“No Witchcraft for Sale” by Doris Lessing is set on a farm in Africa (p. 2, ll. 32-34) at an unspecified date which suggests the story was meant to be read as contemporary to the time of publishing, 1956. Given that the author lived most of her life in today’s Zimbabwe, we can assume that the African country served as inspiration for the setting of this short story.
The physical setting includes two main elements, the Farquars’ farm and the surrounding bush area. The farm is briefly described: “All day he would fly around the homestead, in and out of flowerbeds, scattering squawking chickens and irritated dogs, finishing with a wide dizzying arc into the kitchen door.” (p. 1, ll. 29-30)
The social setting is, however, more important. The author offers readers details about the relationship between African native people and the white settlers, particularly with regards to medicine.
The native people still believe in and use traditional medicine, local herbs and remedies. They refuse to share their knowledge with the white population:
The magical drug would remain where it was, unknown and useless except for the tiny scattering of Africans who had the knowledge, natives who might be digging a ditch for the municipality in a ragged shirt and a pair of patched shorts, but who were still born to healing, hereditary healers, being the nephews or sons of the old witch doctors whose ugly masks and bits of bone and all the uncouth properties of magic were the outward signs of real power and wisdom. (p. 3, ll. 31-36)
The Farquars, who are very religious, see the natural remedies as miracles, while the white doctors are sceptical about the real power of natural herbs: