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Doris Lessing The Old Chief Mshlanga

Essay, Research Paper

Almost every story is a reflection or a past experience of its author s life. Every author, often even unconsciously, leaves a trace of his own psyche in his or her work. Moreover, it is the purpose of literature to tell about life.According to our assignment, my partner and I will try to show how Doris Lessing s life experience influenced one of her own stories, The Old Chief Mshlanga, which we chose, and how the chosen story reflects Doris Lessing s life in its symbols.Doris Lessing, though born in Kermanshah, Iran in 1919, spent her childhood years and her youth living on a farm in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. She attended a girl s high school in Salisbury, but never graduated.Doris Lessing lived in Rhodesia from 1924 to 1949. It is already in London, where she moved to, she started writing professionally. She went through many stages in her life: she has been an active participant in the struggle for black liberation, a socialist, a feminist, and even a Sufi mystic, but all throughout those stages she was a writer.Her books, novels, and stories are largely concerned with people and problems involved in the social and political upheavals of twentieth century Africa. Daughter of a white settler, Lessing has written that living in Africa is to be reminded twenty times a day of injustice (Western Literature, 1794).The story of The Old Chief Mshlanga is about a fourteen-year-old girl whose name is not mentioned otherwise than her African nickname Nkosikaas– chieftainess . The adolescent Nkosikaas, who is also the narrator, tells her story of how she grew aware of the immense landscape of Africa, how she met the old chief Mshlanga who intrigued her that she even visited his kraal (village), how her dislike of locals and her fear of them (she carried a gun and had dogs to protect her because of that) grew into an easy

friendliness for the Africans (Western Literature, 1799). The story ends in a conflict between the narrator s father and the old chief over twenty goats. Although the chief s tribe gets relocated and looses the goats, they are the ones who have the narrator s respect.Since Lessing s work reflects a certain psychological realism, the story of The Old Chief Mshlanga tends to be autobiographical. The author, thus, is little Nkosikaas. The impressions of Nkosikaas are really the memories of impressions of Africa of Doris Lessing s youth. As the author said herself, (Africa) is not a place to visit unless one chooses to be an exile ever afterwards from majestic silence lying just over the border memory or thought. Africa gives you the knowledge that a man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape (Western Literature, 1794). Being only a small creature – it is one of the realization the main character makes towards the end of the story.The author is a woman and a feminist. One of the struggles of feminism is to be a man s equal. However, the situation is reversed in this story. Since the main character is a girl, she feels superior to every man, for the exception of her father, and towards the end, the old chief. We believe that is a similarity between Doris Lessing and her character.Another similarity between the two is loneliness of both, Lessing and the narrator. The narrator spends most of her time walking with a gun over her shoulder and her dogs following her through the various grasslands and hills. She is alone looking for excitement. Just like the narrator, the author is walking through life discovering things, also often alone.The personal issues of the narrator s life cannot be distinguished from those of Doris Lessing. Lessings psychological realism works perfectly it is a story of a person who lived it.

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