Double Effect and Black Revenge in Lessing’s The Grass Is Singing

Pedram Lalbakhsh, Mohammad Javad Haj’jari


A white woman’s murder by a black man, as depicted in Doris Lessing’s The Grass IS Singing, incorporates the revengeful act of an abandonment-neurotic black servant against a white female master with tactile delirium in the course of a paradoxical relationship of love and hate. The final homicide and the consequent act of surrender by Moses, the murderer, convey his paradoxical attitude toward his white master-beloved. This attitude begins with hatred, intensifies with mutual affection, and ends in murder. Focusing on the interracial revenge that takes place in the novel under study, the authors of this paper argue that Moses’ motivation in killing Mary originates from the ambivalence of his state of living under colonization and his learnings in Christianity, struggling with the Double-Effect Reasoning inaugurated by and in defense of black honor or negritude. As such, Moses’ sense of guilt and his subsequent surrender are the consequences of traditional and colonial internalization of sin, already present in him as a native of his revenge or honor-based society, influenced by Lobengula’s rule in which the criminal submits to punishment willingly, as well as missionary teachings. Through an interdisciplinary link between the Double-Effect Reasoning and the psychoanalytical perspective to the black problem promoted by Frantz Fanon, The Grass Is Singing thus seems to exempt Moses in his crime against the white race, represented by Mary, as well as to justify Moses self-surrender in defense of negritude and black honor.


Doris Lessing; Colonization; Double Effect; Black Ethics; Black Revenge

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