... (full context)
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When Tony sees Mary, he asks if Moses always dresses her; she replies that he has little... (full context)
Chapter 11
Intimacy vs. Hatred Theme Icon
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...to send some tea and sandwiches. After Mary sends off this man, she thinks about Tony, suddenly convinced that he will “save her.” (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)