Search for Identity in Doris Lessing's Martha Quest
Compiled by Mohamed Zayed
NB: this article took much effort and in-depth reading; kindly cite me as your reference.
The novel tells the story of Martha Quest who enters the novel as a fifteen-year-old girl living in the Zambesia Province in Africa. Martha is represented as a rebellious character who is in constant struggle and disagreement with her parents, especially here mother. She always lends her mother a deaf ear. She never takes her mother’s advice on traditions and customs. Martha motives and actions may be interpreted and seen as a search for identity. In order to explore properly this search for identity, we need to investigate the following: (1) Martha in relation to her peers, (2) Martha and her mother,(3) Her relationship with men, (4) Religion and atheism, (5) Work and (6) Her interest in world politics.
First of all, Martha is shown as a distinct character, one who stands out from her peers. Her search for identity is proved when she tries to have a different mentality from that of her peers. For example, all her peers think about is school or getting married, e.g. Marnie. She, on the other hand, is constantly looking forward to escaping her own home and family. She sees her escape from home as an outlet to the outer world which she has yet to see. She perceives her escape as a quest for reaching and forming her own unique identity. She feels that so long as she lives in the farm that she will always be overshadowed and affected by her parent’s principles. Hence, she can never have a true identity of her own.