The Four-Gated City

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The Four-Gated City
Author Doris Lessing
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher MacGibbon & Kee
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

The Four-Gated City is a novel, published in 1969,[1] by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. It concludes the five-volume series Children of Violence, a literary achievement which took nearly twenty years. The Four-Gated City is sometimes regarded as one of Lessing's most important works.[2] The book, which finishes in the style of a science fiction story with its bloody end to an epoch, created a stir upon publication, with claims that the novel promoted communism.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The series Children of Violence develops the central character, Martha Quest, from her birth in Southern Africa at the end of the First World War, through an adolescence, youth and marriage shaped by the Second World War.

The Four-Gated City is set in Post-War Britain. Martha is in London as the 1950s begin. She is integrally part of the social history of the time - the Cold War, the Aldermaston Marches, Swinging London, the deepening of poverty and social anarchy. The volume ends with the century in the grip of World War Three. In the year 1997, Martha dies on a contaminated island off the northwest coast of Scotland. Most of the people of Britain have died before her, in 1978, of multiple afflictions: bubonic plague, nerve gases, nuclear explosions.


The novel takes on the medical profession, which is argued to be destroying that part of humanity which is in fact most sensitive to evolution. It criticizes the scientists who have created and perpetuate a climate in which "rationalism" has become a new God; the novel further explores the possibilities of people having "extra-sensory perception", in varying degrees, but having been brainwashed into suppressing it, and that schizophrenia is the name of our blindest contemporary prejudice.[1]


  1. ^ a b The Four-Gated City page at Doris Lessing's website. Accessed 2007-10-12.
  2. ^ Prof. Horace Engdahl, the Permanent Secretary at the Swedish Academy said that The Four-Gated City is Lessing's most important work. In Dagens Nyheter, October 12, 2007.
  3. ^ "The Four-Gated City; By Doris Lessing," by Mary Ellmann, 'New York Times, May 18, 1969.