Doris Lessing, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mara and Dann: An Adventure, perfectibility, self-love
The literary works by the contemporary British author, Doris Lessing (1919-2013), can be regarded as troubling and challenging narratives of women’s experience in Africa where discussions on sexuality, societal pressure and environmental problems are still ignored. More importantly, in her novel Mara and Dann: An Adventure (1999), Lessing portrays the female protagonist, Mara, as a typical young African woman who attempts to survive and overcome social and environmental problems. This study examines how Mara attempts to create a good relationship with other people and her environment, or society, while changing the world around her. Using the critical concept of perfectibility by the Genevan philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we aim to examine the depictions of Mara’s interactions with her society and her responses to the practice of traditional cultures in African society. The methodology is based on examining Rousseau’s theodicy of self-love as a way to examine how characters attain perfectibility, namely the ability to improve and change the world. The study clarifies that Mara’s interactions with her natural environment and society play an important role in her perfectibility and improvement. When Mara achieves good connections with her society, her actions become highly intelligible and moral. She cares about others who are less fortunate than herself so she attempts to increase people’s awareness of their surroundings. She also manages to change the cultural norms and patriarchal traditions by choosing her own sexual partners. She achieves the ability to improve herself, express her ideas and make a better world for herself.